Charleston Festival puts crime writer under the microscope

Alice Blezard March 15, 2016

Charleston Festival returns this May, with a focus on the work of renowned author Patricia Highsmith.


The festival, now in its 27th year, celebrates the 100th anniversary of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant coming to live at Charleston, on the recommendation of Virginia Woolf. From the start Charleston was a place of dissent and debate as well as creativity, and the festival has always tried to reflect these values.

Patricia Highsmith’s work has recently been enjoying a renaissance, with the huge success of the film Carol which is based on her novel The Price of Salt. Many of her books have been adapted into films, including Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr Ripley.

Highsmith’s work will be dissected at this year’s Charleston Festival by novelist Jill Dawson. Dawson will be in conversation with Donna Coonan and Lennie Goodings, editorial director and publisher of Virago, at Charleston on Saturday, May 21 at 5pm.

This is a bumper festival with two extra days, as well as a celebratory dinner with HRH Princess Michael of Kent. Art is celebrated with sessions involving architect Zaha Hadid, Edmund de Waal and Julian Bell. The 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare is marked by events led by James Shapiro, Nicholas Hytner, Jeanette Winterson and Eileen Atkins.

There is biography and autobiography including Joan Bakewell, Ted Hughes and Stephen Spender. Science is represented by the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees and by inventor of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is this year’s winner of the Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize. Among the high profile writers taking part are three Booker and three Orange Prize winners.

“Our aim is to startle and delight,” says artistic director Diana Reich, “to experiment with something new.”

Charleston is halfway between Brighton and Eastbourne, six miles east of Lewes, off the A27. There is a minibus shuttle service from Lewes train station direct to Charleston for all events.

Charleston Festival runs from May 20 to 30.

For information and timetables, click here:

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Or telephone: 01273 709709