Photography: James Hole

Books & Debate Highlights: Beloved children’s writers, spoken word artists and acclaimed novelists assemble in this year’s expanded programme

Literature, Young City Reads, Announcements, Books & Debate, Books & Debates, Brighton Festival 2024

Award-winning author and Brighton Festival 2024 Guest Director, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, brings Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo, former Guest Director Kae Tempest and more together this May.

Storytelling Sensations

Illustration: Steven Lenton

On 11 May in the Concert Hall, The Wonder Panel! sees Frank Cottrell-Boyce joined by some of the nation’s best loved storytellers including How To Train Your Dragon’s Cressida Cowell and current Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho, in a lively discussion exploring the wonder of literature and investigating the power of storytelling. For all ages.

Childhood Heroes

Kensuke’s Kingdom is an award-winning hand drawn animated film, adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s best-selling children’s novel. With a dazzling voice cast including Oscar Winner Cillian Murphy and Sally Hawkins, a shipwrecked young boy explores a remote island, finding new friends and fighting to protect his new-found paradise along the way. 

Join us for a special screening on 12 May at Brighton’s Duke of York's Picturehouse, and stay for a Q&A with Michael and screenwriter, Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

On 19 May in the Concert Hall, visit Frank Cottrell-Boyce and children’s writer and illustrator Nadia Shireen on their Island Of Brilliant for a live podcast recording with special guest, children’s literature sensation, Julia Donaldson. Talking Gruffalos, giants and broomsticks, the terrific trio share their knowledge about creating unforgettable stories.

Earlier that day, Frank will introduce 7 to 11 year olds to his latest novel, magical adventure mystery The Wonder Brothers, with live drawing from the book’s Brighton-based illustrator, Steven Lenton. Hosted at Brighton Girls.

Welcome Back!

Get lost in poetry as 2017’s captivating Brighton Festival Guest Director, Kae Tempest, returns to the city on 10 May in the Concert Hall, for an exclusive night of mesmerising spoken word from their back catalogue.

Hot Off The Press 

Caroline Lucas

There are plenty of new reads to be discovered at this year’s Festival with a number of brand-new publications, including Sarah Perrys unforgettable love story Enlightenment (7 May, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts) and Salena Godden’s collection of poems for people and the planet, With Love, Grief & Fury, 9 May in the beautifully restored Studio Theatre.

Delve into Britain’s national history on 5 May in the Concert Hall, where Brighton’s own Caroline Lucas discusses her new book, Another England, with Frank Cottrell-Boyce; exploring what we can learn from England’s multicultural heritage, radical inclusivity and more.

Jason Okundaye

Award-winning poet Joelle Taylor performs a staged reading in the Studio Theatre from her gripping debut novel, The Night Alphabet, on 24 and 25 May; directed by acclaimed theatre-maker Neil Bartlett. Working class women are invited to join Joelle in a free writing workshop.

On 10 May in the Studio Theatre, don’t miss multi-faceted writer, Jason Okundaye, in discussion about his astonishing new work of social history, Love & Brotherhood in Black Gay Britain, alongside LGBTQ+ campaigner Marc Thompson and poet and performer Keith Jarrett.

Sunny Singh

Also in the Studio Theatre, acclaimed writer Sunny Singh explores her exhilarating new book, A Bollywood State of Mind, on 18 May; while debut author of the spellbinding gothic mystery, The Library Thief, Kuchenga Shenje and writer of the upcoming House of Shades, Lianne Dillsworth, shine a new light on historical fiction on 18 May.

Sarah Pascoe, photography: Rachel Sherlock

There are laughs to be had in the newly refurbished Corn Exchange, where poets Henry Normal and Brian Bilston stop off on their nationwide tour with readings from crowd favourites on 15 May; and comedian Sara Pascoe discusses her debut novel, Weirdo, with award-winning novelist and screenwriter Nikesh Shukla.

A Little Magic

Young readers can explore wonderul worlds with Alexandra Sheppard, who introduces her enchanting new novel for children aged 9 to 12, Alyssa and the Spell Garden, in an interactive writing workshop on 5 May in Brighton Dome’s Founders Room.

At Brighton Girls, children aged 4 to 8 can step into author and illustrator Sophy Henn’s playful picture book series, Lifesize, to learn incredible animal facts on 12 May; and 8 to 12 year-olds can create their own fantasy world in a magical map drawing session with Vashi Hardy, author of the action-packed adventure North and the Only One on 26 May.

More Dates For The Diary

Bird Bath, illustration by Sozapato Ilustración

5-24 May - Festival Of Ideas. Events harnessing the power of the arts and humanities, inspiring new ways of thinking about the past, present and future. In collaboration with our higher education partner, University of Sussex.

Throughout the Festival – Children's Illustration Exhibition. Free exhibition by children’s booksellers The Book Nook, celebrating the wealth of children’s book illustrators in the local area.

14 May - Enchantment: Reawakening Wonder in an Exhausted Age. Bestselling author, Katherine May, discusses her latest book with comedian and podcaster Cariad Lloyd.

16 May - Noreen Masud & Polly Atkin: Writing a Life. The writers of extraordinarily raw and open memoirs join forces to discuss the art of life writing from a perspective of living with chronic illness.

17 May - Samuel Burr & Tanya Byrne: Connecting with Wonder. Join the authors in an evening of wonder, connection and joy. Hosted by local writing group Real Writers Circle, attendees can meet like-minded book lovers and leave feeling part of a community.

23 May - Paul Lindley: Raising the Nation. The award-winning social campaigner explores some of the ways we can support young people growing up in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world.


The Wonder Panel! is sponsored by Brighton College 

Festival Of Ideas is supported by Higher Education Partner, University Of Sussex

There’s more to discover...

Explore the full programme