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End of a 27-year era for director at Autumn Literary Festival

Pictured l-r: Lord David Owen; Mary Beard (photo credit: Caterina Turroni); Elizabeth MacNeal (photo credit: Mat Smith Photography).

He has been instrumental in bringing some of the world’s finest literary minds to Norfolk and after directing the UEA Autumn Literary Festival for 27 years, Christopher Bigsby will be saying goodbye with his own moment in the spotlight.

Chris has held the post of Director of the Arthur Miller Institute Literary Festival for all 27 of its editions but is also an award-winning author in his own right. He has interviewed over 250 writers since 1991, including Arthur Miller, Salman Rushdie, Ruth Rendell, Toni Morrison, Harold Pinter, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Paul McCartney and Kazuo Ishiguro.

The final event of this year’s Autumn Literary Festival will see the tables turned when Louis de Bernières, best-selling author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, takes part in a special two-way interview to celebrate Chris’ ground-breaking work and legacy, and to discuss and compare their lives in literature. Louis has been interviewed by Chris a number of times and the two are good friends.

Tickets are now on sale for the Autumn Literary Festival, with nine authors appearing on Wednesday evenings across October and November. While UEA will be saying farewell to a long-serving director, the University will also be welcoming some prominent figures to the festival for the first time.

Best-selling author, classicist and presenter Mary Beard will be making her debut, along with founder of the Social Democrat Party and political writer, Lord David Owen.

A clutch of UEA alumni will be kicking off the festival, with the critically acclaimed Elizabeth Macneal, who graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing just two years ago, opening the festival on Wednesday 2 October. She will be followed by fellow Creative Writing alumni and award-winning novelists Tash Aw and Tracy Chevalier - author of Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The University will also be lucky enough to host American novelist Elizabeth Strout, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteridge, and geneticist Steve Jones will bring science to the festival to talk about his latest book Here Comes the Sun.

Chris Bigsby said: “27 years of the Arthur Miller Institute Literary Festival have seen writers fly in from around the world and we have welcomed those with Nobel, Pulitzer, Booker, Whitbread and a host of other awards.

“Along with novelists, playwrights and poets we have played host to politicians, journalists, biographers, scientists. Over 250 writers, at the beginning of their careers or as they near the end, have appeared, some retaining long-term relationships with the University. There is a reason Norwich was selected as a UNESCO City of Literature: this is one of them.”

Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased from the Literary Festival website at www.uea.ac.uk/litfest/tickets. A season ticket for all eight events costs £63 (concessions £54) with individual tickets £9 each (£5 for students). Profits from the festival will once again be used to fund scholarships for UEA students.


Full Literary Festival line-up

Wed 2 October            Elizabeth Macneal

Wed 9 October            Tash Aw

Wed 16 October           Tracy Chevalier

Wed 23 October          Steve Jones

Wed 30 October          David Owen

Wed 6 November         Mary Beard

Wed 13 November       Elizabeth Strout

Wed 20 November       Chris Bigsby and Louis de Bernières


All events take place at UEA’s Lecture Theatre 1 at 7pm on the stated date.

For further details on the authors, see the Literary Festival programme.