Best literary festivals to visit in 2022
Travel the length and breadth of Britain to hear your favourite authors in conversation at this year's top literature festivals
Not only does the UK boast some of the best literary voices in the world, it also has a calendar of book festivals and events any bibliophile would be excited for. Here, we've rounded up some of the best British annual literary festivals you should know about.
Best literary festivals to visit in 2022
The Bath Festival
13-21 May 2022
The Bath Festival celebrates the very best of the UK's literature and music scene, welcoming authors, artists and thinkers to the southwest city for a week every year. Events take place in Bath Abbey, the Assembly Rooms and the former Art Deco cinema The Forum, as well as local bookshops such as Mr B's Emporium and Persephone books. The 2022 line-up included local bestselling novelist Max Porter, poet Brian Bilston, Bristol-based historian David Olusoga and authors Shon Faye, Claire Fuller and Sarah Moss.
The Bath Children's Literature Festival takes place later in the year, with the 2022 edition due to take over the city from 23 September-2 October.
Find out more on the Bath Festival website.
26 May-5 June 2022
The small town of Hay-on-Wye has been known as 'The Town of Books' since the 1970s, with the Hay Festival founded in 1988 by Peter Florence, who remained its director until 2021. Although there are now versions of the festival in existence all around the world, the flagship festival still takes place in Hay – and attracts some of the biggest names in the industry. Hillary Rodham Clinton even featured in the line-up for the 2022 festival, in conversation with Helena Kennedy QC. Events at the festival are regularly recorded for TV and radio programmes, particularly on the BBC.
The 2022 programme included more than 500 in-person events with the likes of Stephen Fry, Nicola Sturgeon, Jimmy Page (yes, that one), Bill Bailey, Amy Liptrot, Jacqueline Wilson and Jarvis Cocker.
Selected events from each year's festival are streamed on the Hay Player, with Online Festival Passes also available. Plus, students get 25% off all tickets!
Find out more on the Hay Festival website.
Essex Book Festival
1-30 June 2022
For the month of June, the book festival takes over the county of Essex, with over a hundred events in venues including Chelmsford Theatres, Basildon Library, the University of Essex and Wivenhoe Bookshop. As well as events with authors, the festival includes events for local authors and aspiring writers, talks for kids and writing workshops.
Its 2022 edition includes a foraging walk, an event combining words and harp music, an interactive session for children to learn about honeybees and a guided walk.
Find out more on the Essex Book Festival website.
Edinburgh International Book Festival
13-29 August 2022
One of the UK's longest-running literary festivals, the Edinburgh Book Festival has been running from 1983. It now runs over 900 events every August and since the pandemic has extended its hybrid live-digital offerings. It will continue to be hosted at the Edinburgh College of Art until 2024, at which point it will move to the Edinburgh Futures Institute. The festival also heads out on the road around Scotland, with author events put on in Scottish prisons, hospitals and arts centres. Previous featured authors have included Prue Leith, Ali Smith, Max Porter, Carol Ann Duffy and Ruth Davidson.
Find out more on the Edinburgh Book Festival website.
Queen's Park Book Festival
17-18 September 2022
The Queen's Park area of London has become a bit of a hotspot for book lovers, ever since the highly popular independent bookshop Queen's Park Books opened in 2004. The area's eponymous 30-acre park now plays host to the only London book festival held solely in a public park. Previous authors to have attended the festival include Zadie Smith, Tessa Hadley, Richard Coles, Bernardine Evaristo and Elif Shafak. Plus, the Queen's Park Community Tent has helped champion local authors and under-represented groups from the community throughout each iteration of the festival.
Find out more on the Queen's Park Book Festival website.
Henley Literary Festival
1-9 October 2022
Since launching in 2007, Henley has fast become one of the UK's biggest literature festivals, hosting 130 events in its 2021 edition, with guests including Joanna Lumley, Ed Miliband, Clare Balding and Jeffrey Archer. The Henley Children's Festival runs alongside the main literary festival programme, which includes events for children and a special programme for schools.
Find out more on the Henley Literary Festival website.
Cliveden Literary Festival
15-16 October 2022
Set high above the Thames, the magnificent Cliveden House boasts stunning gardens, architectural design and, since 2017, a leading literary festival, attracting some of the UK's leading novelists, historians, journalists and politicians. Helpfully, the festival has uploaded most – if not all – the recordings of its 2021 events onto YouTube for you to listen back to.
Find out more on the Cliveden Literary Festival website.
Cheltenham Literature Festival
7-16 October 2022
The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is said to be the oldest literary festival in the world, formed in 1949. If you happen to be on holiday during the the glut of summer literature festivals, you're in luck – Cheltenham's takes place in autumn. It celebrates the best new novels, memoirs, non-fiction, comedy and spoken word, with events held around the town centre and in pop-up tents in Montpellier Gardens.
The 2021 edition of the Cheltenham Literature Festival featured the likes of Jeanette Winterson, James Rebanks, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Beard and Sebastian Faulks. Thanks to its sponsorship from The Times and The Sunday Times, the festival also features panel events with the newspapers' top journalists and columnists. The Gloucestershire town also hosts the Jazz, Music and Science Festivals every year.
Find out more on the Cheltenham Literature Festival website.
London Literature Festival
20-30 October 2022
Held at the Southbank Centre every year, the longest-running literature festival in the capital celebrates the written and spoken word. Previous guests have included former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, author Kate Mosse and comedian Daisy May Cooper.
Find out more on the London Literature Festival website.
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.