Legends of Literature: Natalie Livingstone talks books as Cliveden Literary Festival returns

Held annually since 2017, Cliveden Literary Festival was established by chatelaine Natalie Livingstone, reviving the historic stately home’s long tradition as a political literary salon. Over the course of a weekend, 50 expert speakers – from authors and actors to spies and politicians – will discuss global power, conflict & conspiracy, the art of the novel, the secrets of the universe and the secrets of the mind, as well as female literature heroines who have stood the test of time. With the Festival less than two weeks away, we spoke with Natalie Livingstone to find out more…

Cliveden Literary Festival returns for the third time later this month. Why did you establish the Festival?

When I was researching my book The Mistresses of Cliveden I was expecting to find many important figures from British political history woven into the narrative. What I didn’t expect to discover was a pantheon of literary giants intrinsically connected with Cliveden’s story. Alexander Pope’s poetry was inspired by Cliveden, Jonathan Swift wrote prolifically at Cliveden, Tennyson was a frequent visitor at Cliveden; and in the 20th century, great scribes from George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling and JM Barrie and TE Lawrence were frequent guests. The aim of the Cliveden Literary Festival is to evoke the spirit of the great writers and potentates who stayed here and continue the tradition of the house as a sanctuary for lovers of literature. It is incredibly exciting to host some of the greatest thinkers and writers of our time in this magnificent house.

You are chairing a panel discussion at the Festival on ‘Heroine Chic: what makes a female protagonist stand the test of time?’ Can you tell us more about the session?

Im incredibly excited about this panel. It’s going to be such a fun hour. We have Helen Fielding who created Bridget Jones; Paula Byrne, a foremost Jane Austin expert; Candice Carty-Williams author of Queenie; and Kate Weinberg who will be talking about her fabulous debut novel The Truants. It is an extraordinary mix of fantastically talented writers discussing what makes a female heroine stand the test of time.

Who is your favourite female heroine in literature?

It is almost impossible to choose as there are so many women I am fascinated by, from the witty and clever Elizabeth Bennett, the canny Becky Sharp, the tragic Anna Karenina and of course the hilarious and heart-warming Bridget Jones.

What are your highlights from previous Festivals?

I’m constantly in awe of meeting my literary idols and having the privilege of hearing them talk about their craft.

And what can guests look forward to at this year’s Festival?

We have an electric mix of dazzling speakers from Generals to physicists, Pulitzer Prize winners, politicians, actors and news anchors.

Finally, if you can name just one…

Who is your favourite author?

The list would be too long, suffice to say many of them are appearing at this year’s Festival.

And your favourite novel?

There are so many novels that have made an indelible impact on my life from Anna Karenina, The Picture of Dorian Gray and How to Be a Woman and many, many more.

Natalie Livingstone is the founder and chairman of Cliveden Literary Festival and the author of the Sunday Times bestseller The Mistresses of Cliveden.


Cliveden Literary Festival 2019

Panel topics and sessions for this year’s festival, which takes place at Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire, include global power, conflict & conspiracy, the art of the novel, Victoria’s legacy, the secrets of the universe and the secrets of the mind.

Returning for its third year, the festival programme includes author, screenwriter and social commentator Bret Easton Ellis; former Man Booker Prize winners McEwan, Ben Okri and Howard Jacobson and novelists Leila Slimani, Elif Shafak, Robert Harris, Candice Carty-Williams, Helen Fielding, Kate Mosse and Kathy Lette.

Physicist and writer Brian Cox; philosopher, writer and founder of The School of Life Alain de Botton; broadcaster and author Chris Evans; former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency General David Petraeus; writers and historians Hallie Rubenhold, Lucy Worsley and Tina Brown; and Liberal Democrat Luciana Berger will also speak at the event, which takes place from 28th to 29th September.

The full list can be seen here.

Cliveden Literary Festival returns for its third year to the stunning Grade I listed Cliveden House with a stellar literary and political line-up on 28 & 29 September 2019, tickets are available here.