Cheltenham `97: Literary love affair
Cheltenham's Festival is a celebration of the written word spanning almost 50 years
Friday 26 September 1997
This strange town, described by the poet P J Kavanagh, and both celebrated and derided as the bedrock of middle England, has for almost fifty years served as home for the world's oldest gathering of readers and writers who join together every October to celebrate books and their authors.
The Festival, which started in 1949, breathed new intellectual life into those culture-hungry post-war years. Gloucestershire writer John Moore organised a gathering of writers to celebrate the written word and for many years he invited his friends and fellow writers, including John Betjeman, Ralph Richardson, Cecil Day Lewis, Dylan Thomas, Compton MacKenzie and Joyce Grenfell, to come to Cheltenham for an inspiring week of readings, discussions and talks. The directorship was passed on to other writers as well as the much-loved antiquarian bookseller and collector Alan Hancox, whose second-hand bookshop became a focus of literary life in Cheltenham, before his death some years ago.
Cheltenham and Gloucestershire's literary connections sweep wider than this annual migration to include connections with Jane Austen, J M Barrie, Edward Thomas, Pope, Dickens and A E Houseman. Tennyson wrote substantial parts of In Memorium whilst staying in Cheltenham; Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass may have been inspired by his time in Gloucestershire and W H Auden lived and taught in Cheltenham in the 1930s before becoming Poet Laureate. Today, the town is still surrounded by literary connections from Kit Williams to Joanna Trollope, Jilly Cooper, P J Kavanagh and the late Laurie Lee who lived in nearby Slad and supported the Festival faithfully over the years.
Life & Style blogs
Ebola outbreak: Virus to kill 67,000 in Monrovia by December, claims academic study
Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
What do the text messages between you and your partner reveal about your relationship?
Controversy over Queen's 'first tweet' at London's Science Museum
Our gums are less healthy than Roman Britons', scientists claim
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
Poppy Appeal 2014: This is why I won't be wearing a red poppy this year
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...