Marlborough Litfest cancels its main 2020 programme due to pandemic

By Jamie Hill - 19 June 2020

Arts and Culture

Marlborough Litfest has announced that it will not be running its main festival programme but its Big Town Read will continue online with free events for local schools and a 'Love Books' competition.

The Marlborough LitFest has announced that this year’s festival will not take place in its usual form, due to Covid-19 restrictions. However the LitFest will continue its outreach programme, running activities for the community - mainly online - including its annual Big Town Read, free author talks for local primary schools as well as competitions for all ages.

The LitFest committee says: “It is with great sadness that we have decided to cancel the main programme for this year’s LitFest. So much of the festival is about lively debate, authors mingling with the audience and the buzz of the Town Hall, all of which are hard to replicate while following the essential guidelines to keep everyone safe from Covid-19.

“We’ve been excited to see the range of virtual events on offer from other larger festivals and would love to have created something similar. But, as a small volunteer team, we would rather focus our energy on providing a few activities over the coming months to keep our audience sharing views about books and reading.

“For now we are thrilled to see The White Horse Bookshop open again in Marlborough High Street. We will keep talking to them and other local organisations about ways in which the Marlborough LitFest can contribute to supporting the arts at this challenging time. And of course we look forward to seeing everyone for the return of the festival from 30 September – 3 October 2021.”


The 2020 Big Town Read is Platform Seven, the latest novel by bestselling author Louise Doughty who was due to come to Marlborough for the festival. Every year the Marlborough LitFest, along with the support of local libraries, chooses a book which is suggested for local reading groups and individuals to read, ahead of the author appearing at the LitFest. This will take place as an online session at 6pm on Saturday 26 September during which the audience will be able to put questions to Louise.

Louise Doughty is the bestselling author of nine novels, including the number one bestseller, Apple Tree Yard - subsequently a hugely successful TV adaptation. She has also written one work of non-fiction and five plays for radio. Previous Big Town Read authors have included Laline Paull, Sathnam Sanghera, Jackie Kay, Rachel Joyce and Raynor Winn.


The LitFest is passionate about encouraging a love of reading and books to its younger audiences in its annual series of live author talks to local primary and secondary school children. This year these are likely to be online, taking into account safety guidelines at the time.


This year’s annual children’s competition for local primary schools is titled ‘Greek Gods Top Trumps’, focusing on Greek mythology. The competition was sent out to local primary school teachers just before lockdown and will hopefully give some entertainment to children at home; entries need to be in by 11 September, with prizes sponsored by Haine and Smith Opticians in Marlborough.

New for 2020 is the ‘Love Books’ Competition for adults and young people, run in association with English Literature at Bath Spa University. Entrants should explain their choice of favourite book, poem or play in either 750 words or in a video (no more than four minutes), with prizes of £300 for the winner in each age group and £100 for each runner-up. Entries close on 17 July; for more information on the competition, visit:

For updated Festival information, please visit:

The Marlborough LitFest would like to take this opportunity to thank its loyal audience in Marlborough and beyond, its new patron Sir Simon Russell Beale, its lead sponsor Brewin Dolphin and its events sponsors: Hiscox Insurance, William Golding Limited, Marlborough College, St Francis School, and, as well as Hamilton Trust, Katharine House Gallery, The Arts Society Kennet & Swindon, Haine and Smith, The White Horse Bookshop and Wiltshire Life for their continued support to the festival.

Your Comments

Be the first to comment on this article

Login or Register to post a comment on this article

Registered in England & Wales. No: 4513027, Positive Media Group, Old Bank House, 5 Devizes Road, Old Town, Swindon, SN1 4BJ