Big name authors, local book launches, poetry workshops and children's storytelling - this year's York Literature Festival has the lot. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

DYSTOPIAN futures, drowning worlds, twisty thrillers; politics, history, rival queens; and a slapstick homage to the Bronte sisters.This year's York Literature Festival, which begins on March 15, has the lot.

Festival organisers have brought together more than 75 events spread over two weeks at venues across the city. There will be plenty of big name authors in town - Joanna Trollope, Kate Mosse, Alan Johnson or Mark Billingham, anyone? But there will also be writing workshops and storytime sessions for children; poetry readings; the latest books from York authors such as Nuala Ellwood and Press columnist Tim Murgatroyd; a literary walk around York; and a discussion about the 'medieval masterpiece' that is York Minster.

It all kicks off at 7.30pm on Friday March 15 with Daisy Johnson, the youngest writer ever to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, discussing her first full-length novel Everything Under, 'a story of family and identity, of fate, language, love and belonging' that Rebecca Nicholson of the Observer described as 'beautifully creepy and affecting'.

There is a full day of events at York St John University's Temple Hall on Saturday March 16 devoted to 'speculative fiction' (OK, yes, that would be science fiction), including a talk on books about apocalyptic floods; and a middle 'Big History Weekend' devoted to Romans, Vikings, rival queens and railway romance.

It is the biggest York Literature Festival yet, promises festival director Susanna Cooper.

"We have tried to pull together a programme that will appeal to all types of readers and interest groups," she says. "So we have well-known names such as Joanna Trollope and Kate Mosse through to a big History Weekend. Poetry and performance, writing and publishing, storytelling, walking tours, panels and debates, children orientated events, politics and lots more are all in the programme."

More details are available from the festival website

Meanwhile, here are a few highlights:

Festival launch with Daisy Johnson

The youngest writer ever to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize will discuss her debut novel, Everything Under,

which turns classical myth on its head and takes readers to a modern-day England unfamiliar to most.

Friday March 15, 7.30pm, Temple Hall, York St John University, £8

Speculative Fiction Day


- Terra Two: An Ark For Survival: science fiction project looking at how we might establish the first human settlements on other planets

- Flood Fictions: Dr Caroline Edwards discusses apocalyptic 21st century fiction about extreme floods

Events all day at Temple Hall, York St John University. All day ticket £25, events also individually priced

Literary-themed walk through York

Blue badge guide David Holt leads a literary tour of York, starting from the entrance to Museum Gardens

11am, Sunday March 17, £8

Joanna Trollope in conversation

The bestselling author of The Rector's Wife and Marrying the Mistress talks about her work

2pm, Sunday March 17, St Peter's School, £15

The Wordsmiths

York writing group The Wordsmiths showcase some of their poetry and short stories of less than 500 words

8pm, Monday March 18, York Theatre Royal, £3

Tim Murgatroyd, Pilgrim Tale

The Press columnist, York schoolteacher and author of Taming Poison Dragons launches his new novel, Pilgrim Tale. Described as being 'Mad Max meets John Bunyan meets The Handmaid's Tale', it is the first part of a dystopian trilogy set in a near-future North Yorkshire a generation after an apocalyptic disease has wiped out much of the population.

7pm, Wednesday March 20, Waterstones, £5

The Full Bronte

A chaotic homage to the Bronte family, combining comedy, storytelling, music and games

6.30pm Thursday March 21, Tang Hall Explore Library, Burnholme, £10

Children's Day


- Children's creative writing workshops at The Mount School, 10am-3pm, free

- Story time for children: York St John University creative writing lecturers read their pre-school picture-book favourites, York Explore Library, 11am, free

Big History Weekend, Friday March 22 - Sunday March 24


- Kate Mosse talks about her new novel The Burning Chambers, a gripping story of love, betrayal, mysteries and secrets set in 16th century France. 7pm, Friday March 22, St Peter's School, £10

- York Minster with Sarah Brown and Dr Stuart Harrison, Saturday March 23, 2pm, King's Manor, £8

- Rival Queens: Bestselling author and broadcaster Kate Williams talks about the rivalry between Elizabeth 1 and Mary Queen of Scots. 7pm, Saturday Match 23, St Peter's School, £10

Alan Johnson: In My Life, A Music Memoir

The former politician on his latest memoir, which takes us back to a world of jukeboxes and heart-broken ballads, of smoky coffee shops and dingy dance halls.

3pm Saturday March 23, St Peter's School, £10

Nuala Ellwood, Day of the Accident

The York writer discusses her latest dark, twisty thriller, about a woman who wakes from a coma to find her life torn apart

7pm, Thursday March 28, Waterstones, £5

Tickets for all events available from the festival website - - or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 01904 623568.