Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival 2020

May Bank Holiday - Thursday 7th May to Sunday 10th May 2020

Pre-register Now

Make a date in your diary and pre-register via the button below for the 2020 Literary Festival programme updates and ensure your priority booking.

Programme & Tickets

The online programme will be available to view from 8 March 2020.

Tickets will go on sale to pre-registered guests from 15 March 2020.

General booking opens 20 March 2020.

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Schools Day - Thursday 7th May

Once again, the Literary Festival offers a special programme for local schools and home-educated children. This year it features bestselling authors Michelle Paver, Onjali Rauf, Guy Bass and Pete Williamson and John Gordon-Reid from What on Earth Books with performances from festival favourites Really Big Pants Theatre Company and Marcus Dilly’s World of Wonder.  We are running our Short Story Competition which is open to children aged 7-9 and 10-13.  Winning entries will be read out at the Literary Festival Family Day and published in Scoop Magazine.

Friday 8th - Sunday 10th May

Meet awe-inspiring authors, join wondrous workshops, see eclectic entertainment and sample fabulous food and drink at our fifth and best festival so far from Thursday 7 May to Sunday 10 May 2020.  Over the four days, we present a full programme of talks, workshops, tastings, as well as a special drinks event at nearby Stonewall Park.

The line-up so far includes renowned War Horse author Michael Morpurgo who leads our family day on Bank Holiday Friday, along with workshops from festival favourites Aardman Animations and musical performances by Pericles Theatre Company, both back by popular demand.

Joanna Trollope explores the issues at the heart of a modern family with her trademark wit and warmth, in Mum & Dad.

Maggie O’Farrell, the awarding-winning novelist, joins us to talk about her latest book, Hamnet, based on the true story of Shakespeare’s son who died aged 11.

Ex-Editor-in-Chief of UK Vogue, Alexandra Shulman shares insights from her book Clothes and Other Things That Matter.

Best-selling historians Tom Holland and Andrew Roberts discuss their latest books, Dominion and Churchill: Walking With Destiny respectively.

This year’s festival coincides with the  75th Anniversary of VE Day on Friday 8 May WWII events will celebrate and commemorate this special day including 1940s songs, Lindy Hop and Jive performances, the sounding of the Last Post and WWII historian Andrew Roberts talking about Churchill and acclaimed author of War Horse Michael Morpurgo on the importance of writing about war for children, along with authors Lucy Strange and Anna Fargher whose books are also set in WWII.

Bank Holiday Friday 8th May – Family Day and VE Day

Saturday 9th May – Adult Day 1 and Festival Drinks Party at Stonewall Park

Sunday 10th May – Adult Day 2

Day by Day


Bestselling children’s author Michael Morpurgo kicks off a whole day of events for all the family. With VE Day in mind he will tell adults and children about his many books set during WWI and WWII and the reasons why he feels strongly about writing these events for today’s children. The war theme continues with children’s authors Anna Fargher and Lucy Strange talking about their novels The Umbrella Mouse and Our Castle by the Sea, which recreate life during the Second World War through the eyes of animals and children. There will be 1940s wartime songs from the VE Daymes and demonstrations of Lindy Hop dancing along with the Last Post at 3pm. Danyah Miller brings her one-woman show celebrating 75 years of superhero Pippi Longstocking and there’s a Tiger Who Came to Tea party for little ones with a real Tiger visitor! Festival favourites Pericles Theatre Company performs its family musical The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen in a lovely outdoors setting in the Orangery. Aardman Animations is back due to public demand offering clay modelling sessions of characters from Farmageddon, alongside an opportunity to make your own film animation with Press Play Films. There are workshops in creative writing, learn to illustrate with local book illustrator Pete Williamson and make a magazine with Scoop. Benji Davies entertains young ones with stories and songs from his new book Tad. There is a street party with trestle tables to picnic at, bunting, dressing up and a variety of delicious food outlets, music and dance.


This rural corner of Kent welcomes literary giants over this weekend. Alexandra Shulman ex-editor of UK Vogue brings some glamour and share her fashion industry insights in Clothes and Other Things that Matter. We are joined by erudite historians Andrew Roberts on Churchill and Leadership in War, Tom Holland on the enduring legacy of Christianity in his epic Dominion, Andrew Lownie on the lives and loves of Lord and Lady Mountbatten and Radio 4’s Neil MacGregor on his latest series Living with the Gods. Emily Brand discusses the Fall of the House of Byron with Robert Sackville-West, author of The Disinherited and guardian of Knole House in Sevenoaks, whilst Clare Mulley reveals the extraordinary stories of The Women Who Flew for Hitler. Local historian Linda Porter returns with her new book on the mistresses of Charles II and the Times’ walking correspondent Christopher Somerville reveals the fascinating histories of Britain’s cathedrals in conversation with Andrew Ziminski, a stonemason who has written a history of these remarkable buildings.

Award-winning cameraman Paul Conroy describes his experiences as a war photographer in Syria with journalist Marie Colvin who was shot dead alongside him on a mission in Homs. William Sieghart, founder of the Forward Prize for Poetry and contributor to the Telegraph brings his Poetry Pharmacy to the festival, prescribing poems as remedies to cure and give comfort. Also offering well-being is Sue Stuart-Smith in conversation with Marian Boswall about the benefits of gardening in her new book The Well-Gardened Mind. A panel of experts including Lord Shinkwin, Dr Amit Patel and David Forbes-Nixon discusses the need for industries to create more jobs for the disabled, highlighting the difficulties they face on a daily basis as seen in Amit’s book about his sudden blindness and his guide dog in Kika and Me. Two remarkable young women Lara Prior-Palmer and Georgie Codd talk about their experiences; one riding in the Mongol Derby a 10-day race on horseback across Mongolia, the other about fighting her fear of fish by learning to swim with sharks.

Novelists this year include bestselling author Maggie O’Farrell who divulges the inspiration behind her compelling new book Hamnet, along with the undisputed king of crime fiction Peter James whose latest book in his Roy Grace series will be just published. We are thrilled to be joined by the leading lady of literary fiction Joanna Trollope who explores the issues at the heart of a modern family with her trademark wit and warmth, in Mum & Dad.

This year the festival offers a huge range of workshops to inspire and encourage; Julia Wheeler (ex-BBC correspondent) hosts Oral Storytelling: a first step to memoir writing, Emma Harding (BBC Poetry Producer and playwright leads a Poetry workshop, Sarah Salway returns with two Creative Writing workshops: from the Real to the Surreal, artist Gilly Lovegrove will hold three sessions of Still Life art classes. Following his Poetry Pharmacy talk William Sieghart offers individual sessions for those needing a poem prescribed for their needs.

Our annual Festival Drinks Party takes place in the beautiful house and grounds of Stonewall Park in Chiddingstone Hoath, generously hosted by the Fleming family. Held on Saturday evening, this is a wonderful opportunity to meet authors, fellow festival lovers and committee members up close in intimate yet impressive surroundings.


Throughout the festival the bookshop is manned as ever by Sevenoaks Bookshop and there is a host of delicious food and drink available from local suppliers over the Bank Holiday weekend, as well as the Castle’s own Tea Rooms. All tickets to the festival include free entry to the Castle and its collections.

Watch this space and pre-register below for latest Literary Festival news and booking priority.

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Previous Years’ Authors, Books, Workshops and Podcasts

Click on the buttons below to see the highlights and listen to podcasts of previous years’ events. We have hosted many engaging authors and experts such as Ian Rankin, Rev. Richard Coles, Adam Kay, Anna Pasternak, Joanne Harris, Diana Henry, Sandy Gall, Kate Mosse, Evan Davis and more.