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Serious debates replace ‘frivolous fiction’ at Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival

PUBLISHED: 17:00 12 November 2015

Both Andrew Marr and Jon Snow have donated bags for the charity auction. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Both Andrew Marr and Jon Snow have donated bags for the charity auction. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

The Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival has been a north London calendar highlight for several years now, but this weekend will see the annual event undergo a radical facelift.

Journalist and free school founder Toby Young. Picture: Dieter PerryJournalist and free school founder Toby Young. Picture: Dieter Perry

So-called “frivolous fiction” has been replaced with serious debate and discussion at the revamped festival, which begins tomorrow (Friday) at South Hampstead High School in Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead.

For the first time this year, the festival – for which the Ham&High is media partner – will stretch across four days from Friday until Tuesday in a move to encourage more young adults, families and working-age residents to attend.

Among the eclectic line-up of literary greats and high-profile speakers at more than 50 events are renowned journalists Jon Snow and Andrew Marr, free school founder Toby Young and Charlie and Lola author Lauren Child.

Festival organiser Genevieve Jacobs said: “It’s shaping up to be a fun, informative festival. We have moved away from frivolous fiction and taken a more serious tone.

Charlie and Lola author Lauren Child visits Highgate Pre-Preparatory School. Picture: Nigel SuttonCharlie and Lola author Lauren Child visits Highgate Pre-Preparatory School. Picture: Nigel Sutton

“We have also tried to include children, that’s the main difference this year. There’s a lot for the children, and we are encouraging young adults to attend, particularly the political debating events.

“In terms of the most interesting talks, they are all after school or at the weekend.”

This year sees the festival move to South Hampstead High School from the London Jewish Cultural Centre (LJCC) following the centre’s merger with Jewish community centre JW3.

Owing to its new location, the festival this year has an educational emphasis, with a new schools programme offering events for children and young adults during the mornings of Friday and Monday.

And proving one of the most popular festival attractions is the highly-anticipated education debate tomorrow evening between Mr Young, Mr Snow, former Eton headteacher Tony Little, South Hampstead head Helen Pike and others.

Ms Jacobs said: “We are very excited. We have a great line-up and it’s now the last few days to buy tickets.

“But don’t fret if you haven’t bought your tickets yet – come along, turn up, we would love to see you, as there will be more tickets available on the door.”

Book online at handhlitfest.com.

Turn to etcetera for an interview with war historian Max Hastings.

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