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Best of the fest

With more than 50 events on the Guildford Book Festival bill, how do you choose? Here's our guide to the hot festival picks.

The Guildford Book Festival kicks off this Sunday (Oct 8) and there are some big names in the line-up. Personally I want to go to every event, but then I’m greedy like that.

There are some big names on the bill: that doyen of all serious newsy stuff, Jeremy Paxman; the brilliantly funny Graham Norton; Formula 1 fave Damon Hill; and a troupe of foodie celebs including Rick Stein, Ella Mills and Nigella Lawson.

But with more than 50 events on the bill, how do you narrow down it down? Here’s our guide to the hot festival picks.

An Evening with John Simpson
■ Sun 8 Oct ■ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

In my early days as a journalist I genuinely thought I’d like to troop off to war zones and report report from the front line. The reality was a little different (although I did cover hard news for more than a decade before veering off into the lifestyle stuff). I’d be fascinated to hear from Mr John Simpson who has reported from 140 countries, covered 46 wars on four continents, and interviewed about 200 world leaders. He’d certainly have a story or two to tell.


Jeremy Vine: What I Learnt
■ Mon 9 Oct ■ Festival Marque

I love the charming Jeremy Vine, so I wouldn’t pass up any chance to hear his dulcet tones. He’ll be talking about the lessons he has learnt from life, his Radio 2 listeners, hosting Eggheads and his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing.


Coffee morning with Laura Burlington: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth
■ Tues 10 Oct ■ The County Club

Lady Laura Burlington will give a fascinating insight into the fashions that have graced the magnificent Chatsworth House in Derbyshire over the past 500 years. Laura has curated an exhibition – House Style – with Hamish Bowles, European editor-at-large for American Vogue which ends on 22 Oct.  Of course if you miss the exhibition, there’s always the book House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth.


An Evening with Sarah Millican: How to be Champion
■ Wed 11 Oct ■ G Live, Guildford

Tickets are selling like hotcakes to see the fabulous Sarah Millican, and it’s no surprise. She’s gloriously funny and immensely talented. Here she’ll be delving into her normal life with daft stories, funny tales and proper advice on how to get past life’s little blips.


Afternoon Tea with Cathy Kelly and Fanny Blake 
■ Thurs 12 Oct ■ The Long Bar at The Harbour Hotel


The chance to indulge in some coffee and cake in the company of these two wonderful authors – Cathy Kelly and Kelly Blake – as they chat about their love of writing and their latest novels with fellow author Jane Wenham-Jones.


In Conversation with Jenny Murray: Knowing the Score – My Family and Our Tennis Story
■ Thur 12 Oct ■ The Mandolay Hotel

Judy Murray talks about her role as a tennis mum and tennis coach – as well as the challenges she’s come across along the way, from the soggy courts of Dunblane to Centre Court at Wimbledon. As the mother to two world tennis champs – Jamie and Andy Murray – it’s easy to forget this lady was a former Scottish international tennis player with 64 national titles to her name.


Alison Weir: Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn A King’s Obsession
■ Sun 15 Oct ■ Festival Marquee

Alison Weir is back again this year – after last year’s sell out event – to chat about Anne Boleyn, the second of King Henry’s wives, and the one we’re most fascinated by. Her new novel relates the tale from Anne’s point-of-view and reveals a courageous, determined woman, with a spirit worthy of a crown – and the crown is what she seeks. At any price.


In Conversation with Nigella Lawson: At My Table
■ Sun 15 Oct ■ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Love her or loathe her, there’s no doubting the fact that Nige has done a lot for domestic cooking. Hands up who doesn’t have at least one of her cook books. (I have several.) Here she’ll be chatting about her latest book, At My Table, which gives her take on some classic recipes.


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