Alastair Campbell to open Derby Book Festival 2023

Alastair Campbell to open Derby Book Festival 2023

Alastair Campbell will open Derby Book Festival 2023 on Friday 19 May at Derby Theatre.  Tickets go on sale today (Tuesday 4 April) for this event, sponsored by Geldards, and for over 50 exciting and wide-ranging events at the eighth Derby Book Festival.  Alastair Campbell is an author, political commentator, strategist and now, probably best known as the co-host of the chart-topping podcast, The Rest is Politics.  The Festival, which will be held from 19 - 27 May, is funded by Arts Council England and the University of Derby with sponsorship from a number of local businesses and individuals. 


All tickets are available online and from box offices at QUAD, Derby Theatre and Déda for events they are hosting.

The Festival will close with multi-million-selling novelist, John Boyne, whose novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is now a children’s classic.  He will feature in two Festival events: the Closing Event, sponsored by Smith Partnership, when he will talk about his latest novel, All The Broken Places, the sequel to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.  Secondary school pupils will also hear him at their Meet the Author event, which will be held at a city secondary school and live streamed to local schools. 


The two annual primary schools Meet the Author events, both to be held at Derby Theatre: one with the Children’s Laureate, poet and author Joseph Coelho and another with former Derby teacher and now award-winning author, Lesley Parr.  These events will also be live streamed to schools across the city and county.


This year’s Festival Lunch welcomes Robert Hardman, Royal Correspondent of the Daily Mail and formerly of the Daily Telegraph, and his definitive biography of HM The Queen, sponsored by Peveril Homes, which will be held in the Silk Mill at the Museum of Making. 


There will also be a special Big Book Bonanza for families at Déda and along Chapel Street, which will be closed off for the day on Saturday 27 May.  All the events are FREE and include two children’s theatre shows with two performances each.  One of these: What Happened to You? features creative Audio Description and British Sign Language ensuring the show is accessible and inclusive.

Liz Fothergill CBE, Chair of the Festival, said: “We are delighted with this year’s programme which includes our usual wide range of subjects to appeal to all ages and interests.  Our schools programme, which is always a highlight, will welcome three awe-inspiring authors and we anticipate that over 12,000 pupils will take part in these events.”

This year’s programme also includes:

·       Our Sunday Takeover at Derby College on Sunday 21 May, sponsored by Darwin Escapes, featuring eight events all under one roof plus four Writing Workshops.  A Takeover Day Pass is available to attend all eight events for £35

·       Best-selling poet and author, Brian Bilston: ‘the Banksy of poetry and Twitter’s unofficial Poet Laureate’

·       Best-selling novelists Joanna Cannon (A Tidy Ending) and Patrick Gale (A Place Called Winter, Mother’s Boy) come together to talk about their latest work and their writing lives and will also do two separate events as well

·       Events featuring a host of East Midlands’ finest writers: Thriller writer T M Logan, Sarah Ward and Fran Dorricott talking about their gothic thrillers, food blogger Anisa Karolia on The Ramadan Cookbook, award-winning children’s author Lesley Parr, who will run a writing workshop as well as feature at a Meet the Author event for primary schools, sponsored by Cosy

·       For arts and crafts lovers: Jacqueline Riding on Hogarth to coincide with Derby Museum & Art Gallery’s current exhibition, Rebecca Struthers on The Hands of Time: A Watchmaker’s Story, sponsored by Peveril Homes and Kate Strasdin on her discovery of The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes: Secrets from a Victorian Woman’s Wardrobe, sponsored by Smith Partnership and, for music lovers, Julia Hollander will discuss the reasons Why We Sing

·       Costa First Novel winner, Caleb Azumah Nelson (Open Water) on his second novel, Small Worlds

·       Four Writing Workshops to support local people who are keen to develop their own writing skills and help them on the way to publication

·       Five FREE events with University of Derby academics talking about their latest publications as part of the CivicLAB project

·       Politics, one of the Festival’s most popular genres, are covered by events with Lisa Nandy MP, feminist writer and activist, Laura Bates on Fix the System, Not the Women, Baroness Catherine Ashton, former EU first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, geopolitician Tim Marshall (The Power of Geography) and Jo Cheetham on her involvement in the Stop Page 3 campaign

·       Gardeners can meet ‘No Dig’ pioneer, Charles Downing at two events: one in QUAD to talk about his gardening practice and another with Down to Earth Derby for families when he talks about his new children’s book No Dig for Children

·       For lovers of wildlife and the natural world: nature writer Lev Parikian on the awe-inspiring evolutionary story of flight and Henry Dimbleby on Ravenous: How to Get Ourselves and our Planet Into Shape, both sponsored by East Midlands Chamber

·       For health and well-being: Joanna Cannon on Will You Read This Please, which she has edited, bringing together a frank and impactful collection of twelve stories as told to our best British writers, based on the lived experience of people who have faced mental illness in the UK, sponsored by Pennine Healthcare

·       For history lovers: Alison Weir returns with her latest Tudor novel: Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown, sponsored by Freeths, Peter Ross will give us a wonderful analysis as he takes us on a tour of the country’s in his book Steeple Chasing and Madeleine Bunting looks at our unwavering love of The Seaside of Britain.

There will also be an event sponsored by Marketing Derby bondholders with Channel 4 sports presenter, Lee McKenzie on her book, Inside F1: Living with Legends at Annie’s Burger Shack

Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Derby, said: “Reading is a joy for many, and I personally take great pleasure in discovering a new author or book. Reading plays a crucial role in broadening knowledge and challenging thinking: two things that are also a key part of university life and that the University of Derby takes great pride in. It is wonderful to see Derby Book Festival going from strength to strength, enabling people to share their love of reading, exchange ideas and explore new genres.”

This year’s venues include Artcore, Déda, Derby city and community libraries, Derby College, Derby Museums, Derby Theatre, Landau Forte College, QUAD and St Peter’s Church. The Festival programme will be available from all Festival venues, as well all libraries and tourist offices. The Festival is organised in partnership with all the major arts and cultural partners in the city, including Marketing Derby. 

Tickets can be booked online at or in person or by phone at QUAD, Derby Theatre and Déda for the events they are hosting.

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