With The Queen’s first Reading Room Festival taking place in June at Hampton Court Palace, details about panels and events have been announced for the day. Tickets for the festival are available to buy here.
The Queen’s Reading Room Festival was announced during a reception at Clarence House to mark the second anniversary of her online reading room earlier this week.
With a passion for reading and literacy, the then Duchess of Cornwall set up her Reading Room in the midst of the pandemic as a way to help people escape the gloom of the modern day into the pages of books. When she became Queen upon Charles’ accession, the Reading Room was renamed.
Now as the online community has passed 161,000 ‘members’ on Instagram, it seems the time has come to make it to real, in-person events.
The inaugural literary festival will take place on 11th June 2023, in two sessions: daytime, from 10am-5pm and evening from 6pm to 9.30pm.
Alongside literary panels and performances, ticket holders will be able to explore the Tudor and Baroque pile on literary themed tours. It was in the Great Hall at Hampton Court that Shakespeare once performed with his King’s Men, acting out Hamlet and Macbeth for James VI and I at Christmas.
We’ve pulled together a full breakdown of the literacy sessions taking place throughout the day.
The all-star Austentatious cast will improvise a ‘hilarious’ new Jane Austen novel, inspired entirely by a title dreamt up by – The Queen! In period costume with live music to accompany the performance, it’s a ‘riotous, razor-sharp show where swooning is guaranteed’, the festival claims.
Cast members include Rachel Parris, Cariad Lloyd, Joseph Morpurgo, Andrew Hunter Murray and more, and the session will be hosted by broadcaster, Professor John Mullan, with Director of Jane Austen House Lizzie Dunford and a collection of some Jane Austen treasures.
Queen Camilla herself is a big fan of Austen’s work.
An eye for a spy: espionage writing in fiction and non-fiction with Ben Macintyre, Ken Follett, and Robert Harris
Three writers of espionage books are tackling a discussion of – well, what else? – spies. Ben Macintyre, Ken Follett and Robert Harris will entertain with their thoughts on why we’re so fascinated with espionage and where the line between truth and fiction is.
Remembering Dame Hilary Mantel; with the Royal Society of Literature
David Olusoga and the Royal Society of Literature will host this session in memory of Dame Hilary Mantel, author of the renowned ‘Wolf Hall’ series.
In the stunning surrounds of Hampton Court Palace, the session will explore the life and legacy of the famed author of the trilogy and her autobiography, ‘Giving Up The Ghost’. Guests include authors Kamila Shamsie and Philippa Gregory, with readings from stage actor Ben Miles and Dame Harriet Walter.
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Join us at Hampton Court Palace this summer as we gather together authors, experts, actors and literature lovers for a day celebrating the written word.@HRP_palaces @RSLiterature @RoyalFamily pic.twitter.com/gikX2AKiYd
— The Queen’s Reading Room (@QueensReadRoom) March 29, 2023
Dame Judi Dench, William Shakespeare and friends
Gyles Brandreth – a friend of The Queen’s – is to host a panel session in conversation with Dame Judi Dench, talking about her life, her career, and her special love for William Shakespeare.
Dench has had a long-standing connection to Shakespeare’s plays, performing in many a role over the decades, being an advocate for the teaching and enjoyment of the Bard’s work.
Kate Mosse: Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries: How Women (Also) Built the World
International bestselling Author Kate Mosse will special short edition of her first ever theatre tour and one woman show: ‘Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries: How Women (Also) Built the World.’
This part of the day is part detective story, part love letter about how history is made, part celebration of extraordinary, brilliant trail-blazing and inspirational women throughout history, and will even encourage you to undertake a little family history…
The Sinister Everyday: the fact and fiction of crime writing with Peter James
For Peter James, best-selling crime writer and the creator of Roy Grace, he will share the ‘thrilling journey’ of the intersection of fact and fiction in crime writing.
James has spent time with murderers and criminals as part of his research, as well as law enforcement. Talking about his research and personal experiences, Peter will discuss why we are fascinated by the sinister everyday, and the idea that crime is ‘tangible but just far enough’ from us when we read crime fiction.
Visitors can also go on literary themed tours of Hampton Court Palace, both Tudor and Georgian style, and access the expansive gardens.
You can buy tickets to any of these sessions here.