Celebrity line-up for Words by Water literary event

Date: Friday 24th February 2017

THIS year’s 10-day Words by the Water event — described by its president Lord Melvyn Bragg as “the unstoppable march of the literary festival” — will start in Keswick on Friday.

Celebrity authors, political big-hitters and entertainers will be in town for the second leg of Keswick’s spring series of festivals.

Lord Bragg, who is one of this year’s speakers, said the advance of literary festivals, such as that in Keswick, was “one of the most encouraging things about cultural life in this country, particularly over the last generation”. He said Keswick was a “prime example” of something rising from a small idea which met with multiple reservations, to a substantial, literary, wide-ranging festival which is attended by thousands of people, who form the tribe of readers.

Lord Bragg said Words by the Water, which is based at the Theatre by the Lake, is “a very model of a British literary festival”, and he spoke of the “great buzz” provided by the venue, the lake and cast assembled.

This year’s event will kick-off in spectacular style on Friday when top speakers will include Chris Tarrant, host of TV’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire, who has travelled around the world filming Extreme Railway Journeys for Channel 5. He will be sharing tales of his numerous encounters and adventures in his Romance of the Railways talk. Also appearing on stage in the main house on 3rd March will be top politician Harriet Harman, who will be doing two stints — the latter with award-winning BBC journalist Emma Jane Kirby.

On Saturday, the spotlight will be on Lord Bragg when he gives the Royal Literary Fund lecture on The North. Lord Bragg, who is originally from Wigton, celebrated the history and culture of the north of England in his 10-part Radio 4 series.

The Royal Literary Fund was set up in 1790 to help professional authors. Past beneficiaries have included Coleridge, D. H. Lawrence and Dylan Thomas. Speakers the following week include Vince Cable, Roy Hattersley, David Owen, John Simpson, Prue Leith and Alan Johnson.

Bookcase Day on Monday will be an opportunity for local writers. Topics will include Keswick and the Pencil (Tom Smith), Michael Mullett’s Story of Penrith to the close of the Middle Ages, and ex-policeman Ray Greenhow’s recounting of a disaster which occurred on Derwentwater in 1798.

The festival will run from 3rd to 12th March.