News October 2019

This is the last update for Cuckfield Book Festival 2019 – it’s difficult to believe that after all the preparation and build-up, the festival is over. 

It went very well indeed, from the moment that the elusive sun made an appearance as visitors to the opening event at Borde Hill began their walk round the garden on Thursday 3rd to the final Big Book Group in the Talbot on the Sunday night.

Over 1800 people visited Cuckfield Book Festival over the four days, enjoying talks from authors as varied as Robin Ince, Penelope Lively, John Crace and Jenni Murray.  The Queen’s Hall was packed and the volunteers shepherded visitors and provided delicious snacks throughout the day.  Down in the Old School, great fun was had, as many children were amused and entertained.  

Grateful thanks are due to so many people – the festival simply wouldn’t happen without the amazing volunteers, energetic management team, generous sponsors and of course, the authors who seem to love coming to Cuckfield.  

Planning for Cuckfield Book Festival 2020 is only just beginning but one decision has already been made – the dates.  Because of various events in Cuckfield in October and early November next year, we are moving to a later date: November 12th – November 15th 2020.  We’ll keep you updated in the months ahead but meantime, thank you so much for your interest in Cuckfield Book Festival and we look forward to seeing you again in 2020.

Only one week until Bookfest starts!


Unfortunately Maggi Gee has had to withdraw from Cuckfield Book Festival as she is to have eye surgery and the recovery time will not allow her to travel to Cuckfield.  However, we are really delighted that at very short notice,
Isabelle Grey has agreed to come and share the stage with Alan Judd and Peter Guttridge. We are incredibly lucky that Isabelle is free and wants to come!

Isabelle is a television screenwriter whose credits include Jimmy McGovern’s BAFTA award-winning Accused: Tina’s Story as well as over 35 episodes of Midsomer MurdersCasualtyRosemary and ThymeThe Bill and Wycliffe. She has also written non-fiction and has been a magazine editor and freelance journalist. Isabelle’s previous novels include two psychological thrillers, The Bad Mother and Out Of Sight as well as the first books in the DI Grace Fisher series, Good Girls Don’t DieShot Through the Heart and The Special Girls

Isabelle’s latest book, Wrong Way Home, was published in September 2018 and features D I Grace Fisher.  The Sunday Times said of it: ‘Grey is one of the most intelligent authors of contemporary crime fiction, and she uses characters from her popular DI Fisher series to highlight long-running problems with rape investigations in this sympathetic, suspense-packed novel’.

Alan Judd is the author of many gripping spy thrillers and according to Peter Hennessy, his ‘special magic is to mix contemporary events as they break over our heads with the codes and crafts of the secret world on whose special traits he is always uncannily up to date’.  His latest book, Accidental Agent, is as full of suspense and intrigue as his readers have come to expect.

With Peter Guttridge presiding over the conversation between these two excellent writers, this will be a riveting session so why not book tickets – Saturday 5th October in the Queen’s Hall from 3.00pm to 4.00 pm.

DJ Taylor and Rachel Hore

This is the first year that we have had so many sell-outs but there are still some seats available.  Why not come to hear DJ Taylor and his wife talking about their new books, each totally different but completely absorbing? DJ Taylor was at Bookfest last year discussing his book Rock n’Roll is Life, the story of a rock band in the 60s.  This year he has turned his hand to The Lost Girls, Love, War and Literature in the 1940s.  It has been very well reviewed.  Rachel, his wife, had her tenth novel, The Love Child, published in September.  


Tim Tate’s Hitler’s British Traitors will shed light on a wartime story that he has unearthed from his use of previously unseen material.  More tickets have just been released so do apply.

Jill Dawson’s book The Language of Birds has absolutely nothing to do with the feathered variety.  It’s the story of the nanny of Lord Lucan’s children who was murdered and has largely been forgotten, unlike Lord Lucan himself.  Jill explores this shocking event and brings the nanny to life in this hypnotic novel about class, violence and friendship.  Jill was recently at the Ditchling Literary supper and a visitor there said of her: ‘… warm and composed and so interesting on a wide range of subjects – domestic abuse, creative writing courses.’  Jill is talking to Jake Kerridge who reviews crime fiction most weeks in the Daily Telegraph.

The Big Book Group

The Big Book Group on Sunday upstairs in The Talbot has sold out so has obviously proved popular with book groups.  Anyone who has read the book and would like to submit a question to Clare Clark is invited to send them by email to

Latest News September 2019

Tickets have sold quickly this year with several events having already already sold out, including the literary quiz, the Ockenden Manor supper, Jenni Murray, with waiting lists for the latter two. More tickets have also been released for James Hanratty, Simon Williams, Tim Tate and Ed Halliwell, all of which are selling well.

And lots still available: 

DJ Taylor’s book, Lost Girls; Love, War and Literature 1939-51 has had excellent reviews in the national press.  The lost girls were chic, glamorous and bohemian, as likely to be found living in a rat-haunted maisonette as dining at the Ritz, they cut a swathe through English literary and artistic life in the 1940s.  David is talking with his wife, Rachel Hore, whose latest book, The Love Child, is just published. Rachel is one of the few authors to be featured twice in the Richard and Judy Book Club.   Peter Guttridge will be encouraging the pair to tell us the secrets of writing successfully as a married couple.

The Lord Lucan affair continues to fascinate and disturb in equal measure. So much has been written about Lord Lucan – what happened, what sort of man he was, who helped him vanish and of course, what was his ultimate fate.  But no one knows much about the nanny of his children who was so brutally murdered. What was her story?  Jill Dawson has written The Language of Birds, imagining her life and its violent and sad end.  This book is not only a crime novel but also an accurate evocation of the British class system in the 60s and 70s.  Not to be missed, particularly as Jill will be talking to the crime book reviewer Jake Kerridge. 

And if your favourite occupation at the weekend involves cycling round the roads of Sussex, make a date with Richard Moore and Lionel Birnie who are the hosts of The Cycling Podcast.

And what about a sophisticated tea at Ockenden Manor in the delightful company of Greta Scacchi who will be reading favourite poems? Why not buy this as a delicious gift for a special person? Surely a rare Sunday afternoon treat!

And please don’t think it’s necessary to read any of the books being discussed – it will be a real pleasure to hear these entertaining authors talk about their books, why they wrote them and how they research them.

And stop press – a very few extra tickets have just been released for Simon Williams on Saturday evening – they will go in a flash!


Children’s events at the Old School on Saturday 5 October are also selling well but lots of tickets still available.

Volunteers Needed!
A special plea for some volunteers on Sunday to help serve refreshments.  No need to provide these refreshments – just be prepared to offer service with a smile at a time to suit you. Rotas can be arranged to fit round any sessions you are attending at the festival.  Please contact us

Thank you to Cuckfield Life whose unfailing support throughout the two years of running Cuckfield Bookfest has been invaluable.

Celebrating its tenth year, Lindfield Arts Festival takes place this month 16- 22 September #LAF2019

Latest News July 2019

Only a month to go before the Cuckfield Bookfest 2019 programme is published. We usually time it to be delivered with Cuckfield Life which this August will be on the 13th. The programme will go online that day and bookings will open at or via a link here on the website. For those who prefer to buy tickets in person, Marcus Grimes has kindly agreed to sell tickets.

We are printing many more copies of the programme this year to spread the word much more widely.

Bookfest Supper

The Friday night Ockenden Manor supper this year should be particular fun as Robin Ince is going to be entertaining us. He is co-presenter of The Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox on BBC R4. Robin’s latest book, I’m a Joke and So are You, offers a hilarious and often moving primer to the mind so his performance at the supper will be amusing and thoughtful.  Robin is also on stage on Saturday morning for those who don’t come to the supper – he’ll have more stories from his book .

Jenni Murray

For Woman’s Hour devotees, Jenni Murray is coming to talk about her book A History of the World in 21 Women.
Early on Saturday evening Jill Dawson will be discussing The Language of Birds which The Times has chosen as a crime summer-must read.
In addition to these events, there will be a talk from Tim Waterstone, the founder of the eponymous book shop and John Crace, the parliamentary sketch writer who coined the satirical name Maybot will be intriguing us with more accounts of Westminster shenanigans.

Crime-writing workshop

For would-be crime writers, Peter Guttridge, now a Cuckfield Bookfest fixture and a crime writer himself, is running a crime-writing workshop. The maximum number of people for this is 15, to allow for plenty of inter-activity so this may be the opportunity you have been looking for to emulate Peter James.

Saturday night will feature Simon Wiliams, whose column in the Daily Telegraph was read eagerly and who of course is Justin Elliott, Lilian Bellamy’s partner in The Archers. Simon will be telling all in An Actor’s Life for Me.

 Pat Hegarty, a local author of children’s books, will be running a reading and activity session on Saturday based on her book Moon and we are also delighted that the author of the Waterstones Children’s Illustrated Book Prize 2019, The Girls, is coming to the Old School.

There will be lots more sessions offering a wide variety of subjects and authors including mindfulness, immigration and gardening. Do mark August 13th in your diary and start booking tickets. We’re offering a discount of 10% to everyone who buys 10 tickets for events over both days at £10 each.

Thursday October 3rd afternoon:  Tour of  Borde Hill Garden with the Head Gardener, followed by a talk from Vanessa Berridge.

Thursday October 3rd evening: Literary Quiz.

Friday October 4th evening: Supper at Ockenden Manor.

Saturday and Sunday 5th and 6th October:  Author talks.

And a reminder that the book for the Big Book Group on Sunday evening is In the Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark.

Latest News May 2019

The programme for Cuckfest 2019 is almost complete but we do try to keep a slot or two free until the very last minute as you never know what gems might turn up.

First announcement to make is that Hurstpierpoint College is generously supporting us for the first time this year and we are delighted.



The Cycling Podcast

Cycling devotees (and there are plenty of them on Sussex lanes) will relish the opportunity to sit in on a conversation between Richard Moore and Lionel Birnie who co-host The Cycling Podcast, as they talk about their book A Journey through the Cycling Year.

Behind the Throne

This year, we have another varied mix of authors and just to whet your appetite, here are three:  Adrian Tinniswood who appeared at the first the first Cuckfield Book Festival has published another fantastic book called Behind the Throne which is a domestic history of the royal household.  Find out what it was like to dine with queens, and walk with kings in this lively behind the scenes look at five centuries of life at the English court.

Penelope Lively

For those with gentler pursuits, we are very thrilled to announce that Penelope Lively has accepted our invitation to come.  Dame Penelope’s long literary career has produced some classics and she won the Booker Prize for Moon Tiger. On Sunday afternoon, October 6th, she will be discussing her latest book, Life in the Garden.

Sarah Vavasour is masterminding the children’s events this year. Taking place in the Old School, by Holy Trinity Church, Saturday 5th October will be a fun-filled day with two events in the morning and two in the afternoon. Cumnor House Sussex is supporting several children’s events again this year, for which many thanks. Look out for Knife and Packer, an author-illustrator team who bring a distinctive sense of style and humour to their interactive workshop that will get EVERYONE creating a crazy character.  It might be a talking mosquito or a caveman with a bad attitude – the sky’s the limit.


We had a wonderful team of volunteers last year and many have signed up again. If you are new to the village and would like to become involved, please do contact Allie Young for the adult programme over the weekend  or Sarah Vavasour for the children’s programme on the Saturday using our contact form. Times can be tailored to suit so a volunteer also has the opportunity to go to talks.


We welcome sponsorship at any level as it costs quite a lot to put on the festival so if anyone knows of a local company or organisation that might support Cuckfest, perhaps they could contact Elspeth Chasser via our contact form. Individuals are also most welcome – anything from £25.00 upwards! All support will be acknowledged in the programme. This year Cuckfest has become a Community Interest Company which means that any profits made go back into the community.

The complete programme will be available in early August but don’t forget these dates: 

Thursday October 3rd afternoon:  Tour of  Borde Hill Garden with the Head Gardener, followed by a talk from Vanessa Berridge.

Thursday October 3rd evening: Literary Quiz.

Friday October 4th evening: Supper at Ockenden Manor.

Saturday and Sunday 5th and 6th October:  Author talks.

And a reminder that the book for the Big Book Group on Sunday evening is In the Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark.

Latest News March 2019

Joint event with Borde Hill Garden

Exciting events are planned for Cuckfest 2019, with some surprises. We are particularly delighted that thanks to a generous offer from Borde Hill Garden, we are holding a joint event there on Thursday 3rd October. It will consist of a tour of the garden led by the head gardener, Andy Stevens, and then a talk from Vanessa Berridge, renowned garden writer who will be discussing her recently published book, Great British Gardeners. More details in due course but this is bound to be popular, combining the opportunity to discover the delights of this Edwardian Grade II* listed garden, famous for its rare shrubs and trees, with hearing from an author with an in-depth knowledge of British garden history.



Big Book Group

For enthusiastic members of book groups, here’s the title selected for the last event of Cuckfest – In the Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark. The book follows the fortunes of three Berliners caught up in a devastating scandal of 1930s’ Germany. It tells the story of Emmeline, a wayward, young art student; Julius, an anxious, middle-aged art expert; and a mysterious art dealer named Rachmann who are at the heart of Weimar Berlin at its hedonistic, politically turbulent apogee and are whipped up into excitement over the surprising discovery of 32 previously unknown paintings by Vincent van Gogh.

Based on a true story, unfolding through the subsequent rise of Hitler and the Nazis, this gripping tale is about beauty and justice.

William Boyd calls the book ‘a completely fascinating novel about the early twentieth-century art world … expertly researched, compellingly narrated and full of potential resonance today.’  In Rachel Seiffert ‘s view it is ‘a wonderful novel; passionate, intelligent, humane’.

This is also a particularly apt title for this year as there is to be a major van Gogh exhibition at Tate Britain in the summer.

We’re announcing this event in time for book groups to consider slotting it into their reading programme and we hope lots of you will come along on Sunday 6th October to hear Clare Clark talking about it.

All information about how to book tickets for both these events will be provided in the programme which will be published at the beginning of August – however save the date is our advice now!

Waterstones, Haywards Heath are the Cuckfield Bookfest booksellers.