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Bury St Edmunds Literature Festival 2021 Line Up

The third annual Bury St Edmunds Literature Festival takes place from September 23 to 26 with a line-up which includes writers from genres including biogaphy, nature, memoir, poetry and drama!

This year’s Bury St Edmunds Literature Festival at the Unitarian Meeting House starts with an evening of Poetry from John Row and the East Coast Poets followed by an Open Mic session . 

On Friday night, Simon Edge will be talking about his satirical novel, Anyone for Edmund, starring our very own Patron Saint as you may never have envisaged him!

Simon will talk about the genesis of his novel, the benefits of telling historical stories in a modern setting, and the ups and downs of publishing his tale in the year everything was cancelled.

A former journalist and gossip columnist, Simon is familiar with the world he satirises in Anyone for Edmund . His books mix historical facts and figures with warm hearted comedy and satire. He is also a publisher, editor and enthusiastic yoga practitioner.


While on Saturday, distinguished historian, Dr Francis Young will set the historical record straight on Edmund. 

Francis is a well known historian with a particular interest in Counter-Reformation culture and popular religion (including magic and the supernatural) in England. He is also an expert on St Edmund and his Abbey in Bury St Edmunds, the ruins of which are in the glorious Abbey Gardens . 

Edmund was the martyred monarch of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia and England’s first patron saint. Francis firmly believes that St Edmund’s body will be found somewhere beneath the Abbey Gardens, possibly under the site of the old tennis courts and has set out his theories in Edmund: In search of England’s lost King .

Francis is an entertaining speaker as well as a knowledgeable one . Following Simon Edge’s appearance at the Festival talking about his satirical novel Anyone for Edmund (in which Edmund’s body is indeed found), Francis will talk about the real Edmund and his cult both here in England and in Ireland and France.

Saturday and Sunday offer book lovers the chance to hear some truly exceptional writers talk about their work and answer questions from the audiences . 

They include the hugely popular Liz Trenow and Rachel Hore, Julia Blackburn whose deeply felt writing in Time Song seems peculiarly apposite for these times.

Liz Trenow is an international bestselling author of historical novels such as In Love and War and The SilkWeaver, who returns to her East Anglian roots for her latest book The Secret of the Lake, a very personal novel inspired by her childhood and a mysterious local legend. 

Rachel Hore is a million copy Sunday Times bestselling author, who has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Novel of the Year, and was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick.

Julia Blackburn is the author of 16 books, including two novels both of which were shortlisted for the Orange Prize, poetry, and several biographies and memoirs. Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske was the 2015 East Anglian Book of the Year and won the New Angle Prize and she has been shortlisted for many other prestigious prizes and awards. 

Norwich born David Taylor will also be appearing. David has written over  26 books, a dozen novels among them . These include English Settlement, which won a Grinzane Cavour Award, Trespass and Derby Day, both long- listed for the Booker Prize, Kept, a Publishers Weekly Book of the Year, The Windsor Faction, joint winner of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, and, most recently, Rock and Roll is Life: The True Story of the Helium Kids by One Who Was There . He has published two collections of short stories, with a third, Stewkey Blues, due to come out next year. He has written two magisterial biographies, one the life of Thackeray and a Whitbread prize-winning biography of Orwell . David is currently annotating Orwell’s novels as well as writing a new updated biography Orwell: the New Life and it is this he will talk about at the Festival .

Crime writers William Shaw and Nicola Upson will also talking about their craft. 

Bury born Nicola Upson is the author of a best selling series of crime novels featuring a fictional Josephine Tey who, in real life, was a noted writer of detective novels herself . Her latest novel, The Dead of Winter, the ninth in the series, is set in Cornwall in 1938 as dark clouds gather over Europe . It was longlisted for the 2021 CWA Gold Dagger Award and CWA Sapere Books Historical Dagger. 

Before becoming a crime writer, William Shaw was an award-winning music journalist and the author of several non-fiction books including Westsiders: Stories of the Boys in the Hood, about a year spent with the young men of South Central Los Angeles, and A Superhero For Hire, a compilation of columns in the Observer Magazine .

William’s series featuring DS Cathal Breen and the brash young constable Helen Tozer are set in late sixties London amidst the cultural and political revolution of the times . They have been called “an elegy for an entire alienated generation .” Following his acclaimed novel, The Birdwatcher, set in the bleak landscape of Dungeness, he has written a contemporary series also set there featuring DS Alexandra Cupidi, a woman making her way in what is still a male dominated world . The latest in the series is The Trawlerman.

The festival finishes on a high with the wonderfully entertaining Jan Etherington, a multi-award-winning comedy writer. Jan has written for local and national newspapers and magazines as well as being an entertaining broadcaster. She is best known – and best loved – as a script and play writer for stage, television, and radio . Her gentle, but perceptive (sometimes uncomfortably so) comedy has universal appeal. Many listeners identify with the couple in her hugely popular BBC Radio 4’s Conversations From a Long Marriage which stars Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam.

This year the Festival is offering all day tickets for both Saturday and Sunday so you can come and go as you please. 

The Bury St Edmunds Literature Festival would like to thank patrons, Mike and Judy Spenser-Morris and Sponsors, Greene & Greene Solicitors for their wonderful support of the Festival.

The full festival line up:

John Row & the East Coast Poets followed by Open Mic, in association with Poetry Aloud - Thursday 23 September 7.30pm

Simon Edge - Friday 24th September 2021 at 7.30pm

Matt Gaw - Saturday 25th September 2021 at 11am

Francis Young - Saturday 25th September 2021 at 1pm

Liz Trenow - Saturday 25th September 2021 at 3pm

Julia Blackburn - Saturday 25th September 2021 at 5pm

Conversation in Crime – Nicola Upson and William Shaw - Saturday 25th September 2021 at 7.30pm

Bury Theatre Workshop - Saturday 25th September 2021 at 9pm

Adrian Bleese - Sunday 26th September 2021 at 1pm

David (DJ) Taylor - Sunday 26th September 2021 at 3pm

Rachel Hore - Sunday 26th September 2021 at 5pm

Jan Etherington - Sunday 26th September 2021 at 7.30pm

For more details on the Festival visit https://burylitfest.wordpress.com/. Tickets now on sale at https://www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/whats-on