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Chester Literature Festival 2023 Reveals First Headliners

The popular annual festival returns this November with a fortnight of fantastic events and appearances.

Chester Literature Festival returns this autumn and the first headliners for the 2023 event have now been announced.

Gardener Monty Don, TV presenter Melanie Sykes and award-winning historian Professor David Olusoga are among those taking part in this year’s festival.

The 2023 LitFest takes place from 9-26 November.

Fans of the written and spoken word can expect 18 days of unmissable events, performances, workshops and conversations with a wide-ranging programme packed with special guests from the world of literature, poetry, stage and screen.

This year’s festival kicks off on the main stage on Thursday, 9 November with An Evening With Monty Don.

The popular BBC Gardener’s World presenter, gardening expert and writer will share his passion for gardens as he shares stories from his career and talks about his genre-defining new book – The Gardening Book a revolutionary new guide to the basics.

Don is the author of many books about gardening, along with his Sunday Times bestseller Nigel: My Family and Other Dogs, inspired by his beloved late Golden Retriever who made regular appearances on Gardener’s World.

Liverpool-born comedian and double Sunday Times bestselling author Sophie McCartney brings her debut stand up tour Tired and Tested to Storyhouse on Saturday, 11 November, promising a riotous representation of modern-day ‘mumming’.

A rising star on the comedy circuit, McCartney won the 2020 Funny Woman award for Best Comedy Series and featured on the Mother & Baby Mum List 2021 as the funniest mum on Intstagram.

In March 2022 she released her debut non-fiction book Tired & Tested: The Wild Ride into Parenthood, while her first novel Mother Hens – billed as a black comedy centred around a group of harassed mothers with scores to settle on a hedonistic Ibiza hen do – is out now.

Then on Sunday, 12 November, critically acclaimed author, journalist and TV presenter Candice Brathwaite will join broadcaster Ngunan Adamu on the main stage for a conversation about the young adult novel Cuts Both Ways, her first foray into fiction which made the Sunday Times bestseller list.

Cuts Both Ways is a sharp and funny love story that explores themes of race, class and the complexities of growing up as a black British teen.

Its exuberant and straight-talking author will discuss both her novel and also her personal and professional journeys, along with taking questions from the audience.

Grace Dent visits Chester Literature Festival on Wednesday, 15 November to talk about her best-selling memoir Hungry and new book Comfort Eating.

Hungry is a warm, witty and joyous voyage through the food writer’s life story, told via the gastronomic experiences which have stayed with her the most, from growing up in a Carlisle terrace eating beige food and enjoying treats with her nan to eating haute cuisine in some of the country’s finest restaurants.

It is also about love and loss, about how food plays a central role in our lives – and how a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut in a hospital vending machine can brighten the toughest situation.

The second festival weekend welcomes TV and radio presenter Melanie Sykes who will be ‘in conversation’ with book blogger and YouTube star Simon Savidge on Saturday, 18 November.

Sykes has been a well-known face on our TV screens and a voice on radio for almost 30 years, delivering humour, honesty and insight.

Her new book Illuminated: Autism & All the Things I’ve Left Unsaid lifts the lid on being a woman in the media in funny, furious and gloriously frank fashion, but also talks about how her autism diagnosis in middle age has supercharged her journey – a story not just of breakdown but also of breakthrough.

And then on Sunday, 19 November, award-winning historian, writer and broadcaster – and Professor of Public History – David Olusoga will be in conversation with David Watson, talking about his new book Black History for Every Day of the Year.

Olusoga, who studied history at the University of Liverpool, has presented a number of major TV programmes including Civilisations – alongside Mary Beard and Simon Schama, Black and British: A Forgotten History, The World War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire, Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners and his captivating, exploratory A House Through Time series.

In 2019 he was made an OBE for services to history and community integration.

Black History for Every Day of the Year, written and illustrated in collaboration with his siblings Yinka and Kemi Olusoga, gives readers a unique and vital celebration of Black history, sweeping across the world and through the ages. Meet well-known figures and unsung heroes, read about famous and lesser-known key cultural moments and discover brilliant information about Black people through history.

The full festival programme will be revealed next month.

Chester Literature Festival remains one of the longest-running annual literature events in the country.

It was launched in 1989 by volunteer organisation Chester Arts 89 and city booksellers who programmed a week of literary activity including a reading by the niece of novelist D H Lawrence.

This is the 12th year that the festival has been programmed by Storyhouse, and along with visiting names, special artists in residence have included Benjamin Zephaniah, Lemn Sissay and Ted Hughes Prize-winner Hollie McNish.

Storyhouse Creative Director Suzie Henderson said:

“Chester Literature Festival is always a hotly anticipated part of our annual programme at Storyhouse, and I know this year’s event will be no exception.

“I’m pleased to we’re able to reveal the first headlining names for the 2023 festival. There’s a rich mixture of backgrounds, interests and styles which I’m sure will entertain and intrigue our audiences in equal measure.

“The full programme is still to be announced, but anyone who loves the written word will want to get the festival’s dates in their diary now. It’s going to be another busy and rewarding fortnight full of fascinating and fun events.”


For more information, contact:

Nancy Davies
Marketing and PR Manager
07886 743531



An Evening With Monty Don
Main stage
Thursday, 9 November 2023
Tickets £20/Storyhouse Members £18

Sophie McCartney: Tired and Tested
Main stage
Saturday, 11 November 2023
Tickets £21.50

Candice Brathwaite
Main stage
Sunday, 12 November 2023
Tickets £18/Storyhouse Members £16.20

Grace Dent
Main stage
Wednesday, 15 November 2023
Tickets £22/Storyhouse Members £19.80

Melanie Sykes in Conversation
Main stage
Saturday, 18 November 2023
Tickets £18/Storyhouse Members £16.20

David Olusoga
Main stage
Sunday, 19 November 2023
Tickets £22/Storyhouse Members £19.80


About Storyhouse

Storyhouse is one of the UK’s foremost cultural centres incorporating a library, theatres and a cinema. It is one of the country’s most successful arts buildings, with more than one million customer visits each year.

The pioneering new library within Storyhouse, where members of the community work alongside city librarians, boasts the longest opening hours of any UK public library and is open every day until 11pm. It runs over 2,000 sessions a year for marginalised communities

The company also runs a highly successful theatre company and the country’s most successful regional open-air theatre, in the city’s Grosvenor Park and Moonlight Flicks open air cinema.

Storyhouse currently holds the official title as the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre and was the overall national winner in the 2018 Guardian Public Service Awards

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