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Chartwell Literature Festival

The Study at Chartwell, Kent
The Study at Chartwell, Kent | © National Trust Images/Catherine Laws

Join us 8-10 September 2023 for the inaugural Chartwell Literature Festival. The festival will showcase the top names in historical non-fiction and celebrates the 70th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill's Nobel Prize in Literature.

Books, in all their variety, offer the human intellect the means whereby civilisation may be carried triumphantly forward.

A quote by Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill's literary legacy

A renowned orator, successful journalist, gifted painter and one of the 20th century’s most prominent statesmen, Sir Winston Churchill was also a prolific author with 43 book-length works, in 72 volumes, published over the course of his lifetime (1874-1965) and posthumously. Subsequently, in recognition of 'his mastery of historical and biographical description, as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values', Churchill was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.

Seventy years on, Chartwell marks this outstanding achievement with a festival celebrating the property’s heritage as a meeting place for historians, writers, politicians and intellectuals to discuss theoretical opinions and current affairs. This September, the debut Chartwell Literature Festival welcomes a host of notable authors, curators, historians, conservationists and campaigners to the Churchills’ family home for a weekend of talks inspired by critical moments in international history that continue to be relevant today.

Winston Churchill's home in Kent was his factory of words. It is therefore fitting that the place that inspired his pen more than any other, is to host the first Chartwell Literature Festival in celebration of his Nobel Prize-worthy words.

A quote by Katherine CarterNational Trust Property Curator at Chartwell

Chartwell Literature Festival

The festival launches on Friday 8 September with a 90-minute opening event hosted by Allen Packwood OBE, Director of the Churchill Archives Centre, followed by two days of talks, discussion and debate across the weekend presented by such notable best-selling writers and personalities as Damien Lewis, Katja Hoyer, Dr. Wafik Moustafa and Leo McKinstry. The events, including talks, Q&As and signings, are hosted over two main stages, as well as across the estate in the Chartwell bookshop and Garden Cottage.

How to book

Chartwell Literature Festival talk tickets are currently available to book from the National Trust Online Box Office. Discounted festival day passes are also available and can be purchased online as well as from the Chartwell Shop and Visitor Centre.

Ticket prices range from £15 - £75 and include access to the wider Chartwell estate, historical tours of the gardens, Churchill’s painting studio, book signings, meet and greets as well as exclusive access to the food and drink terrace at Garden Cottage with spectacular views over the Weald of Kent. Visitors wishing to see Sir Winston Churchill’s 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature and other features of the House collection may book supplementary tickets for their visit to Chartwell via the website or on the day.

We are thrilled to host such fantastic speakers and guests on this very special occasion. These voices represent a range of backgrounds and perspectives, shedding light on the lesser-known narratives which still impact upon us today.

A quote by Chelsea PettittNational Trust General Manager at Chartwell

Festival talks

Friday 8 September

16:00 – 17:30 | Mulberry Room | £25.00*

Opening event - Who was Winston Churchill?

Viewed by some as the saviour of his nation, and by others as a racist imperialist, who was Winston Churchill really, and how has he become such a controversial figure?

Presented by Allen Packwood OBE, Dr Victoria Taylor and Professor Gaynor Johnson, contributors to The Cambridge Companion to Winston Churchill released January 2023 by Cambridge University Press.

Sponsored by International Churchill Society UK with additional support from Pol Roger.

*includes glass of Pol Roger champagne following the talk


Saturday 9 September

All events sponsored by Handelsbanken and Berry & Lamberts Solicitors unless otherwise credited.

10:30 – 11:15 Mulberry Room | £15.00

Amongst the Ruins: Why Civilizations Collapse and Communities Disappear

The World Monuments Fund Britain Director discusses the crucial moments which lead to the loss of communities and civilisations throughout history and considers the measures needed to preserve cultures of the future.

Presented by John Darlington with Ingrid Samuel. Released in April 2023, Amongst the Ruins is Darlington’s second book for Yale University Press.

Book tickets


11:45 – 12:30 Speakers Marquee – Croquet Lawn | £15.00

Untold Stories of the Second World War

Two authors share their incredible discoveries of lesser-known stories from the Second World War and form a compelling panel riddled with new research, intelligence gathering, letters and personal stories.

Presented by Charles Spicer and Deborah Cadbury with Chelsea Pettitt. Touted as the history book of the year, Spicer’s debut, Coffee with Hitler is set for paperback release in September 2023. 2022’s acclaimed, The School That Escaped the Nazis is the latest non-fiction release from Cadbury.

Book tickets


13:00 – 13:45 Mulberry Room | £15.00

The Arab World: Art, Politics and Poetry

The founder of the British Arab Network is joined by the British Museum curator to discuss the history of the Arab World and ask difficult questions certain to prompt debate and analysis of this complex region.

Presented by Dr Wafik Moustafa and Dr Venetia Porter. Moustafa’s Glass House - The Arab World 1922 - 2022 was released by Nomad in 2023. Artists Making Books: Poetry to Politics published by British Museum Press, was released in August 2023 and accompanies the British Museum exhibition of the same name until the end of the year.

Book tickets


14:15 – 15:00 Mulberry Room| £15.00

Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution **

The long time China correspondent discuss her new book and delves into memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and those who lived through it.

Presented by Tania Branigan with Chelsea Pettitt. An indelible exploration of the Cultural Revolution and how it shapes China today, Red Memory is Branigan’s first book. Released by Faber in February 2023.

** Please Note: Due to sickness, Tania will be appearing at this event remotely and unable to be present for the book signing. We look forward to welcoming her virtually in the Mulberry Room

Book tickets


15:30 – 16:15 Speakers Marquee – Croquet Lawn | £15.00

Stories from the SAS Great Escapes

Acclaimed author Damien Lewis speaks about his latest book examining stories of incredible escapes from the Second World War. Working closely with the families of those portrayed, he utilised wartime diaries, letters, mission reports, interrogation transcripts and more, to compile these uplifting tales of endurance.

Presented by Damien Lewis SAS Great Escapes Two was released in May 2023 by Hachette.



16:30 – 17:15 Mulberry Room | £15.00

Korea: A New History of the North and the South

The authors explore the differences between North and South Korea and their competing ideologies and evaluate the future prospects for unification of the Korean Peninsula.

Presented by Professor Ramon Pacheco Pardo and Professor Victor Cha. Published by Yale University Press, Korea: A New History of the North and the South is released June 2023.

Book tickets

Sunday 10 September

All events sponsored by Handelsbanken and Berry & Lamberts Solicitors unless otherwise credited.

10:30 – 11:15 Speakers Marquee – Croquet Lawn | £15.00

Women in the Wars

The overlooked of history of women in the two world wars, from the RAF to intelligence work, the expert panel provides rich insight into the incredible contributions made by women behind the scenes.

Presented by Dr Helen Fry with Chelsea Pettitt. Fry’s new book Women In Intelligence: The Hidden History of Two World Wars is due to be published by Yale University Press in September 2023.

Book tickets


11:45 – 12:30 Mulberry Room | £15.00

Attack Warning Red! – Talking Nuclear

The atomic bombs of 1945 changed war forever and the risk of annihilation coloured every aspect of lifestyle in Britain for the next forty years. How did the nation prepare for this constant threat and what was the impact on day to day life?

Presented by Julie McDowall with Rowena Willard-Wright. Attack Warning Red! was released by Penguin in April 2023.

Book tickets


13:00 – 13:45 Speakers Marquee – Croquet Lawn | £15.00

Cinderella Boys - Unsung RAF Heroes

The author reveals the ingenious scientific and dangerous endeavours undertaken by the courageous wing of pilots known as ‘The Cinderella Service’ whilst they defended the freezing Atlantic from Nazi Rule

Presented by Leo McKinstry with Kate Clements. Leo’s new book Cinderella Boys is released in June 2023 by Hachette.

Book tickets


14:15 – 15:00 Mulberry Room | £15.00

Resistance - The Underground War in Europe, 1939-1945

Stories of the exceptional acts of defiance by ordinary people in the resistance against Nazi occupation across Europe went untold for decades. The acclaimed historian shares true accounts of the incredible risks people took in the fight against fascism.

Presented by Dr Halik Kochanski with Dr Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski. Resistance – The Underground War in Europe, 1939-1945 was published by Allen Lane/Penguin in 2022.

Book tickets


15:30– 16:15 Speakers Marquee - Croquet Lawn | £15.00

Beyond the Wall in East Germany

Through the never-before-seen interviews, letters and records revealed in her latest book, the acclaimed historian provides an insightful overview of how the cultural and political landscape from 1940-1990in East Germany was more dynamic than is often portrayed.

Presented by Katja Hoyer. The latest Sunday Times bestseller by Hoyer, Beyond the Wall, East Germany 1940-1990, was released in April by Allen Lane/Penguin.

Book tickets


16:30 – 17:15 Mulberry Room | £15.00

African and Caribbean People in Britain: a History

From Libyan legionnaires to Black Tudors, Professor Hakim Adi charts the history of Black people in the British Isles and their actions which contributed to major collective movements such as universal suffrage, our victory over fascism and the forging of the NHS.

Presented by Professor Hakim Adi in conversation with A.S. Francis. African and Caribbean People in Britain: a History was released in hardback in 2022, and is due to be published in paperback, by Penguin in September 2023..

Book tickets


17:30 – 19:00 Speakers Marquee – Croquet Lawn | £20.00

Closing event - Special guests reading from Sir Winston Churchill's letters and speeches

An exclusive evening celebrating the words of Sir Winston Churchill with very special guests presenting extracts of his renowned letters and speeches. In collaboration with Chartwell Booksellers, New York.

  • Jennie Churchill, great granddaughter of Sir Winston and Lady Churchill, will read Sir Winston's speech from the Nobel Prize giving ceremony.
  • Randolph Churchill, great grandson of Sir Winston and Lady Churchill, will read diary extracts from the newly released book ‘Letters for the Ages’.
  • Lord Boateng will read from the famous broadcast speech Sir Winston made on his return from signing the Atlantic Charter in 1941 and share the impact it had on the movement for colonial freedom and his childhood in Africa.
  • Barry Singer from Chartwell Booksellers will read Sir Winston’s speech 'Riches of English Literature', delivered in 1949 upon Churchill's receiving the London Times Literary Award.

Book tickets



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Berry & Lamberts Solictors is a firm of solicitors from Kent with more than 270 years’ history. Their friendly team draws on a wealth of experience to provide dependable advice in a relaxed, professional environment. They specialise in a full range of business and individual legal services and offer advice and support on Property, Family, Life and Business form their offices in Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Paddock Wood, Kent.

The 2023 Chartwell Literature Festival has now finished

The below is information for the 2023 Literature Festival. We hope you enjoyed all that we had on offer. Please check back here in 2024 for updates.