Which authors are at Aldeburgh Literary Festival this year?

Mary and John James, owners of The Aldeburgh Bookshop. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mary and John James, owners of The Aldeburgh Bookshop. They will be hosting the 20th edition of the Aldeburgh Literary Festival - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

As the world slowly opens back up again following the easing of lockdown restrictions, one local book festival is excited for its 20th year - and has a whole host of authors geared up for the big weekend this month. 

The Aldeburgh Literary Festival will be taking place between Friday September 10 and Sunday September 12 at the town’s Jubilee Hall – and founder and organiser Mary James could not be more excited. 

“It normally takes place in March, and we actually managed to hold our 19th edition of the festival last year just before the world shut down. We couldn’t do it in March this year for obvious reasons, so we’ve decided to hold it in September.” 

Mary, alongside her husband John, own and run The Aldeburgh Bookshop, and have been at the seaside town’s literary helms for the past two decades, and have worked with a number of local and international authors over the years.  

Mary and John James, owners of The Aldeburgh Bookshop. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mary and John James, owners of The Aldeburgh Bookshop. They will be hosting the 20th edition of the Aldeburgh Literary Festival - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“My husband and I bought the bookshop in 2000 when we moved to the town - prior to that, I was an antiquarian book dealer, and John worked as a chartered surveyor.  


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“Various friends and local authors were keen on doing talks or book signings in the town, and book festivals weren’t as commonplace then as they are now. In our first year, we had P.D. James and Alan Bennett, and we just went from there, and really got off to a flying start. 

“We thought this year we’ll put on a small festival this September once restrictions began to ease, but it’s ended up growing into 15 events. It's almost as big as usual. It’s been so exciting reaching out to people though - we couldn’t help ourselves.” 

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So, who can people look forward to seeing at this year’s selection of talks and events? 

Kicking off festivities is American-born author Meg Rosoff, whose latest book ‘The Great Godden’ is set in a holiday house by the sea. “I think her books are wonderful – and although the place is unnamed in her latest read, there is a strong feeling of Shingle Street, where Meg lives and writes,” Mary adds.  

“There’s also a lot of excitement around acclaimed historian Marc Morris, who will be exploring his new book ‘The Anglo-Saxons: a History of the Beginnings of England’ on the Friday of the festival.” 

Other local delights attendees can expect include Ipswich-born geneticist and author Adam Rutherford, who will be delving into his book ‘How to Argue with a Racist’ on the Saturday.  

Adam Rutherford

Adam Rutherford - Credit: Stefan Jakubowski

That same day, non-fiction writer and playwright Esther Freud will be taking to the stage alongside Halesworth-based author Elizabeth Burke to discuss her new novel, ‘I Couldn’t Love You More’.  

Freud – who splits her time between London and Walberswick – has previously written titles such as ‘The Sea House’, ‘Lucky Break’ and ‘Mr Mac and Me’, the latter of which won Best Novel in The East Anglian Book Awards. 

“We’ve got a mix of authors and talks across the weekend. There really is something for everybody, and I think it’s going to be the most terrific three days. 

Esther Freud

Esther Freud - Credit: Jillian Edelstein

“And because of Covid, we’re actually offering all of the talks but one online after the event, as we’re aware some people aren’t comfortable going out into a crowded space just yet. It’s the first time we’ve done this, but it’s proving very popular so far, and it’s a nice way of making it accessible to more people.” 

Fourteen of the 15 talks will be filmed and posted on the festival’s website 24 hours after the event, and will be available for four weeks after. 

“In addition, this year’s event will have reduced capacity - at about 65% - but the great thing about Jubilee Hall is that it’s got high ceilings and lots of ventilation, so it’s a very safe venue. We just want everyone to be feel comfortable and relaxed.” 

Tickets are £13 for the physical talks, and £7 for the virtual talks after the festival. 

To find out more about the Aldeburgh Literary Festival or to buy tickets, visit the website.

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