From the history of civilisation to hilarious and surreal poetry, this year’s Richmond Literature Festival will host an array of topics that will leave visitors spoilt for choice.

The 21st Richmond Literature Festival features a wide variety of novelists and leading figures from politics, journalism, sport, theatre and television including Andrew Marr, Prue Leith, Jack Straw and local resident, Sir Trevor McDonald.

The festival will be running from Thursday, November 1, to the end of the month in venues across the whole borough.

This year there is also a jubilee flavour to some of the programme with events by Tracy Borman and her history of royal weddings, Mary Killen’s How the Queen Can Make You Happy and Jeremy Archer’s A Royal Christmas at Hampton Court Palace.

Team GB’s Olympic success will also be celebrated with rower Greg Searle’s event If Not Now, When?

There will be variety of topics covered, including three panel events focusing on the media, Victorian and crime fiction.

For the borough’s burgeoning readers the young people’s programme features events with Emma Chichester Clark, the legendary Judith Kerr, and workshops for young children with Nicholas Allan, author of The Queen’s Knickers, and Eileen Browne’s Boo Boo Baby and the Giraffe drawing event.

Councillor Pamela Fleming, cabinet member for community, business and culture at Richmond Council, says: “With events all month, in every part of the borough, there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy.

“For years we have been building on the success of previous literature festivals, previously named Book Now, learning lessons and improving what we are able to offer residents, and I am sure that this year will really showcase the excellence that people have come to expect.”

Visit for updates and to book tickets.

• In her first year at the festival, Prue Leith will discuss her new book Relish: My Life on a Plate, which she hopes will be an enjoyable evening, offering people the chance to discuss ideas.

Leith says: “It is a talk about writing rather than meant to be inspirational. But obviously if what I have to say about women in business, cooking and food, writing, charity and family, is helpful, then I would be thrilled.”

The 72-year-old will talk about her South African childhood under apartheid, her passion for food, her loves and losses, the adoption of her Cambodian daughter and her partner’s bi-polar condition.

Along her journey she was named businesswoman of the year, gained a Michelin star for her restaurant, was made an OBE and a CBE and came up with the idea of a rolling exhibition of contemporary sculpture on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

So what does Leith think has contributed to her incredibly successful life?

She says: “A happy secure childhood, which gave me lots of confidence. Also, lots of energy and a can-do attitude. A relish for life I guess.”

She also has a number of plans for the future.

She says: “I want to write a trilogy or quartet of novels – a family saga - with a background of food, cooking, restaurants, hotels in the past 60 years since the war – from rationing to gastro pubs, Heston and Jamie, etc. with lots of family feuds, business dramas, love affairs and food.”

If prose is what you are looking for, poetry is also well represented at the festival, with Roger McGough’s presentation of his new book As Far As I Know.

McGough says he does not set his books on any particular theme, but writes each one as a continuation of life.

He says: “One or two are set in the locality, like the Coach and Horses.

“I have lived in Barnes for 20 years so inevitably I have written poems inspired by the area. There was a poem about meeting a grizzly bear on Barnes Common while out jogging.”

The 74-year-old, who will turn 75 two days before his talk, has lived a colourful life, having helped write Yellow Submarine for the Beatles and encountering big names like Bob Dylan and Salman Rushdie.

His poetry has also gained increasing popularity, especially from its widespread use in schools, yet his approach to his work remains very practical, ensuring his talk will be a mixture of serious and comedy poems.

He says: “If it’s one or the other it can be too much.”

• Prue Leith Relish: My Life on a Plate will be at Hampton library in Rosehill, Hampton, on Thursday, November 8, from 7pm. Tickets are £8.50/£10, with special £5 tickets available for Richmond Library card holders.
• Roger McGough’s reading from his poetry book, As Far As I Know, will be on November 11 at Kitson Hall in Kitson Road, Barnes from 7pm. For more information, call 020 8831 6494.
• Visit for updates and to book tickets.