Books / Women's Literature

2020 Bristol Women’s Literature Festival line up announced

By joe melia, Tuesday Jan 14, 2020

Bristol Women’s Literature Festival returns to Watershed for its fourth outing in what promises to be a fascinating weekend of discussion and debate on March 28 and 29. The fantastic line up features some of the UK’s leading women writers, journalists and academics.

Those appearing include journalists: Hadley Freeman, Isabel Hardman and Coco Khan; writers Bidisha,Yvonne Battle-Felton (longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize), Zeba Talkhani and Naomi Wood; and Bristol-based author of the bestselling The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide, Lia Leendertz, plus Professor Helen Taylor, who will discuss her new book, Why Women Read Fiction.


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Presented in partnership with Bristol’s Festival of Ideas and supporting Womankind, the festival aims to celebrate the diversity and creativity of women writers, counter the male dominance of cultural festival line ups, and promote women’s literary history.

Bristol Women’s Festival founder and director, Sian Norris. Photo credit: Sian Norris

Festival founder and director, Sian Norris, explains how this year’s programme was put together: “It was a mix really – of thinking about the books we’ve loved this year, the writers we love who are doing cool stuff at the moment, thinking about the key debuts we want to celebrate for 2020, and also exploring themes we think are really important on the literary landscape at the moment.

“For example, after reading Olivia Sudjic’s Exposure I wanted to do something about memoir, auto fiction, the complexity of how women’s writing is seen as memoir even when it is fiction – and that led to the “writing our lives” panel.

“Then Laura (Keeling) talked about how women are creating some of the most exciting nature writing at the moment while the genre as a whole is still seen as very male, so that led us to booking a panel of women engaging with nature and the environment.

“It’s also our most diverse line up, we are committed every year to diversity but the fact is you don’t have to look far to find exciting, innovative and challenging BAME and/or LGBTIQ women writers – they’re everywhere! So it’s great to be hosting a more diverse set of panels.”

And on what she hopes those attending will take from the events, Norris adds: “I really hope everyone will come away either having discovered a new writer or new book to read, or having reconnected with a writer they love.

“That they’ll leave buzzing with ideas about nature, memoir, journalism, new and old fiction, and want to take those ideas and conversations out to the women and men in their lives. Let’s start the decade excited by and talking about women’s creative work!”

The festival will be launched at Spike Island on March 27 with an evening of discussion plus poetry performances from leading Bristol poets Malaika Kegode, Shagufta K Iqbal, and Rebecca Kosick.

The 2020 Bristol Women’s Literature Festival takes place at Watershed on March 28 and 29. For full programme and individual event timings, please visit

Read more: Helen Taylor on her new book, Why Women Read Fiction

Main picture, clockwise from left to right: Hadley Freeman, Bidisha, Lia Leendertz, Rosanna Amaka, Prof. Helen Taylor, Zeba Talkhani, Coco Khan, Yvonne Battle-Felton.

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