'It's good to be back' - Literati enjoy Cambridge Literary Festival's triumphant spring 2022 return
- Credit: Cambridge Literary Festival
Singer and author Will Young was among the guest speakers as the Cambridge Literary Festival made a triumphant return to the county with its Spring Festival 2022.
It was the Cambridgeshire event's first in-person festival since 2019 after a series of online-only versions during the pandemic.
Among the highlights from the event, which ran from Wednesday, April 20 to Sunday, April 24, were Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart, Nobel Prize for Literature winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, doctors Rachel Clarke and Roopa Farooki confronting the deadly cost of political absurdity, and Billy Bragg singing an impromptu Jerusalem with Ali Smith.
Festival director Cathy Moore said: "We're back in town, and it’s been wonderful!
"Audiences were down on pre-pandemic but spirits were up and authors were delighted to be back on our stages.”
Pop Idol winner Will Young spoke about his journey through mental health and his new book, Be Yourself and Happier: The A-Z of Wellbeing.
The singer and mental health advocate brought home the importance of being kind to ourselves.
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One memorable quote from the chart-topping Leave Right Now singer was: "CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is a gym for the mind."
Also attending the festival was former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo, the acclaimed author behind War Horse.
With animal-themed mischief and music, he shared his love of books with young and old alike, exploring the beauty of our planet along the way.
Joking (or was he?) that literary festivals are much more civilised than rock festivals, singer-songwriter Billy Bragg burst into song alongside Ali Smith and Daljit Nagra during Tom Gatti’s uproarious event about life-changing albums.
On Britain’s unwritten constitution, Bragg said: "You're asking for a football match with no referee. The constitution is the referee."
Legendary former Liverpool and England footballer John Barnes asked us to own our prejudices and align ourselves culturally rather than empathise with those who look like us.
On the political front, denouncing Home Secretary Priti Patel’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda as "just mad", Nobel Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah shared how it feels to be the target of blind panic surrounding immigration.
Junior Doctor Roopa Farooki and palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke held Boris Johnson’s government responsible for the lack of PPE in hospitals at the height of the pandemic.
Roopa Farooki said: "They broke the health service beforehand but then, during a pandemic, complained that it can’t run. It should have been government-toppling, it should have changed everything."
Terming the government’s climate strategy a "timid, pathetic pile of wasted effort", Tom Heap outlined real solutions to the climate crisis.
While palaeontologist Thomas Halliday warned: "If we continue with business as usual, by 2100, we’ll see carbon dioxide levels we’ve not seen for 30 million years."
Elsewhere, Claudia Roden and ex-Labour MP Ed Balls warmed hearts and whet appetites with their memories of mouth-watering meals, with Ed Balls remaining tantalisingly cagey about a potential return to politics.
Looking beyond Britain, Olesya Khromeychuk, Rory Finnin, David Reynolds and Paul Mason raised funds for Ukrainian refugees and explained the warped logic of imperialism, while David Loyn discussed soldiers weeping over the fall of Kabul, and Parwana Fayyaz introduced a ground-breaking collection of short stories by Afghan women who refuse to be silenced.
Olesya later tweeted: "Many thanks to @camlitfest and Cambridge University Ukrainian Society for co-organising a discussion on Russia's war against Ukraine.
"I was honoured to participate in it alongside Paul Mason, Rory Finnin and David Reynolds."
A tumultuous New Statesman Debate on whether or not "we get the leaders we deserve" ended with a vote that Britain deserves better.
Tom Gatti, executive editor of the New Statesman, CLF's media partner, said: "It has been a real pleasure to reunite with our friends at Cambridge Literary Festival, to take part in so many stimulating conversations and to host our signature New Statesman Debate in front of a live – and typically lively – audience again.
"It's good to be back."