Heads Up: Woodstock Literary Festival

Bring a book – and beware the Morris dancers

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

A five-day literary festival at Blenheim Palace and Woodstock town.

Elevator Pitch

Boutique bookishness at beautiful Blenheim Palace.

Prime Movers

It's organised by mother-daughter team, Jill and Sally Dunsmore – also director of the Oxford Literary festival – while Bruce Thew is the chairman. And sponsored by this very newspaper...

The Talent

From the opening talk on the future of Iraq with Colonel Tim Collins to a black-tie literary dinner with Terry Wogan, it's a varied programme. David Aaronovitch, Patrick Jephson, Simon Kelner and Lance Price will debate the phone-hacking scandal. There'll be talks from novelists Ben Okri and Margaret Drabble; Richard Dawkins launches his first "family book" and Alistair Darling discusses 1,000 days at No 11. Former BBC foreign correspondent Martin Bell hosts a literary luncheon, and there's a double debate on Afghanistan and the Arab Spring with Robert Fisk, David Gardner, Eugene Rogan and Lucy Morgan Edwards.

The Early Buzz

Website literaryfestivals.co.uk previewed thus: "Woodstock claims to have become 'the UK's ultimate boutique literary festival' – as opposed to non-boutique festivals we suppose? Interesting branding. Nonetheless it is the first major event of Britain's autumn literary season and always has a jolly good boutiquish sort of line-up and what a setting, we nearly got run over in a local pub by a maruading group of morris dancers last time we were in the area."

Insider Knowledge

It's not all high minded; chocolate-tasting sessions and a guide to literary tipples – with plenty of gin slung in – should satisfy the taste buds as well as the mind.

It's great that...

Much of it takes place in a World Heritage Site, one of the largest and most lovely country houses in the UK.

It's a shame that...

The name bears quite such a close resemblance to that other festival... anyone expecting a recreation of a hippy love-in rock festival is likely to be disappointed.

Hit Potential

While not as starry as some festivals, there's plenty to please enquiring minds – and very lively debate seems likely with various political hot potatoes on the menu.

The Details

Woodstock Literary Festival takes place at Blenheim Palace and various venues, Woodstock, Oxfordshire (woodstockliteraryfestival.com), 14 to 18 Sep.