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6 free treats to discover at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

PUBLISHED: 14:15 25 September 2017

(c) adistock / Shutterstock

(c) adistock / Shutterstock


Along with the usual crème de la crème of big-wig politicians, writers, singers, sports stars and chefs, particular attention has been paid this year to complimentary experiences happening throughout the festival fortnight which goers can enjoy without charge. True, there’s still no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as a free event at the Cheltenham Lit Fest. Paul Mcloughin picks are six freebies to watch out for

Festival Club @ Hotel du Vin

Fri Oct 6 - Sun Oct 8 & Fri 13 - Sat 14, 10pm - 1am

Hotel du Vin

After all is said and done at the festival tents, Hotel du Vin kicks into action and becomes the life and soul of the festival fortnight. It’s the official hotel for the festival, and feels like a cultural HQ of sorts, providing the choice rest stop for many festival speakers. At the weekend the place crackles with activity, providing the perfect setting for rolling intellectual conversation and memorable anecdotes. This year, for the first time, the festival team have added to the ambience live music and readings to help coax out more creative juices and literature lovers can rub shoulders with some famous faces.

Cheltenham Lit Crawl

Sat Oct 7, 5pm - late

Around Cheltenham

After its successful initiation into the festival fold in 2016, the Cheltenham Lit Crawl will be back for more late-night literature and pub-foolery. For those unbeknownst as to what a “lit crawl” is, it takes the traditional “pub crawl” concept - marauding through various pubs sampling various tipples - and adds a splash of nuance to the night with live readings and literary happenings. With Cheltenham’s established portfolio of drinking holes, this one is sure to follow into the early hours.

Times Literary Crossword

Mon Oct 9 - Fri Oct 13, 11am - 12pm

The Huddle Tent

Ah, the Times Crossword. A custodian of British culture and source of eloquent curse words since 1930. If you often find yourself scratching your head over clues like “5, Across; clingy creature’s least stiff when son’s not about” then you’ll be pleased to know that The Times Crossword Editor Richard Rogan will be in The Huddle Tent in the mornings to introduce the day’s puzzle and drop subtle hints - use him while you’ve got him!

Very Short Introductions

Mon Oct 9 - Fri Oct 13, 11.30am - 12.30pm

The Huddle Tent

You’ll probably be familiar with Oxford University Press’ iconic “Very Short Introductions” series. They’re the brightly coloured, pocket-sized books adorning book stands throughout the land. 531 editions and still counting, these mini encyclopedias outline everything from Druids to Diplomacy, Apocryphal Gospels to Structural Engineering, briefing you in the world’s intrigues and providing endless intellectual ammunition for dinner party talk.

Matthew Reynolds will be in to talk about how language translation is the key to human connection, Rana Mitter will discuss the ever-growing gravitas of Modern China, Nicholas Cronk will explore Voltaire and his relevance to contemporary French politics, Susan Llewellyn will be questioning whether Clinical Psychology should be deemed a science, and Robert Jones will be rounding things off with a study of the genius of Branding. All totally gratis.

Where’s Wally? Trail

Daily, 11am - 3pm

Around Cheltenham

Our favourite red-and-white-striped-man turns 30 this year and to celebrate, Cheltenham town will become a hunting ground for the elusive Wally. Start by picking up a free trail sheet from Waterstones (on The Promenade) or in any of the venues on the festival grounds. Perfect for a family adventure!

The Woodland Trust Wild Wood

Daily, 10.30am - 5pm

Around Cheltenham

The Woodland Trust has been working wonders for well over 40 years now, seeking to protect some of the nation’s most vulnerable and precious woodland. They’ll be here this year to celebrate 75 years of The Famous Five with a themed story trail and picnic area, and along the way teaching the kids the importance of British forests.

For more on Cheltenham Literature Festival, and to see the full list of talks and appearances, visit the website here.


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