Bookworms flock back to Wimbledon Common festival

Wimbledon BookFest’s Sunrise Festival has ended with bumper crowds to report.

Organisers estimate that some 10,000 adults and children attended the seven-day programme of author talks, panel discussions, performances and workshops on Wimbledon Common.

It meant the Festival Village returning to near-full capacity for the first time since before the pandemic.

The event was the first of two multi-day literary festivals on Wimbledon Common this summer, with a four-day event planned for September.

It drew to a close with a headline event by Nobel Prize for Literature winner Abdulrazak Gurnah. During the week there were also appearances by award-winning fiction writers Julian Barnes and Susanna Clarke.

The Sunrise Festival also saw the return of BookFest’s schools’ programme of events, which aims to support literacy and foster a love of reading in students in Merton and neighbouring boroughs.

In total, 3,000 children attended 13 events for schools, including a headline appearance by Sir Lenny Henry, alongside events with Alex Wheatle, Simon Farnaby, A Kind of Spark author Elle McNicoll and former children’s laureate Jacqueline Wilson. 

Mr Henry said: “I’ve had the best time at Wimbledon BookFest. How wonderful to have 450 kids in a room all paying really close attention to me talking about my book, The Boy with Wings.

“If I’d known when I was nine that there was a place you could go to just talk about books and listen to authors talking, I would have tunnelled my way in.”

Festival director Fiona Razvi said: “Audiences were delighted to be back sharing stories and ideas in the beautiful natural setting of Wimbledon Common.

“Rescheduling our festival from the autumn to the summer has given us the opportunity to rework our festival village for a stronger visitor experience. 

“Audiences showed they had really missed the chance to connect with others, and they returned to discuss the big issues of the day such as climate change, Ukraine and British identity, and to hear from the top names in literary fiction. We can’t wait to do it all again in September for our Sunset Festival.”

The Sunset Festival will run from September 22-25 and feature My Name is Leon author Kit de Waal, actor Dame Sheila Hancock, former Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten, The Kanneh-Mason Family of classical musicians, much-loved children’s authors Michael Morpurgo and Nick Butterworth and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup. 

The full line-up will be announced at the end of July.

Pictures: Sir Lenny Henry at the festival (Picture Wimbledon BookFest / John Stone) Book signing picture by Wimbledon BookFest / Matt Joseph




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