Vera author Ann Cleeves and Alistair Campbell among digital Durham Book Festival highlights

Durham Book Festival returns this weekDurham Book Festival returns this week
Durham Book Festival returns this week
This year’s Durham Book Festival may have gone digital, but it still promises to be a real page turner.

The annual literary festival returns this week with a huge range of digital events, including headline guests Alex Wheatle, Alastair Campbell, Ann Cleeves, Anthony Anaxagorou, Brit Bennett, David Almond, DBC Pierre, Fatima Bhutto, Ian Rankin, Jenny Offill, Laura Bates and Richard Osman.

Between October 9-18, 2020, writers, artists and thinkers from across the world will take part in more than 50 events and activities online.

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Free tickets are available for a huge range of events to be streamed online at

Author Ann Cleeves. Photo by David HirstAuthor Ann Cleeves. Photo by David Hirst
Author Ann Cleeves. Photo by David Hirst

The festival was founded in 1990 and is one of country’s oldest literary festivals with events usually taking place in iconic venues in Durham City.

This year, due to Covid19, the entire festival will take place online. An array of talks, workshops, readings, live drawings, studio tours, podcasts, essays, and more than 20 newly commissioned pieces of writing will be available free of charge for the duration of the festival.

Festival highlights


Alastair Campbell, author and former director of communications for U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesAlastair Campbell, author and former director of communications for U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Alastair Campbell, author and former director of communications for U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A highlight is sure to be an afternoon with crime writer Ann Cleeves, who has written a brilliant new story exclusively for the festival, which is this year’s Durham Book Festival Big Read. In the lead up to the event, the festival will distribute 4,000 free copies of Written in Blood throughout County Durham as well as a free e-book.

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Ann will be interviewed by the broadcaster Steph McGovern about her career and her creations, including television’s Vera.


A series of inspiring conversations seeks to tackle some of the major issues in society today. Laura Bates returns to Durham Book Festival after sell-out events in previous years to talk about her latest book Men Who Hate Women.

In Living Better Alastair Campbell offers an honest and ultimately life affirming account of his lifelong struggle with depression.


Uniquely in 2020, Durham Book Festival’s digital iteration will be broadcast to the world, bringing the stories of Durham and North East England to a much wider audience than could attend the festival in person, including the huge North East diaspora and Durham University alumni worldwide.

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New Narratives for the North East is a series of 15 essays, short stories and poems which offer new perspectives on the region.


Celebrating bold and fearless fiction and non-fiction, which often blurs the boundaries and defies classification, The Gordon Burn Prize is one of the UK’s most exciting awards with the 2020 shortlist featuring books by Jenn Ashworth, Paul Mendez, Deborah Orr, Peter Pomerantsev, Lemn Sissay, and Lisa Taddeo.


Durham Book Festival offers both entertainment and educational material for schools and families to access at their convenience, with videos available to stream from their launch date until 1 November.


A selection of poetry events at the festival includes The Poetry Book Society Showcase featuring some of the most anticipated new collections of the season from poets Nina Powles, Bhanu Kapil and Rachel Long.

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::STUDIO TOURS, BIBLIOTHERAPY AND MOREGo inside the studio in exclusive events with internationally-acclaimed graphic novelists Bryan and Mary Talbot and one of the most celebrated contemporary cartoonists, Adrian Tomine.

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Read more: 17 North East locations featured in the latest series of ITV's Vera

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