Books

From stars of children's books to the best in crime writing: Here's the best UK book festivals in 2024

Our pick of the book festivals to look out for in 2024

Books festival illustration

Illustration by Lizzie Lomax

Rub shoulders with your favourite authors and support new writing at Britain’s best book festivals.

ESSEX BOOK FESTIVAL 

Until 30 June, Essex 

Rather than hosting at just one venue, the festival hosts more than 100 events spreading over 40 venues all over Essex, from libraries to lightships. Set to headline the month-long event is Dr Sarah Perry, Essex University chancellor, with her highly anticipated new novel Enlightenment. An expected highlight is a parade of 500 flags celebrating hidden gems of the east coast, proceeding from St Leonard-at-the-Hythe church on Hythe Hill to the university campus.  

BARNES CHILDREN’S LITERATURE FESTIVAL 

22-23 June, Barnes, South London 

The UK’s largest kids’ book festival is back with more than 100 events. Over the course of two days children will have the opportunity to engage with The Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler, learn how to write interesting articles from The Week Junior team and listen to Captain Hook tell his side of the story about what really happened with Peter Pan in Neverland.  

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

BRADFORD LITERATURE FESTIVAL 

28 June-7 July, Bradford, West Yorkshire

One of the largest literature festivals in the UK, the Bradford Literature Festival considers itself Europe’s most eclectic and diverse. Topics like AI, the climate emergency and global feminism are up for discussion, featuring speakers like Miriam Margolyes, Corinne Bailey Rae and Shaparak Khorsandi. Attendees can enjoy workshops on creative writing, poetry and storytelling from well-respected authors and poets.  

Image: Ledbury Poetry

LEDBURY POETRY FESTIVAL  

28 June-7 July, Ledbury, Herefordshire 

Poets from all over the world gather to read, debate and share their poetry with readers, surrounded by orchards and hills. Award-winning poets such as Fleur Adcock, Liz Berry, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay, Zaffar Kunial and Paul Muldoon will stand alongside upcoming talents in a thrillingly electric mix of events and workshops, music, exhibitions and bike rides. Dig deep into interesting ideas, take in poetry over a pint, craft your own writing style or showcase your skills in the slam. 

PENZANCE LITERARY FESTIVAL 

2-6 July, Penzance, Cornwall

Known for its eclecticism, the five-day event on the most south-westerly tip of the UK will feature farming, football and fairy tales, plus some fabulous folk music. Ann Cleeves, famous for featuring coastal locations for dark deeds, is set to join in to discuss her forthcoming novel The Dark Wives. In addition to hearing from a variety of creatives, attendees can take part in novel writing workshops to hone their skills.  

THE IDLER FESTIVAL  

5-7 July, Fenton House & Garden, Hampstead, North London

Dreaming of beekeeping, foraging, and plenty of time resting under apple trees? You can do it all while attending a dream garden party at 17th century Fenton House. Novelist Zadie Smith, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and poet Tim Key will be there too, talking and workshopping with attendees.  

NEWARK BOOK FESTIVAL 

11-14 July, Newark, Nottinghamshire 

Exploring the “power of play”, this year, the four-day festival will feature street performances, music and workshops under a myriad of tents set up in Newark’s Royal Market. Newark Town Hall, the Palace Theatre and the National Civil War Centre will host a series of conversations with internationally renowned and local authors.  

PRIMADONNA FESTIVAL

26-28 July, Food Museum, Stowmarket, Suffolk 

Celebrating women, Black and Asian artists, the LGBTQ+ community, disabled and working-class people, the three-day event promises a community of friendship, openness, curiosity, tolerance and fun. It’s the festival for people who don’t think book festivals are ‘for them’. Alongside the planned conversations
and interviews with authors, there will be live music, comedy and therapies.    

LLANGWM LITERARY FESTIVAL 

9-11 August, Llangwm, Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire’s youngest literary festival boasts a variety of international and local Welsh writers, all set to give talks and lead discussions in a former fishing village on the Cleddau in Llangwm.  While this year’s programme has yet to be announced, previous years have offered everything from crime-writing panels
to nature writing workshops, with a village choir performance livening up the evenings.  

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL 

10-25 August, Edinburgh, Midlothian 

Edinburgh International Festival bookshop. Image: edbookfest.co.uk

Should events go ahead as planned, 500 events will take place over the festival. Highlights include Richard Osman talking about his new series in a worldwide exclusive interview with Ian Rankin at the festival’s pop-up village and Dolly Alderton chatting about her modern novel, Good Material.

NAIRN BOOK AND ARTS FESTIVAL 

31 August-8 September, Nairn, Highland region

Gaelic language events are sprinkled through this weekend of live music, drama, book chat and dance performances in the seaside town of Nairn. On the outskirts runs a fringe festival with local creative and performance groups. Two family days will include free outdoor activities for adults and children alike.   

BLOODY SCOTLAND 

13-15 September, Stirling 

Don’t be put off by the name – this celebration of crime writing attracts the best authors in the genre. Past guests have included Val McDermid and Sir Ian Rankin. There’s also a pitching event for aspiring authors and a hotly contested quiz.  

MARLBOROUGH LITERATURE FESTIVAL 

26-29 September, Marlborough, Wiltshire 

Set in the picturesque market town of Marlborough, the long weekend offers a chance to immerse in literary arts while meeting fellow book lovers and discovering new perspectives. Sarah Perry, Robert Peston and Martin Sixsmith are the first guests who’ve been announced, with a long list of others to come. 

NORTH CORNWALL BOOK FESTIVAL 

26-29 September, St Endellion, Cornwall 

An intimate event curated by best-selling author Patrick Gale, the festival welcomes attendees to engage with author events, live music, workshops and an art exhibition on and around the ancient St Endellion hamlet. Expect signing sessions with favourite authors and advice surgeries for emerging authors.  

BATH CHILDRENS’ LITERATURE FESTIVAL 

27 September-6 October, Bath, Somerset 

Books and stories will come to life through narrative readings of kids’ favourite plot lines and characters. Workshops in the past have included creative writing sessions, illustration masterclasses and storytelling activities.  

WIGTOWN BOOK FESTIVAL 

27 September-6 October, Wigtown, Dumfries & Galloway

Bigwig at Wigtown Book Festival 2022. Image: wigtownbookfestival.com

Wander through Scotland’s national book town to find a festival of books, music, theatre, food and visual arts. A bagpipe procession through the second-hand bookshop-lined streets, followed by fireworks and a hog roast kicks off 10 days of 200 events and activities.  

CHELTENHAM LITERATURE FESTIVAL 

4-13 October, Montpelier Gardens, Cheltenham 

For 10 days, book lovers can drift through Montpellier Gardens to hear from some of the most talked about authors and discover brand new writers. While some events are ticketed, free family activities and fringe events are scattered through the Regency town.  

WELLS FESTIVAL OF LITERATURE 

18-26 October, Wells, Somerset 

Entries are flying in for the four international writing competitions which will be judged during the festival. The literary quiz and lunches were last year’s highlights, alongside talks from guests including Emily Kenway. 

BRIDPORT LITERARY FESTIVAL 

3-9 November, Bridport, Dorset 

Inspired by the Bridport Prize for short story writing and poetry, the festival is celebrating its 20-year anniversary. The Bridlit Bursary offers £9,000 to two local Year 13 students who intend to apply for an undergraduate course.  

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue or give a gift subscription. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Top 5 books about state control, chosen by Icelandic author Fríða Ísberg
Books

Top 5 books about state control, chosen by Icelandic author Fríða Ísberg

Fighting for justice for women in a system that's rigged against them
Justice

Fighting for justice for women in a system that's rigged against them

One Grand Summer by Ewald Arenz review – an understated and empathetic coming-of-age story
Books

One Grand Summer by Ewald Arenz review – an understated and empathetic coming-of-age story

The Eyes Are The Best Part by Monika Kim review – tension-filled horror debut delivers
Books

The Eyes Are The Best Part by Monika Kim review – tension-filled horror debut delivers

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know

Support our vendors with a subscription

For each subscription to the magazine, we’ll provide a vendor with a reusable water bottle, making it easier for them to access cold water on hot days.