There’s nothing quite like the annual ‘Oxford Literary Festival’ to demonstrate just how important the city really is within the literary world and, now in its 16th year, the event attracts more world-class speakers than ever before and ranks within the top five literary festivals in the world.
The event this year runs from the 24th March to the 1st April and once again plays host to some of our most renowned personalities; from countless fields including politics, science and, of course, literature. The Archbishop of Canterbury, writer Vikram Seth, children’s authors Micheal Morpugo and Phillip Pullman, and the ever controversial TV presenter Jeremy Paxman are just some of 2012’s prestigious guests and, with over 350 speakers presenting a broad spectrum of topics, there is something to suit everyone.
The main marquee is free to enter and here you can buy tickets from the festival box office – some events, however, are extremely popular and get booked up well in advance so beware that places may not always be available on the day and consider booking in advance if there is someone you would really like to see (check out the website www.oxfordliteraryfestival.org for details on all this year’s events.)
The main marquee also plays host to various food and drink stands, most of which are happily giving out free samples, and Blackwell’s bookstore also has a popular stand. Signed copies of visiting speakers’ books are available from here and there is an extensive range of titles to suit all tastes. There are also the ever popular (and free) ‘Very Short Introductions’ which cover a wide variety of topics and last around 15 minutes to entertain the mulling visitor and the gorgeous Christ Church setting is more than a little magical on a nice sunny day.
Venues also take place at Corpus Christi , Merton College, The Sheldonian Theatre, The Bodleian Library and Queen’s College so attending some of the events is also a great opportunity to explore some of the city’s beautiful, historic buildings. Voluntary stewards are key to the festival’s success and will be more than happy to help with any queries – generally, though, it is easy to find your way around and there are rarely any issues.
Perhaps the only negative, especially to those such as students, are the event prices, which are the same for everyone and range, for the majority, from £10-25. Even if you only attend a couple, though, the experience for most is undoubtedly worth it – after all, such opportunities are unlikely to be available elsewhere. This year, my favourite author Jodi Picoult is flying over from the States to talk about her new novel ‘Lone Wolf’ – well worth a tenner in my book!
Such a profusion of talent in such a fairytale-like setting is a must for anyone, even if you’re not particularly a ‘culture vulture.’ Although some of the events may sound a little highbrow, the festival atmosphere is extremely welcoming and the line up is undoubtedly created so as to appeal to all tastes and backgrounds. Like the ‘World Book Capital’ award, perhaps one of its most important aims is to promote literacy to all so make sure to check it out – there is sure to be something that takes your fancy!