The Ilkley Literature Festival, based in the Yorkshire spa town just 15 miles from Leeds, is the largest literary festival in the North of England. 

The University of Leeds is an official partner of the festival, which this year will take place between 4 to 20 October. Through our partnership we not only support the Festival to attract leading names to the area, but we're also providing our students with unique opportunities to gain hands-on experience with a leading cultural organisation.

Writers, researchers and students from the University feature in the festival’s programme of talks, events and activities.

See the full festival programme, or take a look below for University of Leeds associated events.

If you're a student or member of staff, you will have access to ticket discount offers as part of the University's partnership with the Festival.


Opening night with Simon Armitage

Friday 4th October, 7.30 – 8.30pm
Kings Hall, £14 (£10 for concessions) 

Simon Armitage, newly appointed Poet Laureate and Professor of Poetry at our School of English, will open the 2019 festival. Simon will be reading from his latest collection, Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic, which features some of the hundreds of poems he has written for various projects, commissions, collaborations and events. They vary from single poems, such as Zodiac T Shirt, written to be performed at the launch of Beck’s Song Reader, to a suite of poems written to commemorate Branwell Brontë’s bicentenary and the six poems commissioned by ILF to form the Stanza Stones trail.

(Presented in partnership with the University of Leeds)

Sarah Hudspith: Tolstoy & Contemporary Russia

Saturday 5th October, 1.30 – 2.30pm
Ilkley Playhouse Wharfeside, £8 (£5 for concessions)

Associate Professor of Russian at the University of Leeds Sarah Hudspith presents an illustrated talk on how Leo Tolstoy is viewed in Putin’s conservative, nationalist Russia. Tolstoy’s works such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina are rightly acknowledged to be among the pinnacles of world literature, but his work is out of kilter with the Russian state’s current nationalistic and militaristic stance. Looking at the use of Tolstoy’s work in events such as the opening of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and a televised marathon reading of War and Peace, Sarah will explore how Russian society attempts to reconcile Tolstoy’s political views with his cultural status.

Guided Reading Group: Dubliners

Sunday 6th, Sunday 13th, Sunday 20th October, 3 – 4.30pm
Ilkley Moor Vaults, £20 (£12 for concessions) for all three sessions

Dr Georgina Binnie and Dr Karl O’Hanlon, of the University of Leeds, are running the reading groups this year with an in-depth conversation about James Joyce’s 1914 collection of seminal modernist short stories, Dubliners. Written at the peak of nationalism in Ireland, when the country itself was experiencing a progressive period of influences in its search for national identity, Joyce places Dublin at the heart of this movement and attempts to depict Irish middle class life.

James McKay: Trilobites, Dinosaurs and Mammoths

Sunday 6th October, 5 – 6pm
St Maragaret’s Hall, £8 (£5 for concessions)

Palaeoartist James McKay from the University of Leeds introduces us to the prehistory of the British Isles. The British Isles are a special place for understanding the evolution of our world, as almost every time period is preserved in the rocks beneath our feet. James uses his detailed reconstructions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals to lead us through the changes that happened to life on our islands since the beginning of life on Earth.

Fozia Bora: Capturing the Past

Sunday 13th October, 3 – 4pm
Church House, £8 (£5 for concessions)

In late 1300s Egypt, an obscure school teacher, Ibn al-Furat, began writing a history book. Resourceful in filling the work with letters, documents, poems and anecdotes from Arab, Persian and Latin sources, a rich treasure trove has been left to us. It would turn out to be a monumental endeavour. His own school crumbled to dust over time, but his history book survived. It seemed Arab communities valued books over buildings. Exploring the mindset and working methods of this influential historian, lecturer and prize-winning author Dr Fozia Bora of the University of Leeds takes us on a journey through this vivid account of history, and the ‘archival’ mindset that produced historical works in the medieval Islamic world.

British Academy Annual Lecture: Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction

Thursday 17th October, 6 – 7pm
Clothworkers Centenary Hall, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT, FREE but places must be booked at:

Professor Margaret Snowling, CBE, FBE presents the eighth annual British Academy Lecture at the University of Leeds. Since dyslexia was first described in the British Medical Journal in 1896, there has been debate about the definitions and diagnostic procedures used, with some casting doubt on its very existence. However, the contemporary view of dyslexia has emerged from a century of research in medicine, psychology and more recently neuroscience, and we now know enough about this learning disorder to guide policy and practice. Drawing on the findings in her latest book Margaret Snowling (President of St John’s College, Oxford) discusses how our understanding of dyslexia has evolved over time.

DARE Liberty Lecture: Maya Goodfellow

Saturday 19th October, 3.30 – 4.30pm
Ilkley Playhouse Wharfeside, £8 (£5 for concessions)

Maya Goodfellow is a writer, researcher and academic whose new book, Hostile Environment, scrutinises why it is that migrants have become the scapegoats of contemporary mainstream politics. In this talk she will offer a compelling answer, showing that distinct forms of racism and dehumanisation have directly resulted from immigration policy, and reminding us of the human cost of concessions to anti-immigration politics. 

(Part of the DARE Liberty Lecture series, produced by Opera North and the University of Leeds) 

Alan Mackintosh: Patents, Print & Georgian Medicine

Saturday 19th October, 5 – 6pm
Church House, £8 (£5 for concessions)

In the 18th and 19th centuries, patent medicines constituted a national industry which was popular, reputable and stable, not the visible manifestation of dishonest quackery as described later by doctors and many historians. Alan Mackintosh, Research Fellow in the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds, explores how the roots of the commercial for-profit health care industry began much earlier than we might imagine and how much advertising copywriting was used to influence consumers’ imaginations to boost the effects of the products.

Kimberley Campanello: MOTHERBABYHOME

Saturday 19th October, 7.30 – 8.30pm
Church House, £8 (£5 for concessions)

MOTHERBABYHOME is an excavation of voices connected to St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland. Run by the Bon Secours Sisters on behalf of the Irish State, it housed unmarried mothers and their children. The location of the graves of 796 infants and children who died there between 1926 and 1961 is still unknown. These poems are composed entirely of text taken from historical archives and contemporary sources related to the Home. Poet Kimberly Campanello will read from the sonically rich pages of MOTHERBABYHOME and will be joined by Professor Fiona Becket (Head of the School of English, University of Leeds) to discuss MOTHERBABYHOME’s poetic response to this important and timely subject.

John Whale: Preparing Poems for Publication

Sunday 20th October, 11.30 – 1.30pm
Clarke Foley Centre, £15 (£10 for concessions)

Director of the University of Leeds Poetry Centre and co-editor of Stand magazine John Whale will lead a workshop to help you prepare your poems for submissions to magazines. Drawing on his 18 years of editorial experience, John will help guide you along the route to successful publication. Workshop participants are asked to bring 3 or 4 poems with them for shared group discussion.

University of Leeds Poetry Centre Showcase

Sunday 20th October, 3.30 – 5pm
Ilkley Playhouse Wildman, £8 (£5 for concessions)

Poetry in the UK is thriving and nowhere is more apparent than in the roster of poets at the University of Leeds Poetry Centre. Jamaican poet Jason Allen-Paiant’s work has appeared in sx salon, The Cossack Review, POUI. Rachel Bower’s collection Moon Milk was published in 2018 and she is coeditor of the Verse Matters. Kimberley Campanello’s publications include Consent, Strange Country, Imagines, and Hymn to Kālī. Karl O’Hanlan’s pamphlet And Now They Range was published by Guillemot Press in 2016. Hannah Copley was shortlisted for the Faber New Poets Prize and her work appears in Verse Matters. Charlotte Eichler’s work has appeared in PN Review, The Rialto and Stand. John Whale is Director of the University of Leeds Poetry Centre, his collections include Waterloo Teeth and Frieze.