The Oxford Literary Festival – Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th April

Posted on 09/03/2020

Called the most elegant and atmospheric of literary festivals, the Oxford Lit Fest is certainly a highlight of the bookish year…  What can you expect on a packed final weekend?  Find out below…

Saturday, 4th April

12pm, Sheldonian Theatre
AC Grayling–The Good State: On the Principles of Democracy

World-renowned philosopher Professor A C Grayling states the foundations on which our democracy stands are inherently flawed and sets out the reforms we need to make. Grayling says that Britain and the United States can never be truly democratic when a ‘first past the post’ system means a voter supporting a losing candidate is not represented. He argues for a clear and principled written constitution that addresses the imbalance of power between parliament and government, for fixed terms for MPs, proportional representation and a lowering of the voting age – the first steps towards living in The Good State.



2pm, Oxford Martin School Lecture Theatre
Gill Hornby–Miss Austen

Novelist Gill imagines the life of Jane Austen’s forgotten sister Cassandra and considers why she might have destroyed a treasure trove of letters from her famous sibling. The #1 bestselling novel follows Cassandra as she returns to the family’s vicarage home in Kintbury 23 years after Jane’s death. She discovers a collection of family letters containing secrets she feels should not be revealed. Cassandra reflects on her youth and the life of her sister including long-buried truths from both their pasts. Should she let the letters colour Jane’s legacy – or should she protect her reputation whatever the cost?



Sunday, 5th April

12pm, St Cross College
Clover Stroud–My Wild and Sleepless Nights: A Mother’s Story

Writer, journalist and parent to five children Clover Stroud talks about what it means to be a mother and about female sexuality and identity. Shehonestly addresses the conflicting emotions of motherhood – how intense, sensuous, joyful, boring, profound and dark it can be. My Wild and Sleepless Nights charts the first year of the life of her youngest child and searches for answers to questions many would be afraid to admit having.



12pm, Cohen Quad Lecture Theatre
Roy Strong–The Elizabethan Image: An Introduction to English Portraiture

Historian, broadcaster and former director of the National Portrait Gallery Sir Roy Strong casts a fresh eye on the Elizabethan image in this illustrated talk. Sir Roy is a leading authority on Elizabethan portraiture and was behind a seminal exhibition on the subject at the Tate. He claims the Elizabethan age was one of the most fascinating periods of British art. It reveals an age similar in many ways to our own, with a country aspiring professionally and changing socially. Fascinatingly, Strong explains how the pictures were not necessarily meant for public consumption and how often, The Elizabethan Image offered an intimate glimpse into private worlds.



12pm, Worcester College Lecture Theatre
Sally Gardner–Invisible in a Bright Light

Award-winning author of Maggot Moon and I, Coriander, Sally Gardner talks about her dazzling new novel Invisible in a Bright Light, which draws its inspiration from the great Hans Christian Andersen. Set in the beautiful Royal Opera House of 19th-century Copenhagen, it is a story of magic and enchantment, rich in colours of light and dark: where the kind and generous, however humble, and the selfish and cruel, however exalted, get their just desserts.



12pm, Oxford Martin School Seminar Room
Anna Hope–Expectation

Bestselling novelist Anna talks about her new contemporary novel – a story of three women trying to find their way in life as mothers, daughters, wives and rebels. Expectation is about best friends Hannah, Kate and Lissa whose young lives in east London are full of art, activism, romance, revelry and the promise of what is to come. Ten years on, amidst flailing careers and failing marriages, they each find themselves hungering after what the others have and are asking themselves the same question: How do I have a meaningful life?



4pm, Worcester College Lecture Theatre
Robert Service and Catherine Belton–The Rise of Putin: Dashing Hopes for a New Russia

Biographer and historian Robert Service and former Moscow correspondent Catherine Belton discuss the rise of Vladimir Putin, how he has dashed hopes for a new Russia, and the stark consequences of his rule for Russians and the rest of the world. Catherine’s Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and then Turned On the West explains how wealthy ex-KGB men came to dominate Putin’s circle and how Russia came to hack the 2016 elections, sponsor extreme politics in Europe, make war in Ukraine and wage a concerted campaign to undermine the West. She shows vividly how former KGB agents were able to siphon off billions in cash, seize private companies and replace the freewheeling tycoons of the Yeltsin era.



4pm, Sheldonian Theatre
Lucy Worsley–The Austen Girls

Finishing up the festival with a grand show in the Sheldonian, historian, writer and television presenter Lucy Worsley brings alive the fascinating life of one of Britain’s most treasured novelists Jane Austen as you’ve never heard it before. Expect costumes, trivia and tips on how to become the hero of your own story! Lucy is chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that runs the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace, and The Austen Girls is her fourth historical novel for children.