Michael Portillo, Arthur Smith and Val McDermid headline most varied York Literature Festival yet

‘If I’m playing a late-night club in London I would probably do material that I might not to do in York’… Arthur Smith brings comedy to York Lit Fest. Photograph: Andy Warrington
3 Jan 2016 @ 8.18 pm
| Entertainment

Comedian and professional Grumpy Old Man Arthur Smith, former politician and train-spotter Michael Portillo and crime queen Val McDermid are all booked for what is set to be a classic York Literature Festival.

York Lit Fest 2016

Various venues across York

March 10-23

Some events are free

Festival website

With 40 events packed in to 14 days, the festival is set to be the biggest and best yet.

Other big names heading our way include poets Wendy Cope and Carol Ann Duffy and York-born former business secretary Vince Cable.

Another author heading home is Margaret Drabble. The prize-winning novelist and former Mount School pupil returns to York for a conversation at St Peter’s School.

With such a depth of topics and range of writers there will be something for everybody.

Comedy novelist and scriptwriter John O’Farrell talks about his football novel There’s Only Two David Beckhams, while leading geneticist and TV presenter Professor Steve Jones will discuss the latest scientific breakthroughs.

Arthur Smith

Grand Opera House

Sat Mar 12 @ 7.30pm


Bermondsey-born Arthur Smith knows a thing or two about poetry – he was chairman of the poetry society at the University of East Anglia no less – but is better known for his comedy.

He’s been a top alternative stand-up since the early 1980s, has written a play about Gary Lineker, regularly sings Leonard Cohen’s back catalogue (even if audiences beg him not to), is one of TV’s Grumpy Old Men and is teetotal after pancreatitis left him knocking quite loudly at death’s door.

Smith is supported by writer and Private Eye cartoonist Mike Barfield.

Michael Portillo

Former politician Michael Portillo makes tracks to the NRM for York Literature Festival
Former politician Michael Portillo makes tracks to the NRM for York Literature Festival

National Railway Museum

Fri Mar 11 @ 8pm


As if that wasn’t exciting enough, politician, broadcaster and train enthusiast Michael Portillo will be part of the festival.

He’s still arguably best known as the poster boy for the 1997 Tory election defeat, but in recent years has made a name for himself in writing and broadcasting, including BBC2 documentaries Great British Railway Journeys and Michael Becomes a Single Mum.

He’ll be sharing behind-the-scenes stories from his eventful life and career with the York audience, who will also have a chance to ask him questions.

Val McDermid

St Peter’s School

Sun Mar 13 @ 7pm


Val McDermid is one of the biggest names in crime writing. Her novels have been translated into 30 languages, selling over 10
million copies worldwide.

She has created many notable characters, including and psychologist Tony Hill who features in the Wire In The Blood TV Series.

A regular broadcaster for BBC radio, Val will be in conversation with Lit Fest director Miles Salter.

Wendy Cope

Poet Wendy Cope heads to York Grand Opera House to talk about her literary life
Poet Wendy Cope heads to York Grand Opera House to talk about her literary life. Photograph: Caroline Forbes

Grand Opera House

Sat Mar 12 @ 3pm


Wendy Cope first found fame by Making Coca for Kinglsey Amis in 1986 and has since been voted the listeners’ choice in a 1998 Radio 4 poll to succeed Ted Hughes as poet laureate (Andrew Motion actually got the job) and was appointed an OBE in the 2010 birthday honours.

You can be part of the 2016 festival too by taking part in the York Literature Festival/York Mix poetry competition, judged by Carole Bromley. Enter here.