Sunrise Festival attracts audiences of 10,000

A Large queue of people lined up to meet authors at a book signing

Wimbledon BookFest’s Sunrise Festival – the first of two multi-day literary festivals on Wimbledon Common this summer – drew to a close with a headline event by Nobel Prize for Literature winner Abdulrazak Gurnah.

It marked the end of a seven day programme of author talks, panel discussions, performances and workshops. In total, 10,000 adults and children attended events in the Festival Village, which returned to near-full capacity for the first time since 2019.

Highlights included appearances by award-winning fiction writers Julian Barnes, and 2021 Women’s Prize Winner Susanna Clarke in her only live appearance for Piranesi. Jhalak Prize writers Nikesh Shukla, Mona Arshi and Arifa Akbar shared a stage to discuss their work; while an event spotlighting new fiction by Afghan women saw writers zoomed in from Afghanistan and Germany. A lively Climate Challenge panel saw writers Aja Barber, Jayne Buxton and Ed Winters challenge conventional thinking on what impacts our carbon footprint.

The Sunrise Festival also saw the return of BookFest’s schools’ programme of events, which aim to support literacy and foster a love of reading in students in Merton and neighbouring London boroughs. In total, 3,000 children attended 13 events for schools, including a headline appearance by Sir Lenny Henry alongside events with Alex Wheatle MBE; Simon Farnaby, A Kind of Spark author Elle McNicoll; and former Children’s Laureate Jacqueline Wilson.

About his appearance at Sunrise Festival, Sir Lenny Henry said: “I’ve had the best time at Wimbledon BookFest. How wonderful to have 450 kids in a room all paying really close attention to me talking about my book, The Boy with Wings. If I’d known when I was nine that there was a place you could go to just talk about books and listen to authors talking, I would have tunnelled my way in!”

Wimbledon BookFest returns for its Sunset Festival from 22 – 26 September 2022. The five day event will feature My Name is Leon author Kit de Waal; actor Dame Sheila Hancock; former Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten; The Kanneh-Mason Family of classical musicians; much-loved children’s authors Michael Morpurgo and Nick Butterworth; and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup.

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