Learn About the Ilkley Literature Festival

Literature has been a significant part of our world ever since hundreds and thousands of years ago. It is considered a form of art that is usually associated with writings, books, poetry, and so on. The definition of literature had expanded over the years and was not limited to simply writing. 

Interestingly, some people who are major supporters of literature show their support through various events and activities. Because of this kind of bond between writers and readers, the literature festival was born. Literature festivals are gatherings, which are participated by both writers and readers. These events take place in various places around the world, showcasing the city’s notable authors. 

One of the most popular literature festivals present in our world is the Ilkley Literature Festival, which is found in northern England. It became popular because of its antiquity and a great influence on literature. In this article, we are going to learn more about one of the oldest literature festivals, the Ilkley Literature Festival. 

What is the Ilkley Literature Festival?

As mentioned earlier, the Ilkley Literature Festival is a famous literature festival worldwide. It is widely regarded as one of the oldest and largest literature festivals around the globe, wherein it was inaugurated in 1973 by W.H. Auden – who was a famous poet during that time. Initially, the Ilkley Literature Festival was held biennially until 1988; a more updated guideline made it held annually. 

Today, the Ilkley Literature Festival is readers and writers gathering that is held annually. The event usually takes place in the spa town of Ilkley and is considered one of the top arts festivals in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the Ilkley Literature Festival is not a one-day event; the gathering extends up to two-weeks, starting from the end of September. It showcases diverse activities that are perfect for both adults and children, which are usually found in different places near Ilkley’s vicinity. This fascinating event attracts notable guests and authors to participate in its two-week period filled with activities. 

What is the History of the Ilkley Literature Festival?

We can trace back the origins of the Ilkley Literature Festival in 1971. Two residents of Ilkley: Michael Dawson and Peter Harland, came with the idea of hosting a festival for the town. During that time, Dawson was the Director of Yorkshire Arts Association, while Peter Harland was the Telegraph and Argus and Chair of the Yorkshire Arts Literature Panel editor. 

Since both of them had a career in literature, Harland thought of founding an event similar to the Cheltenham literature festival, which Dawson previously visited. Weeks later, the Yorkshire Arts Association literature panel approved Dawson’s proposal of hosting the said event, along with promises of giving their full support. 

A year later, in February 1972, a gathering was held at Dawson’s house in Ilkley. It consists of influential and enthusiastic people interesting in Dawson’s proposal, including Robin Alston, Arthur Kitching, Walter Stein, and Donald Baverstock, who were all supporters of the literature festival. The group also includes the local councilor, Molly Renton, as well as the Treasurer, Geoffrey Hodges. 

Michael Dawson continued to organize and invite people to the festival. After months of preparations, the literature festival took place in April 1973, with the help of the English poet, W.H. Auden. 

As mentioned earlier, The Ilkley Literature Festival was held biennially since its early existence. However, changes to its guidelines were made in 1988, making it held annually. Following the various changes in the festival’s policies was the appointment of its first-ever professional Director, Steven Dearden. 

Furthermore, Dearden was followed by several other directors, including Rachel Feldberg, who was appointed in 2003 until today. Besides the directors who participated in the event, many other important figures were also known to take part in the festival. Notable writers and authors made their appearances in the event on different years. Below is the list of authors that are known to have visited The Ilkley Literature Festival: 

  • W.H. Auden – 1975
  • Ted Hughes – 1975
  • Will Self – 2001 
  • V.S. Naipaul – 2001 
  • Melvyn Bragg – 2001, 2003, 2006 
  • Fay Weldon – 2005
  • Louis Theroux – 2005 
  • Ned Sherrin – 2005
  • P.D. James – 2005 
  • Clive James – 2005 
  • Greg Dyke – 2005 
  • Carol Ann Duffy – 2005
  • Maya Angelou – 2005 
  • Kate Adie – 2006
  • George Alaglah – 2006
  • Simon Armitage – 2006, 2012
  • Nicole Hornby – 2006 
  • Andrew Motion – 2006
  • Jenni Murray – 2006
  • Jeremy Paxman – 2006
  • John Simpson – 2006, 2010
  • Alan Bennett – 2017
  • Richard Dawkins – 2017
  • Tim Vine – 2017
  • Benjamin Zephaniah – 2017