cuckfield book festival

2023 Bookfest is resounding success

The traditional Ockenden Manor supper opened the proceedings on Friday night when Greta Scaachi delighted the full house with intriguing stories of her acting life.  Greta was born locally so her reminiscences about her early days stirred many memories and then she went on to tell tales of her life in Hollywood.

On Saturday morning, the hall was packed to hear Sebastian Payne discussing his latest book The Fall of Boris Johnson with Phil Collins.  It was a riveting discussion and with the Conservative party conference just over, there were plenty of things political to talk about.

There then followed a busy programme with sessions covering China, medicine, Deborah Moggach author of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Noel Coward (the author of Masquerade, Oliver Soden, went to school locally), Central European History, royalty, music history, ghost and blurb writing. An innovation this year was a walk round Cuckfield with anthologist Duncan Minshull, and then Nick Sharratt provided an irresistible drawing session for kids.  There was a workshop for local authors discussing the road to publication.

Saturday ended with a delightful poetry session when Annette Badland  and Hugh Ross joined Allie Esiri to read poems from Allie’s latest anthology.  Two Hurst pupils made a surprise appearance as well.


Sponsors of course are crucial to the successful running of the Festival and we were so grateful to all those who supported this year’s event.

Several book festivals have had to fold in the past year following Covid and the cost of living crisis so we consider ourselves very lucky that thanks to the loyal and generous support of schools, businesses, charities and organisations, we are in a good position.

For more information on becoming a Benefactor or Sponsor for next year, please email

Sunday was another glorious day with Ian Marchant’s humorous discussion about life in Sussex in 18th century kicking off, to be followed by sessions on a banking scandal, on symbols in art, on women’s health and women in intelligence.  Natalie Haynes delighted a full house with her talk on Greek goddesses and Kathryn Harkup intrigued her audience with tales of James Bond’s activities.  The last event in the Queen’s Hall saw Mat Osman (and some Suede groupies) talking about The Ghost Theatre.

The day ended Upstairs in the Talbot with Ella Berthoud’s Bibliotherapy workshop and then a talk on women’s football with Carrie Dunn.  The sporting theme continued with local author Paul Hayward’s inspirational session on Kevin Sinfield’s fund-raising efforts.  Upstairs was packed for Andrew Miller and Julian Worricker discussing the Big Book Group choice this year The Slowworm’s Song.

Ella Berthoud – Bibliotherapy Workshop

Mat Osman and Peter Gutteridge

Andy Verity

Carrie Dunn

2024 Dates
Dates for your diary: 

Friday 27th September BookFest Literary Quiz
Friday 4th October Ockenden Manor Supper
Saturday 5th – 6th October Cuckfield Book Festival

A big thank you to all the authors that attended Cuckfield Bookfest 2023

Cuckfield Book Festival Schools’ Day 

We were delighted to hold our inaugural Cuckfield Bookfest Schools’ Day at Cumnor House Sussex on 16th May 2023.   Cumnor has been a gold sponsor of the festival for several years now and we are very grateful to them for their support.  

Cumnor House Sussex


The idea behind the Schools’ Day was to bring children from different schools in Sussex together, enabling some of those who might not otherwise be able to do so, to meet and hear from popular authors.

First up was Christopher Lloyd, founder of WhatonEarth books.   He gave a fantastic talk on his new book It’s Up to Us which features a forward from the then Prince of Wales, now King Charles III. Using an exciting array of props from his coat with many pockets, he gave a whistlestop tour of the challenges we face from climate change and ideas of how we might meet them.  The book features stunning illustrations from artists based all over the world.  Attendees from Danehill Primary and Grove Park, a specialist school in Crowborough, joined children in Years 4-6 from Cumnor in the theatre.

Christopher then headed to Holy Trinity Primary School in Cuckfield where he spoke to Years 4 and 5 in turn.

Back in the theatre at Cumnor, multiple award-winning author Sarah Crossan gave a wonderfully inspiring and very funny talk on poetry to an audience of Year 7 and 8 children from Cumnor House, Oathall and Warden Park.  Her session included an incredibly witty deconstruction of the balcony seen from Romeo and Juliet and also two students from Oathall and Cumnor House joined her on the stage to recite the opening rap from the hit musical Hamilton.  Children were able to buy copies of her books including her poetry anthology Tomorrow is Beautiful from the outdoor pop-up bookshop.


Sussex book festival childrens events

The day was rounded off with a visit from Sufiya Ahmed who gave a fascinating talk about the inspiration behind her novel Rosie Raja: Churchill’s Spy, including her time working at the Houses of Parliament. Children from Holy Trinity, Cuckfield joined Year 6 at Cumnor and were captivated as she wove her story encompassing politics, human rights, the history of the British Empire, immigration, morse code, spies and fighting the Nazis during WW ll.
Cuckfield Bookfest would like to thank everyone at Cumnor House Sussex, Cuckfield Bookfest volunteers, RDH Coaches, the wonderful authors and the teachers and children at the participating schools, all of whom contributed to making the day such a resounding success.

Shauna Bevan

Masquerade Book
Ian Marchant book
The Fall of Boris
women in intelligence