Now in its fifth year, the York Literature Festival has established itself as an unmissable event for authors and book lovers alike. Tens of thousands of eager visitors now descend on the city during the last week of March to celebrate the written word at a wide range of venues, including theatres, chapels, galleries and, of course, bookshops.
Run entirely by volunteers and relying in part on the goodwill of the local literary establishment, the festival is now so popular that booking well in advance is highly recommended. Many of the most affordable York hotels will already have been reserved for the duration of the event.
Quality not Quantity
The 2012 Festival will see fewer talks and author appearances than in previous years and last for a shorter time, but the organisers say the emphasis will be very much on quality rather than quantity. One of the most anticipated events will see veteran politician Tony Benn, accompanied by the socialist folk singer Roy Bailey, perform a show that takes a humorous, musical journey through 200 years of left-wing politics. Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan will also be making an appearance, along with his son, Andrew, a respected published poet in his own right.
There will also be guided literary tours of York, a series of events to help celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Dickens and workshops to help writers of all levels to improve their craft. There’s even an open-mic spot where up-and-coming poets and scribes can try out their work on a live audience. The festival offers something for everyone, no matter what types of books they like to read.
Renowned for its history, York also has a rich literary heritage. Robinson Crusoe, the eponymous hero of the book most scholars believe to be the first proper novel written in English, was from York. The book’s author, Daniel Defoe, was a regular visitor, as were the likes of Wilkie Collins, the Bronte sisters and Dickens.
The Anglo-American poet, W. H. Auden, was born in the city, as was Andrew Martin, author of the Jim Stringer novels. Whitbread prize winner Kate Atkinson was also born in York, while both Margaret Drabble and A.S. Byatt went to school there.
York makes a perfect venue for a literary festival but, should you tire of that scene, there are plenty of things to see and do that don’t involve the written word. Having been an important town during Roman times and later a hub of activity for thousands of Vikings, there is history on every corner. The literature festival is just one of dozens of events that take place there each year, covering a broad range of cultural interests.
Even if you miss the festival itself, you can still enjoy the city. With plenty of York hotels located in the centre of the city and most of the major sites within easy walking distance of one another, it’s easy to find a convenient base from which to explore all the wonders – literary and otherwise – that York has to offer.