Charleston

Charleston Festival 2018: full programme revealed

The full programme for this year's Charleston Festival is revealed, with speakers including Sir David Attenborough, Alan Hollinghurst and Lubaina Himid.

Highlights include:

  • A lecture by Sir David Attenborough, winner of The Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize, on whether animals can be described as artists
  • Leading writers include Alan Hollinghurst, Kamila Shamsie, Robert Harris and Simon Armitage
  • Gender fluidity addressed by Robert Webb and Amy Bloom
  • Turner Prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid, whose work addresses colonial history
  • Unique commissions from Ali Smith and Jeanette Wintersoninspired by the Bloomsbury group
  • A special Man Booker Prize 50th anniversary debate with Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, C. Grayling and Erica Wagner
  • Seasoned political broadcasters Evan Davis, Anne McElvoy and Jon Sopel, going beyond the headlines on post-truth and the present volatile White House administration; investigative journalists Misha Glenny and Luke Harding analysing global crime and political corruption

Charleston’s heritage is one of artistic innovation and pioneering thinking, an ethos mirrored in this year’s Festival programme. Responding to the current social and political climate, it looks in particular at the achievements and legacies of remarkable women past and present.

In uncertain times there remains much to be celebrated, including 100 years since women first received the vote. Lyndall Gordon discusses her group biography ‘Outsiders’which links five female novelists (Shelley, Brontë, Eliot, Schreiner and Woolf), while Jane Robinson and Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, mark #Vote100.

The paths of feminist writers old and new meet at this year’s Festival, which includes a personal tribute to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando from contemporary author Jeanette Winterson. Vita Sackville-West and Woolf’s decade-long love affair is explored by the former’s granddaughter, Juliet Nicolson, and actress Gemma Arterton who plays Vita in upcoming film Vita and VirginiaThey are joined by the film’s director Chanya Button. Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s The Famous Women Dinner Service is adapted by writer Ali Smith, who transforms it from decorative ceramics into a work of creative prose.

The centenary of the Representation of the People Act isn’t the only anniversary marked at Charleston Festival 2018, the work of Mary Shelley is also celebrated with biographer Fiona Sampson, cultural historian Christopher Frayling and chemist Kathryn Harkup, two hundred years after the publication of ‘Frankenstein’In the 50th year of The Man Booker Prize the Festival hosts a special debate between three former judges, granting rare insight into the mechanics of judging the UK’s premier literary award.

Making sense of today’s world is also high on the agenda: authors Amanda Craig and Meg Wolitzer dissect current gender and power dynamics, and Misha Glenny and Luke Harding attempt to navigate the realms of corruption, nationalism-fuelled violence and fraud. Playwright Michael Frayn and political commentator John Crace discuss farce and political satire in a time when the relevance of each cannot be overstated, while themes of inequality and prejudice are tackled by Kamila Shamsie, author of ‘Homefire’and Neel Mukherjee, author of ‘A State of Freedom’.

This year’s Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize winner Sir David Attenborough, recognised for his outstanding contribution to society, will deliver an illustrated talk addressing the divisive question of whether or not some animals can be described as artists.

Founded by Bloomsbury group artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, art remains a key focus for Charleston.  In this year’s Festival, V&A Director Tristram Hunt will be in conversation with RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete on the stories behind the historic institution’s new Exhibition Road Quarter. Also featuring is Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid, who will discuss her ‘wilderness years’ and what she still hopes to achieve, while classical music and art collide in a conversation between leading arts broadcaster Clemency Burton-Hill, and James Hamilton, whose biography of Thomas Gainsborough has made waves in the art world.

Nathaniel Hepburn, Director and Chief Executive of The Charleston Trust, comments:

“The Charleston Festival is always a highlight of the cultural calendar and this year proves to be no exception. The 2018 programme is challenging, entertaining, innovative, radical and rigorous. I am very much looking forward to attending the talks at this, my first Festival since joining Charleston and meeting our festival-goers both loyal devotees and those attending for their first time.”

Diana Reich, Artistic Director of Charleston Festival, comments:

“Charleston was always associated with political and social engagement as well as animated conversation.  Therefore it is no surprise that this year’s Festival includes many events in which the state of the nation and the world is refracted through the prism of fiction, non-fiction, debate and humour.”

Tickets are on general sale from 19 February. The full Festival programme can be viewed at www.charleston.org.uk/festival from 6 February.