2023 – Celebrating an incredible year at Wimbledon BookFest 

Packed programme of events brings the best in books, culture and the arts to south-west London  

2023 was a busy year for Wimbledon BookFest – with a packed programme of literary and cultural events running throughout the year. Here are just some of the highlights…  

World Book Day with Sir Lenny Henry 

2023 kicked off in style a World Book Day event with Sir Lenny Henry – over 1700 local schoolchildren attended the event and received a copy of Sir Lenny’s book The Boy With Wings to take home. The event was featured in a recent ITV documentary paying tribute to the comedian and actor, watched by over one million viewers. 

Merton Arts Project 

Last year saw the launch of The Merton Arts Project. This exciting new partnership with Merton Libraries – funded by Arts Council England – aims to produce a wide range of literary and cultural events across the borough of Merton. 

Highlights from the 2023 Merton Arts Project include; events on the craft of crime writing, workshops on the art of Manga, a celebration of World Book Night with acclaimed Vietnamese author Nguyễn Phan QuếMai, provision of free Festival tickets to local residents and the launch of the Big Read – a community-wide reading project with 500 free copies of acclaimed novel The Last White Man distributed across the borough. Find out more about the Big Read here 

Word Up! Schools Programme  

Over 10,000 children from school starters to sixth formers took part in Wimbledon BookFest Word Up! projects or events. The Young Writers Competition – an integral part of the Word Up!  programme – received 7,000 entries from 69 local state schools. The shortlisted writers were invited to a prize-giving event with the Former Childrens’ laureate Cressida Cowell. Read more about our Young Writers Competition here 

Book Launches  

BookFest Patron and leading cultural commentator and broadcaster Afua Hirsch returned to her old school, Wimbledon High, to launch her book Decolonising My Body as part of the autumn Festival. Afua was in conversation with Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo.  

Earlier in the year, writer, strategist and chat-topping podcaster Alastair Campbell launched his book But What Can I Do? at New Wimbledon Theatre in a candid conversation with BBC News presenter Jo Coburn. 

And Steve Backshall launched the autumn events programme in September with his love letter to the ocean, Deep Blue, at an intimate event at Wimbledon Library ahead of his national theatre tour. He delighted new and old fans with his passion for the environment and the natural world. 

Lahore Literary Festival 

2023 also saw the launch of a new partnership between Wimbledon BookFest and the Lahore Literary Festival – building connections across borders and celebrating South Asian voices. Read more about the partnership here 

Great Uncle Bulgaria Becomes a Patron!  

The Wombles announced a welcome return this year and the book loving Great Uncle Bulgaria joined the Wimbledon BookFest team as a new Patron. 

October Festival Returns  

The 10-day autumn Festival returned to central Wimbledon, running across new venues, Wimbledon Library and Wimbledon High School. Over 15,000 people attended events with authors and writers including, Anthony Seldon, Anne Enright, Paterson Joseph, Rose Tremain, Katherine Rundell, George the Poet and Mikaela Loach. Audio and video recording were released for more than 20 events from the 2023 festival programme. Sponsored by Baillie Gifford, they are now free to listen to and watch here until the end of February. 

2024 Begins…

2024 is off to a creative start with a series of creative writing and storytelling workshops running across Merton Libraries. In addition to the autumn Festival, there are plans for a series of Spring events at New Wimbledon Theatre – including a celebration of World Book Day, a rolling programme of school projects and partnerships with the Kings Arts Festival and other arts organisations.  






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