Welcome to the Oxford Literary Festival

I am delighted to welcome you all to the 20th Oxford Literary Festival – magnificently supported, for the third year, by our title sponsor, FT Weekend.

The partnership with the FT has enabled the festival to reach global audiences and develop our international programme. For the first time, BBC World Service will be broadcasting from the festival as part of the BBC’s ‘identity’ season. They will have an exceptional lineup of speakers. Special editions of two flagship BBC World Service discussion programmes, The Forum and Newshour Extra, will be recorded at Oxford.

To mark the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916, we are honoured to welcome Dr Mary McAleese, the former President of Ireland. She will discuss Anglo-Irish relations over the past 100 years. We are very grateful to HE Dan Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador, and to Lady Hatch for their support for the events on Irish literature and culture.

We welcome many distinguished figures for the programme on Italian literature and culture, including the eminent Italian novelist Dacia Maraini. We very much appreciate the assistance of HE Pasquale Terraciano, the Italian Ambassador, and the Italian Cultural Institute.

HSBC have been sponsoring the festival for eight years. Their series on leadership and women in society have become major features of the programme, and we are indebted to HSBC’s UK and European chief executive, Antonio Simoes, for his enlightened patronage.

The festival includes exceptional speakers – Sir Ian McKellen giving the first Provost of Worcester’s Lecture; Professor Mary Beard giving the Bodley Lecture; Sir Alan Ayckbourn receiving the honorary fellowship; Garry Kasparov talking about Putin’s Russia; and Sir Michael Moritz focusing on leadership.

Worcester College is a new home of the festival. Its beautiful gardens and lake provide a wonderful backdrop. The Georgian hall, chapel and library, and the Linbury Building are the locations for dinners, tastings, talks and music – and the buttery and bar are the social focus. The Provost of Worcester, Professor Sir Jonathan Bate, and Lady Bate (Dr Paula Byrne) have been unstinting in their enthusiasm and generous in their welcome.

Andrea Reece, the director of the children’s and young people’s programme, has assembled a remarkable line-up – including Dame Jacqueline Wilson; Lauren Child; David Baddiel; Frances Hardinge; Julian Clary; Lucy Worsley; Kevin Crossley-Holland; and Chris Riddell.

We are particularly pleased to provide so many free events this year and to have maintained our commitment to offering a platform to many unknown and first-time writers. Alone among the UK’s leading literary festivals, Oxford receives no state or local authority funding. We rely entirely on the generosity of our sponsors and partners, and of our donors – led by Ian and Carol Sellars. We are deeply grateful to our many voluntary helpers and stewards for their tireless efforts.

We hope our 500 speakers and all our audiences will enjoy a memorable nine days of inspiring literary and cultural events, debates and discussions, and delicious food and drink, in entrancing university and college buildings.

Needless to say, we are already planning the outline of the 21st literary festival for Oxford in 2017.

Sally Dunsmore
Festival director