The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2021 is delighted to reveal a veritable feast of 200 free events and activities from 8 – 17 October, including the Festival’s infamous Lit Crawl and striking new immersive venue: VOICEBOX.

Spilling into the town from the Festival village, people of all ages will find something to enjoy - from spoken word gigs to literary pub quizzes and ghost tours, comedy and music to storytelling sessions, or simply enjoying The Times crossword with a coffee on site.

Cheltenham Literature festival free events

Exploring themes from mental health to activism, the brand new VOICEBOX in Montpellier Gardens will be a platform for young people to amplify the issues they care about: using creativity as a force for change and turning up the volume on everything from global initiatives to grassroots community projects. From short talks and chats about today’s most important issues, to group artworks, workshops and live music from the best established and emerging talent, this vibrant and completely free programme puts young people at the heart of the conversation.

The line-up features hands-on workshops with leading illustrators Natalie Byrne and Kazvare Made It; intimate chats with activists including Kenny Ethan Jones, Aja Barber, Charlotte Williams and Bianca Foley and writers Caleb Azumah Nelson and Hana Walker Brown; pop-up performances from poets Sophia Thakur, Raymond Antrobus, Nikita Gill and Monika Radojevic; a focus on mental health with Instagram psychologist Dr Soph and  TV’s Dr Alex George, MANIFESTO FOR MINDS and Keep Real Mental Health; conversations on the future of key global issues with young advisers from Chatham House; contributions from local artists, performers and comedians including JPDL, Jussara Nazare and Rizpah Amadasun, music from Natalie Oaks, t.e.d., Grove and indie pop duo Muffintops, and a special live episode of Cheltenham’s student-led podcast, Spill the Tea.

Emma Whittle, Programme Manager said: VOICEBOX is home to unmissable experiences and one-off moments, and we can’t wait to share this brand-new immersive programme with the public. VOICEBOX is a fun and vibrant space for conversation, celebration and debate: a place to soak up the atmosphere, explore today’s hottest topics, discover the freshest new voices and to get your views heard when it comes to the issues that matter.”

Cheltenham Literature Festival free events

FREE events for families at Cheltenham Literature Festival 2021...

There is lots for families to discover at the Festival this year. From a chance to meet favourite book characters in The Wild Wood, to an awesome journey of discovery on the Atlas of Adventures trail, little ones are sure to find plenty to enjoy. There will be stories galore as Winnie the Witch shares her exciting adventures with her black cat Wilbur, and Story Shack is the perfect spot to travel around the world with traditional tales from different cultures. The Den will be the place to visit to make festival hats, flags and maps. 

Lit Crawl... around town programme in association with the Cheltenham BID...

The Festival’s infamous Lit Crawl returns once more (Saturday 9 October from 5pm till late) for the Festival’s …around town programme in association with the Cheltenham BID. A fast-paced evening of comedy, readings, performances, and parties, Cheltenham’s streets, bars, and bookshops will once again burst at the seams with quirky literary happenings.

Belinda Hunt, Operations Manager at Cheltenham BID said: “We’re delighted to support the …around town programme again welcoming people to enjoy the amazing range of events available and everything our vibrant town centre has to offer. The Crawl includes immersive theatre and a literary ghost tour, ending up at The Tavern for a foot-stompingly energetic finale of music, poetry and spoken word. And for families, there’s a We’re Going on a Book Hunt trail with ten favourite characters from children’s books hidden in shops, cafes and venues across Cheltenham.”

Huddle Stage FREE events & activities...

Tying into the Festival’s major new ‘Read the World’ 3-year theme, the popular Huddle stage will have a decidedly international flavour this year with a range of free activities designed to help discover amazing writing from around the world. Literary Explorer in Residence, Ann Morgan dispenses reading recommendations, writers including Ruth Ozeki and Graeme Macrae Burnet enthuse about the world writers they love, industry insiders reveal how books have taken them around the globe and a range of publishers including Fitzcarraldo Editions, Pushkin Press and Europa Editions talk about bringing a wealth of international and translated writing to UK readers.

Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp of the #WorldKidLit project will be on hand to recommend books from around the globe to younger readers and their families; the popular Very Short introductions To...series returns, and Festival-goers can continue their literary explorations via dedicated showcases of Dutch, Scottish and Irish writing  Meanwhile, one of the world’s most prestigious non-fiction prizes: The Baillie Gifford Prize will have its 2021 shortlist announced live from the Huddle stage by Chair of the Judges and Sunday Times Literary Editor Andrew Holgate on Friday 15 October at 4pm.

Costa Space at Cheltenham Literature Festival 2021...

In the new drop-in Costa Space there’s interactive storytelling for pre-schoolers with Winnie the Witch ; inspiration for book-lovers as a different Festival guest will be on hand each day to share their recent favourite reads; the ‘Cheltenham Writes!’ series will showcase the talents of a different local writer each day and at 4pm daily a range of famous faces from the main programme will be dropping by for readings.

To see the full programme of FREE events and activities at Cheltenham Literature Festival, 8 - 17 October 2021 visit - and filter the results using FREE events. 

For places to eat and drink whilst at the Cheltenham Literature Festival check out our foodie guides... 

Pubs & restaurants in Cheltenham

Cafes in Cheltenham

Foodie weekend in Cheltenham ft. hidden gems local foodies rave about!

For more events you can enjoy in Cheltenham check out our comprehensive what's on guides... 

Autumn events in Cheltenham

Halloween events in Cheltenham

Christmas events in Cheltenham


Cheltenham Literature Festival
Cheltenham Literature Festival

500 events and close to 1,000 authors and speakers will take part in the Cheltenham Literature Festival this year, including Stephen King, Lenny Henry, Ian McEwan, Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Strout, Bono, Graham Norton, Stanley Tucci and many more!



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