Highlights of Cuckfield BookFest 2021

Another successful BookFest Quiz!

The management team of the festival held its breath and crossed it fingers throughout September as it navigated its way through the hurdles presented by covid, trains running only as far as Three Bridges and a petrol shortage.  But in the end, all was well and the fifth festival got under way with the usual very popular literary quiz put together by a local book club.  Held this year in the Queen’s Hall, tickets for it were snapped up in the first few days and once again, competition was fierce.  The winners were a group called Halcyon named after the bookshop which used to be in Haywards Heath.

Memories of BookFest 2021

At 9am on the Saturday morning, the cheerful yellow Sussex Coffee Truck drew up outside the Queen’s Hall and the day began with Juliet Nicolson recounting the dreadful winter of 1962-63 in her book Frostquake that brought back many memories.

Tim Marshall followed with The Power of Geography which has been in the bestseller list since it was published recently.  John Hilary then gave us an enlightening  talk on the Messel family who transformed Nymans into the much loved property it is today.

Historical crime was the subject of Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s gripping novel Daughters of Night  and then Professor Grayling, talking to us on ZOOM, gave a riveting exposition on the frontiers of knowledge.

There was much laughter in the Queen’s Hall as Mel Giedroyc entertained her audience while she talked to Ella Berthoud. Mel was followed by Neil Sadler talking about his life as a local Sussex policeman.

A change of subject came then when two authors with strong Trinidadian links talked about their novels.  Each of them read from their books and the audience was gripped by what they heard.

Local cricket lover David Mortimer then spent a very enjoyable forty minutes talking to Michael Henderson, author of That Will Be England Gone, as he reflected on changes in the game of cricket.  Lots of local cricket lovers turned up to hear their conversation.

Despite the early hour of the first session on Sunday, many people got up early and came along to hear a combative and thought-provoking session when Ian Dunt talked to Philip Collins about How To Be a Liberal.

Andrew Lownie has been to every Cuckfest bar one and the reason is that he writes such irresistible books; his latest is Traitor King, a no-holds barred account of the life of the Duke of Windsor and his wife after the Abdication.  Andrew didn’t disappoint and his lively talk engaged his audience at once.

Andrew was back on stage to talk to Ian Williams whose book Every Breath you Take examines the extraordinary rise of the Chinese surveillance state and the threat it poses worldwide.   Philip Collins’ To Be Clear is a call to arms, urging business to start using language that has clarity and meaning – he also advised against the over use of exclamation marks.

Two novelists who placed twins at the heart of their books came together to talk to Kate Harris about how they set about writing their stories and then Marina Wheeler had the audience entranced by her account of her mother’s life after the Partition of India as she talked to Julian Worricker.

An usual and delightful session followed with folk song expert and conservationist Sam Lee talking about his book on nightingales with Ruth Pavey.  The two of them bonded immediately and Ruth persuaded Sam to sing a couple of songs.

During Sunday afternoon, local resident and Cuckfest director, Gavin Jamieson. ran a workshop on How To Get Published.  Several prospective authors came along for advice on how to get into print.

As usual, the festival ended with the Big Book Group where the author of the selected book, The Year Without Summer, answered questions submitted by the audience and talked about her book with Julian Worricker.

A big thank you to our Festival Supporters

The amount of volunteer help required to put on the festival is considerable, whether it is marshalling people, looking after the authors, providing catering help, interpreting risk assessment requirements, dealing with the ticketing process, cleaning the hall, manning the mic – the list goes on.  We would like to thank every single person who gave up time to help us – Cuckfest simply wouldn’t happen without you.  

And thanks of course goes to our sponsors whose generosity is so appreciated. If you would like to become a sponsor or a Friend, please do contact info@cuckfieldbookfest.co.uk

Ockenden Afternoon Tea with Annette Badland

Attendees to the tea at Ockenden Manor, held in the gorgeously intimate setting of the oak-panelled Burrell Suite were treated to Ridgeview bubbles and a delectable array of sandwiches, scones and cakes and the dulcet tones of actress Annette Badlands who chose a wonderful selection of poems with an Autumnal theme with which to entertain her listeners.

This was followed by a lively Q&A in which Annette answered questions about her stellar career in TV, theatre and film.

With thanks to Annette Badland and the staff at Ockenden Manor.

Children’s Bookfest

Cuckfield childrens BookfestThe children’s festival at the Old School was a huge success, kicking off with an entertaining, interactive session for the under 5s by local author Sally Symes.


This was followed by two wonderful talks from Helen Peters (author of the Jasmine Green series) and Cath Howe (author of How to be Me). Awestruck audiences of children aged between 6 and 12 were treated to wonderful photos from the authors’ childhood or the historic desk where they write together with detailed descriptions of their new books. The children loved coming up with a new book title featuring their favourite animal and adults and children alike were utterly engaged when tasked with creating a line drawing to encapsulate their own characters.

The finale was a lively quiz hosted by Andrew Pettie, author of Listified, a new publication by Encyclopaedia Britannica. Teams of children and adults competed in four different rounds using a combination of skill and guesswork with the winners receiving copies of the book and a giant bar of chocolate from Fergus Llewellyn, Headmaster of Cumnor House Sussex.

Waterstones and local gardening supremo Julia Parker, author of The Little Growers’ Cookbook were also on site to sell their books and it was lovely to see so many children queueing up to have their books signed by the authors.

We would like to thank Cumnor House Sussex for their generous sponsorship of the children’s events.

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