Welcome to Cuckfield Book Festival! From those small beginnings three years ago, we are now looking forward to our fourth year, 12-15 November 2020.

In the meantime, here’s an overview of our 2019 programme;

The third Cuckfield Book Festival began on Thursday 3rd October with a tour of Borde Hill garden in the company of the head gardener. The weather, which had been wet and grey, suddenly improved, and the sun appeared, enhancing the glories of that stunning garden. After canapés and prosecco in the house, Vanessa Berridge discussed her book, Great British Gardeners, with Andrew John Stephenson Clarke whose great grand father created the garden.

The literary quiz compiled by local enthusiasts had sold out within days and the Hayloft at The Talbot was packed with eager competitors. On Friday night the now customary supper at Ockenden Manor had the wonderful Robin Ince (arriving just in time by train from Stoke) entertaining the diners and he appeared again on the Saturday morning with a wonderfully chaotic session. (Robin was particularly taken with the graveyard at Holy Trinity Church.)

Other authors included Adrian Tinniswood whose book Behind the Throne is an intimate look at the private lives of monarchs, James Hanratty with a fascinating and disturbing account of the immigration problems facing Europe today , and local author Ed Halliwell talking about mindfulness. On Saturday evening, actor Simon Williams had the audience laughing loudly at his account of an actor’s life. No. 1 Broad Street offered delicious complementary canapés in a crowded Queen’s Hall to round off the first day of Cuckfield Bookfest.

While these events were taking place at the Queen’s Hall, the young people had their own activities at the Old Church and the place rang with laughter as several children’s authors entertained them.

On Sunday, Andrew Lownie, a loyal supporter of the book festival who has been coming for three years, revealed how he’d unearthed so many details of the lives of Louis and Edwina Mountbatten and Tim Waterstone gave a disarmingly frank and honest account of his life and how he came to found the eponymous chain of book stores. Penelope Lively, the renowned fiction author talked about the importance of gardening to her creativity and Greta Scacchi read favourite prose and poetry to a delighted audience, with elegant afternoon tea at Ockenden Manor.

In addition to this wonderfully varied selection, Jenni Murray and Clare Clark talked about famous women and art forgeries while Peter Guttridge ran an absorbing crime-writing workshop. The Guardian’s political sketch writer, John Crace, brought politics in this frenzied climate to life.

The number of attendees was considerably higher this year – 1800  – surely a reflection of the much greater distribution of programmes and the growing awareness of the festival.  A cheerful team of volunteers kept visitors  supplied with delicious cake and sandwiches and judging from feedback received from both authors and ticket holders, people are already looking forward to a fourth festival in 2020.  If you already have a diary for 2020, why not pencil in the dates now – November 12th – 15th?  This later date is because the Queen’s Hall is not available for the early October date and Cuckfield is such a busy place in the autumn with the Mayor’s procession, the CDS production and Bonfire Night that we have fixed on mid-November. It will be the perfect opportunity for selecting Christmas books.

Cuckfield Bookfest has grown up!

We have become a Community Interest Company. Principally this means that the Cuckfield Bookfest is entirely focused on providing benefit to the community and local businesses of the village and surrounding areas and the authors we invite. As a CIC, we are registered with Companies House, have a board (Sheila Chasser, Sue Laing, Sheila Mortimer and Elspeth Chasser), a management team looking after the programming, finance, social media, the children’s programme, catering, marketing and, of course, our amazing volunteers.