The festival takes place in and around the beautiful city of Durham each October. Events are held in a range of iconic venues including the historic Durham Town Hall, Durham Cathedral and the Gala Theatre.
The 2015 festival saw us reach our biggest audience yet and we engaged with over 17,000 people via 60 events with leading authors, poets and thinkers, a touring theatre production for families and our Big Read campaign, which focused on Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. Sold-out events at previous festivals have included appearances from Philip Pullman, Bill Bryson, Pat Barker, Jung Chang, PD James and Simon Armitage.
Alongside more traditional author events, Durham Book Festival commissions new writing each year. Previous festival commissions have included a dance-theatre retelling of Rapunzel from Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy; Notes from Underground, a major musical collaboration by the poet Sean O’Brien and composer Agustín Fernández; and journalism examining the legacy of the Miners’ Strike, from writers including Richard Benson and Anne McElvoy.
Each year the festival works with local schools in a number of ways. We run a series of events for local schools and also offer school-based poetry workshops working in partnership with Durham University and our Festival Laureate—an acclaimed poet, who is invited to produce a new piece of work to be premiered at the festival each year.
The festival reaches all corners of County Durham via a musical theatre production for children under 7 and their families. The production is adapted from a different picture-book each year and visits libraries, community centres and schools, often in rural areas which have no theatre venues of their own.
The announcement of the Gordon Burn Prize takes place at the festival each year and is fast becoming a core part of the programme. This prize honours the late North East author and journalist Gordon Burn and seeks to reward writers who embody the spirit of Burn’s own bold and innovative literary methods.
Founded in 1990, Durham Book Festival is one of the country’s oldest literary festivals. For many years it was a well-kept secret in the region’s cultural calendar, but it has grown significantly in recent years. The festival is now part of Durham County Council’s festival programme, and since 2011 has been produced by New Writing North, with support from Durham University and Arts Council England, as well as a range of trusts and foundations and corporate sponsors.