Successful Cuckfield Book Festival offers a fascinating weekend of talks

Cuckfield Book Festival

Cuckfield was truly buzzing last weekend for the opening of the first Cuckfield Book Festival on Friday night (October 6), with supper at Ockenden Manor.

Sir Maurice Saatchi was guest of honour at the event, which was sold out within days of tickets becoming available.

Author Damian Barr signing books

Between courses, Greta Scacchi and Geoffrey Streatfeild read a delightful selection of poems and Damian Barr (top left picture) wittily gave the vote of thanks, which whetted everyone’s appetite for the first event on Saturday morning – Damian discussing his memoir Maggie and Me with June Miles Kingston.

There followed a hugely varied selection of talks that attracted more than 1,000 visitors during the weekend.

Ranging from a lively explanation of the English country house between the wars to a riveting account of the life of the spy, Guy Burgess, there really was something for everyone.

Sir Anthony Seldon drew in the crowds for his effervescent explanation of how artificial intelligence is going to change education and there was a lyrical description of the Great Storm of 1987, which had such an effect in Sussex.

A stimulating first-hand account of the post-Brexit political scene created lively questions and the history of the Long Range Desert Group made people marvel at the bravery and derring-do of this exceptional group of men.

Other speakers included Elly Griffiths, Anne Sebba and Andrew Crofts.

Celia Imrie was the guest for the last session on Saturday evening and, of course, she gave a star performance.

The children were entertained by Nicky Dee, dinosaur expert, who worked with Rebecca Skiming from Cuckfield Museum, and local authors Jill Lewis and Sally Symes amused small people with stories and games.

Throughout the two days, the Queen’s Hall was humming with people exchanging views, buying books from the Waterstones’ stand and enjoying the cakes on offer.

As the last visitor left on Sunday evening, Cuckfield’s first Bookfest could surely be rated an unqualified success.

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