Cliveden Literary Festival 2021


Returning for the fourth year, the prestigious Cliveden Literary Festival once again welcomes guests to Cliveden House in Berkshire on Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 October 2021 with a programme encompassing everything from literature, history, culture and politics, and embodying Cliveden’s long tradition of being a foremost literary salon. Indeed, it’s impossible to think of a more appropriate or romantic setting for a festival of this kind than the chateau-like Cliveden House, set above the Thames, surrounded by 376 acres of National Trust grounds and continuing the tradition of eminent guests, whom we now have the opportunity to rub shoulders with, thankfully without the requirement of wearing black tie.

Author events will take place on either The Arts Club Stage or in Cliveden’s spectacular Great Hall so it’s not surprising that this festival has (despite its relative infancy) already become a much anticipated highlight of the cultural and social British calendar. Declared by Ian McEwan as ‘probably the world’s best small literary festival’, and hailed by Alain de Botton as ‘the most dignified and beautiful literature festival on the planet’, this year’s line-up of world-renowned authors includes Antonia Fraser, Emerald Fennell, David Baddiel, Olivette Otele, Peter Frankopan, Amor Towles, Chibundu Onuzo, Lior Raz, Sebastian Faulks, Kate Bingham and General Petraeus. Frankly, even if you were an author who didn’t enjoy public engagements, you’d make an exception in order to attend this.

Alain de Botton at Cliveden Literary Festival 2019 (c) Cliveden Literary Festival

Events bound to be popular include ‘Minority Report’ – David Baddiel chats to Simon Sebag Montefiore about how progressives foster anti-semitism. ‘Outlaws and outliers’ – Antonia Fraser and Catherine Ostler talk to Hallie Rubenhold about how history’s female trailblazers, Caroline Norton and the Duchess of Kingston, challenged the patriarchy and rewrote the rules of society. ‘Gilded cages and dynastic duties’ – Hannah Rothschild and Natalie Livingstone discuss facts vs fiction and the untold stories of Rothschild women. Finally, the event that persuaded me I simply had to attend – ‘The making of a modern classic’ with Amor Towles. After the extraordinary success of A Gentleman in Moscow, the American novelist will be offering some insight into his timeless style.

In addition to sparkling conversations, Wildean wit and intelligent debate from the well-versed interviewees, the fact that Chanel are supporting this year’s festival gives you some idea of the exclusivity to be expected from this literary weekend. The legendary independent Chelsea bookseller John Sandoe will once again return as the Festival’s bookshop, offering the latest publications of all featured authors, and one would hope some signed copies.

Robert Harris at Cliveden Literary Festival 2019 (c) Cliveden Literary Festival

Rather like an interval at the opera, there will be a civilised pause for lunch, enabling guests to mull over all they have gleaned from the speakers of the first half, whilst sampling one of the gourmet food stalls. Or why not reserve a table in the beautiful main Cliveden dining room with its spectacular views reaching towards the Thames? The Astor Grill will also be serving lunch and a cream tea for guests to indulge in. With so many of us craving culture and social interaction after the past eighteen months, tickets for Cliveden Literary Festival are in huge demand – after all, as Tatler (another of the sponsors) will tell you, ‘virtual’ is so last year darling.

Cliveden Literary Festival takes place on Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 October 2021. Tickets start from £110, for more information and bookings please visit the website.

Feature Image (c) Cliveden Literary Festival