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
Why it matters 26 million people have changed their Facebook profile picture to a rainbow flag
The age of inactivity: How laziness is killing us
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
Zero divided by zero: Ask Siri a simple question, have your social life mocked
iPhone 7: Force Touch phones are being prepared for launch, say reports
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 3 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 4 Greece crisis: Crowdfunding campaign crashes Indiegogo, raises half a million in just three days
- 5 Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck to divorce and end their 10-year marriage
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...
£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...