Preview: Ilkley Festival, Various Venues, Ilkley, W Yorks

A forum for writers' passions
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The Independent Culture

Dawson was unable to travel to work, because of a train strike, and, on a rare occasion, was able to read his post. He saw lots of brochures for festivals, but there was a distinct lack on the literature front; being passionate about literature, he hatched the idea for the festival. The first had WH Auden as keynote speaker, one month before he died.

This year, a host of writers will home in on the Yorkshire spa town. Feldberg says: "What makes Ilkley special is its very rich and diverse mixture." That mix ranges from the young Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainana to Professor Roger Penrose talking about his book The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe. Greg Dyke, Terry Eagleton and Tim Collins will discuss the "war on terror" in the festival debate and Maya Angelou will talk about her new, food-related memoir, Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes.

The festival-goer need not feel daunted by the wide choice because the festival, in Feldberg's words, is "accessible without dumbing down. What we try to do is get the best and the most exciting, the most intellectually challenging and stimulating authors talking about those subjects they love and know."

A perfect example of this attitude is the Mushaira reading (of Urdu, Gujarati, Bengali and Hindi poetry dating back more than 3,000 years). In the accessible Ilkley style, the poets will provide an introduction and translation, and it will be a shortened version at two and a half hours. Traditionally, it would have lasted most of the night.

30 September to 16 October (