Putting together the programme for the third Salisbury Literary Festival (Friday, October 18 to Sunday 20) has been a different process to last year. In 2018, the domination of Novichok was never far away – putting pressure on anyone holding events to entice nervous visitors back to the city. This year, it feels as though the city is at ease with itself once more, allowing us to put together a line-up that is more specifically Salisbury.

A key component in any literary festival is that of place. One of the reasons that this festival was originally founded was to help celebrate the city’s rich literary heritage, from Thomas Hardy to Terry Pratchett, William Golding to Dorothy L Sayers. This year is no exception, with literary walks around both the Cathedral Close and beginning further afield in Avebury, the inspiration behind local crime writer and archaeologist Nicola Ford. As well as events on the work of Salisbury Greats Michael Gilbert and Edith Olivier, the festival ends with a charity evening of readings by our current leading local writers at The Chapel, all in aid of Salisbury Foodbank.

In between these bookends, we’ve got a host of events for both readers on the Saturday and our annual Writers’ Day at Sarum College on the Sunday. With the kind support of Salisbury City Council, we’re also hosting a full day of events for children at Salisbury library, featuring everything from animal mask-making to Halloween doodling.

Organising a festival of this size together is only possible thanks to the kind support of people across the city. That begins with the festival team and event volunteers, all of whom work for free to put the event together. It continues with the many local businesses and organisations who kindly sponsor and support the festival in various ways. And it’s made possible with the generosity of the many venue owners, who allows us to use such wonderful sites as the Playhouse, the Guildhall, Arundells and Salisbury Cathedral.

This year, Salisbury Cathedral plays host to Jung Chang on the evening of Friday 18 October (7.15pm, £10). Out of the many books I’ve read over the years, Wild Swans is still one whose lasting impressing lingers on, 25 years after I first read it. This October marks the seventieth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, meaning Jung Chang’s latest book could not be timely or topical. It promises to be a special evening, and the start of what we hope will be a wonderful literary weekend.

Salisbury Literary Festival runs from Friday, October 18 to Sunday 20. For tickets and more information visit salisburyliteraryfestival.co.uk


n As sponsors of Jung Chang’s event at Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury Journal is delighted to be able to give away three pairs of tickets to this event, which takes place on Friday, October 18, at 7.15pm. To enter, please email salisburyliteraryfestival@gmail.com with your name, address and contact details. Winners will be chosen at random and notified by Monday, October 14.

Crime and thriller writers

Salisbury Literary Festival has always championed the darker side of fiction, and this year’s fiction include a mixture of crime, thriller, gothic and ghost writers to set the pulse racing.

On Saturday, October 19, Salisbury Playhouse plays host to two events to excite fans of these authors. First up is a panel featuring acclaimed authors Michelle Paver, Laura Purcell and Alex Reeve (14.30, £5) all of whom write fiction with a dark historical twist. Described by The Times as ‘the mistress of suspense’, Michelle Paver’s latest book Wakenhyrst is a gothic thriller set across five centuries. Laura Purcell’s third novel, Bone China, is a Victorian chiller with echoes of Daphne du Maurier, while Alex Reeve’s Victorian detective Leo Stanhope has been hailed as one of the most original literary creations of recent years.

This event is followed by a double header of two more contemporary crime writers in the form of Paul Burston and Erin Kelly (Salisbury Playhouse, 4pm, £5). Erin’s most recent book is Stone Mothers, which was described by the Sunday Express as ‘crime writing at its most ingenious’. Erin is joined by Paul Burston, whose critically acclaimed thriller The Closer I Get, concerns a writer stalked by a fan on social media.


Writers with the ability to make you laugh are a rare commodity, but this year’s festival boasts five such talented authors.

Saturday morning sees the festival welcome Keith Stuart, top right, and Richard Roper, bottom right, (Salisbury Playhouse, 11.30am, £5). Keith Stuart’s debut novel was the Richard and Judy bestseller A Boy Made Out of Blocks, about a father who bonded with his son over the computer game Minecraft. Richard Roper’s first novel is Something to Live For, a heartwarming tale that has drawn comparisons with David Nicholls and Gail Honeyman.

Saturday afternoon sees Salisbury Guildhall host three wonderful female writers in the shape of Emma Kennedy (1pm), Keggie Carew (2.30pm) and Ayisha Malik (4pm, all £5). Emma Kennedy is a bestselling author, TV writer, actress and presenter: she is als perhaps the only person to win both Celebrity Masterchef and Celebrity Mastermind. Keggie Carew won the Costa Biography Award for her first book, Dadland. Her second, Quicksand Tales is a hilarious collection of misadventures.

Ayisha Malik’s comic writing has seen her described as both ‘the Muslim Bridget Jones’ and compared by The Times as ‘a contemporary Barbara Pym’. Her latest novel, This Green and Pleasant Land, has been described by Daisy Buchanan as ‘gorgeous, funny, smart and uplifting’.

Local authors

An important part of the literary festival has always been its local links and this year’s event is no exception, with a mixture of walks and talks putting the spotlight on some of Salisbury’s literary connections.

The festival begins with an event in association with the city’s Walking Book Group, taking walkers around Avebury and the settings of fiction by local crime writer and archaeologist Nicola Ford. On Saturday, October 19, the programme begins with a literary walk, which this year will take place around the Cathedral Close (Sarum College, 10am, free). Festival director Tom Bromley will lead the guided tour, revealing many of the famous books and authors with links to the city.

The festival’s Salisbury Greats series focuses its attention this year on two very different writers. Edith Oliver (Arundells, sold out) was both an important local figure and a leading writer, publishing a string of critically-acclaimed books between the wars. Michael Gilbert (Salisbury Library, 5pm, Friday, £3) was teaching at the Cathedral School when he wrote his first novel, At Close Quarters, before going on to become one of the most influential crime writers of the twentieth century. This event is being supported by the British Library, with ticket holders receiving a free copy of one of Michael’s novels.


Lovers of literary fiction have plenty to excite and inspire them at this year’s festival, with a feast of award-winning writers who have made their name in both novels and short stories.

Saturday lunchtime sees a double header at Salisbury Playhouse featuring the combined talents of Barney Norris and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (1pm, £5). Barney Norris needs no introduction to Salisbury audiences, continuing his roll of award-winning books and theatre productions with his latest novel, The Vanishing Hours.

Barney will be in discussion alongside Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, who featured in the 2018 Literary Festival as part of the Sarum Symposium Panel. Rowan’s debut novel, Harmless Like You, won the Author’s Club First Novel Award: her second book, Starling Days, was published in the summer.

Closing the Saturday programme is an evening of short-story readings by three award-winning authors at Culture Coffee (7.30pm, £5 including a glass of wine). Irenosen Okojie was described by the Evening Standard as one of London’s exciting new authors: her latest collection, Nudibranch, was chosen by The Guardian as one of the must-read books of 2019. Susmita Bhattacharya’s collection Table Manners won the best short story collection at this year’s Saboteur Awards. Paul McVeigh’s latest stories have been featured in the critically acclaimed anthologies, Being Various and Common People.


Children’s events have always played an important part in the festival line-up and the 2019 programme is no exception. Once again, the festival is taking over Salisbury Library for a full day on Saturday, October 19 for a fun-packed day of readings and workshops to inspire children of all ages.

The day begins with a storytime session with author and illustrator Julia Woolf (11am, Free), whose most recent book Duck and Penguin Are Not Friends is perfect for younger children. This is followed by a creative writing workshop with two leading middle-grade writers, Julie Pike and Kirsty Applebaum (12pm, tickets £2).

More fun is guaranteed with author Nathan Bryon and illustrator Dapo Adeola (1pm, £2). Nathan is one of the writers behind such CBeebies shows as Rastamouse and Swashbuckle and this event will mix storytelling, fun facts and drawing tips based around their space themed new book, Look Up!

The children’s day finishes with two wonderful free workshop sessions. Nadine Wild-Palmer (2.30pm, Free) is the author of The Tunnels Below, and will lead a special animal-mask making event. Nadine will be followed by local illustrator Neil Smith (3.45pm), who will lead children in a doodling masterclass along a Halloween theme.

Charity finale

Just as many a good night out in Salisbury ends up at the Chapel, so this year’s Literary finishes on Sunday, October 20 with a charity event at Salisbury’s leading night spot (7pm, tickets £5).

The Next Chapter pulls together the Premier League of Salisbury’s present-day literary scene, with readings from the remarkable range of writing talent the city currently has to offer. All the readings are from future and forthcoming titles, allowing listeners a first glimpse of future and forthcoming titles.

With a mixture of genres from crime to children’s, thrillers to literary, romance to psychological, this promises to be a unique evening. Local authors reading include Barney Norris, Kristina Stephenson, Keggie Carew, Clare Empson, Tarn Richardson, Richard Parker, Mandy Baggot, Andy Maslen, Julia North and Tariq Goddard.

All proceeds from the event are going to the deserving cause of Trussell Trust’s Salisbury Foodbank. The Trussell Trust was formed in the city over twenty years ago, with Salisbury Foodbank the first of what is now a national charity, offering support to people across the country. Salisbury Foodbank continues to support the community in and around the city – this evening is a great way to both enjoy the writing talent the city has to offer, and support a great local cause in the process.

n Salisbury Literary Festival runs from Friday, October 18 to Sunday 20. For tickets and more information visit salisburyliteraryfestival.co.uk