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Culture, Literature

The Oxford Literary Festival

“it helps to promote and give platform to a publishers and writers across a wide variety of genres”

24 March-2 April 2023

A celebration of 26 years of the world’s meeting place for writers and readers.

“In reviving the Oxford festival [after cancellations due to Covid] – we are determined to reinforce our longstanding commitments to freedom of speech, debate, and diversity; and maintaining our tradition of courteous dialogue, allowing for contentious and difficult subjects to be publicly examined” - Sally Dunsmore SOI Festival Director.

The first Oxford Literary Festival in 1987 featured ten events over a weekend and was attended by 1,000 people: now, visitors can choose between around 250 events over the course of just over a week with around 25,000 tickets are issued in total. For several years, the Oxford Union served as sole location until in 2006 the Festival moved to Christ Church (the first time that an Oxbridge College opened its doors to a major public event). Marquees were erected on the meadows, and Festival goers could hear speakers in the Great Hall, the Library, the Cathedral, and other historic rooms. From 2014, the Festival spread to the College and University venues throughout central Oxford where they take place to this day.

This year’s event will bring new and undiscovered authors and even more of the world’s greatest writers and public figures to Oxford. Not only does the Festival enhance Oxford’s cultural life but it brings economic benefits to the city, providing employment, book sales and many other revenue streams. Most importantly, it helps to promote and give platform to a publishers and writers across a wide variety of genres, including:

Children’s literature

Each year the festival holds over fifty events for children and young people involving some of the leading figures from the UK and overseas. Past speakers have included Dame Jacqueline Wilson and Juno Dawson. This year a host of big names including Cressida Cowell and Michael Morpurgo will be speaking at conveniently timed, family-friendly events.


Since the Professorship of Poetry was endowed at Oxford in 1708, the University has educated many famous poets, and poets who have spoken at the festival include Roger McGough, Sir Andrew Motion, Wendy Cope and Patience Agbabi. Joseph Coehlo, the new Children’s Laureate, will be speaking this year at the Sheldonian.

Science and medicine

Medicine has been taught at the University of Oxford since the 12th century. Oxford scientists and medics over the centuries have changed the face of the globe. The festival has attracted world class speakers in this subject, including Nobel Prize winners. This year, Professor Roger Highfield will be speaking at a talk chaired by the new Vice Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey, and turn to pXX to read our interview with Maggie Aderin Pocock MBE, space scientist and science educator.

African literature and culture

The Africa Oxford Initiative (launched in 2016) brings together all teaching and research programmes, together with major collaborations with African Universities and institutions. A highlight this year will be Ejine Nzeribe, Nwabueze Nwokolo, and Sabine Jell-Bahlsen, discussing Nigerian author Flora Nwapa’s life and her posthumously published wor;, Lake Goddess, Voice of African Women.

American literature and culture

Since 2012 the festival has staged a programme each year to celebrate American Literature and Culture. It has become the most distinguished platform for American writers and public figures in the UK.

Indian literature and culture

Journalist and author Puneet Bhandal will be sharing insights into the glamour of Bollywood as part of the Programme of Indian Literature and Culture which has been a mainstay of the Festival for the past nine years.

Celebrations of food and drink

The Oxford Literary Festival has worked with many partners and companies to celebrate the finest traditions of food and drink – including Oxford Gastronomica, Gee’s restaurant in Oxford, and the festival’s consultant chef, Paul Bloomfield. We’re sure that Mary Berry will be a huge draw for visitors to this year’s programme.

Tours of historic landmarks

Each year there are Literary Tours of the City throughout the week: literary Oxford/Oxford Poets/The Oxford of Inspector Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour. As well as this, a selection of historic Oxford libraries will be opened to Festival goers.

Amongst all this, the festival has seen countless well-known speakers in the arts, music, faith, and philosophy as well as biographers and Historians.

For more information, find and download a pocket guide to the festival here:


Corinne Bailey Rae
Wed 1 May 2024

Corinne Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On snap-shotted the summer of 2006. Her most recent release, Black Rainbows came out 2023 and it is obvious to hear how much she is relishing the full range of her unique voice and, as I was to discover when we spoke, her extraordinarily lyrical vocabulary.

Paul Foot 3 wi4hf6
Tue 2 Apr 2024

Award-winning quirky and alternative comedian Paul Foot is returning to Oxford this month with his new show, Dissolve which is set to be his most vulnerable and honest yet. We got in touch to find out what we can expect from his performance at Oxford’s New Theatre, as well as – in very Paul Foot fashion – getting side-tracked by King  Tutankhamen, and what  Jesus might have  achieved if  he'd been a plumber...

Katie otb8tw
Fri 1 Mar 2024

This month, Katie Melua will be in Oxford, helping to launch the Oxford Literary Festival’s new Programme in Georgian Literature and Culture.

Namvula BBC Music nuyc98
Fri 1 Mar 2024

Described as having a diasporic upbringing, singer-songwriter Namvula is also a gifted photographer and was co-founder of Film Africa, a London-based celebration of African cinema and culture. She now lives in Oxford where she will be performing later this month at The North Wall.