The Henley Literary Festival launched their 2023 programme at The Relais hotel last night with special guests who included authors, interviewers, sponsors and their platinum and gold members. The line-up this year includes an original Windrush, a record-breaking illustrator and the only movie villain to take on Indiana Jones, James Bond and Luke Skywalker will join comedians, poets, sporting heroes, TV stars and local authors.
Just an hour before the launch party, the Festival announced that children’s bestselling author and TV presenter, David Walliams would be joining the line-up for an event on 7 October.
Literary Festival Founder, Sue Ryan thanked Grace Leo, owner of The Relais. She said, “Thanks to Grace not just for hosting this which is wonderful but also just for being here and owning this hotel. We all wanted this hotel to go back to its former glory and you’ve had the flare and vision. It’s fabulous and we’re so pleased that The Relais is going to be our hotel partner for this year.”
“Its 17 years since we launched the Festival down on the river on the New Orleans. I remember Simon Williams and Lucy came and did some readings and they trusted us even though they didn’t know who we were. In those last 17 years, we have worked out that we have had enough politicians to form a cabinet, 3 former Prime Ministers, 7 Home Secretaries, 6 Foreign Secretaries, 4 Chancellors, 2 Deputy Leader and a Tory Party Chairman and a string of Junior Ministers. We have also had a couple of Booker winners and over 15 shortlisted for Booker. We’ve always done well to get fabulous speakers but the defining thing for us is how broad we are. We have the broadest possible range of genres and subjects and never so much as this year. How do we get people to come to Henley with our small venues? We are seen by the publicists as one of the 6/7 literary festivals they want their authors to go to and that’s because we put authors at the heart of the festival. We want them to enjoy it from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. They probably have the nicest green room in the country at Phyllis Court. The feedback we get is they love it here. The second reason is the audience – we have wonderful audiences who are intelligent and so supportive and no more so than the platinum and gold members, some of which are here tonight.”
Sue went on to thank sponsors, staff and members particularly those who had donated to the live streaming of children’s authors free into schools after the Arts Council who supported this with a grant was cancelled this year at short notice.
Festival Director Harriet Reed Ryan said “We have sold over 3,000 tickets in 2 days which is record-breaking. We’ve learnt that whatever the sales are in the first few days it reflects on final numbers and who does well are always the sell-outs. Clive Myrie BBC News reporter is currently leading the way in ticket sales.”
Harriet went on to give her top selections for this year including the Proof Party on 5 October which will be at The Relais for the first time. Harriet commenting, “The first one we had scheduled in 2022 we had to cancel because we had not sold one ticket. It was for Bonnie Garmus for her book Lessons in Chemistry which when it came out was one of the fastest selling debuts and sold over 2 million copies. So buy your ticket as it may well be a limited edition for a future major star you’re getting.”
Tickets go on sale to the general public next Monday 17 July via henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk and on 01491 575948