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Read all about the Telegraph Ways With Words Festival at Dartington

Eleven days hardly seems long enough to pack in 124 speakers, films, workshops, comedians, forums and lectures at the Telegraph Ways With Words Festival. This gathering at Dartington Hall attracts the best of the best to gather, learn and share.
Few people can have visited Devon in July and not have heard of The Telegraph Ways With Words Festival which takes place over 11 days starting the first Friday in July. This highly regarded festival is held in the beautiful hall and grounds of Dartington Hall, overlooking the scenic Dart Valley.

Name dropping at the Ways With Words Festival

As a measure of this festival’s worth, let me impress you with a little name-dropping. The Festival President is Roy Hattersley, the Directors are Kay Dunbar and Stephen Bristow among others, and the sponsors are the Telegraph newspaper, Baillie Gifford Investments and Waterstones book shops.

The purpose of the 10-day Ways With Words Festival is to allow those who love reading books to meet those who write them. Set in a glorious rural location just outside the village of Dartington, festival goers can look forward to hanging out with like-minded individuals sharing the pleasure and power of language.

As well as discussions and lectures there are films, workshops and entertaining stand-up comedians. The site has an on-site Waterstones book shop, the Ship Studio selling second hand and antiquarian books along with jewellery and crafts, a Sculpture Exhibition and of course the Shops of Dartington to visit just down the road.

Line-up of speakers for 2014 Ways With Words Festival

The opening speaker in 2014 is Jonathan Miller, best known for his TV programmes “Beyond the Fringe” and for directing performances at the National Theatre and La Scala. In light contrast is Clive Boursell, who tells the story of the restoration of the Laskett Garden through photographs.

Other highlights I would recommend are Mark McCrum describing with humour his career including working with Robbie William, Bruce Parry and Prince Harry on his non-fiction book projects. Matt Harvey entertains with sustainable verse which is in turn nebulous, fabulous, frivolous and downright strange!

Watch the film, “The Invisible Woman” as a prequel to hearing Claire Tomalin speak on her book of the same name. Attend talks by international economist Gerard Lyons or scientific visionary James Lovelock on what the future holds as he sees it. Dr Liam Fox, former Secretary of State talks about world peace while comedian Francesca Martinez asks “What the **** is normal?” All this in just the opening weekend of the festival!

Later in the week speakers include broadcasters Kate Adie and Rod Liddle. The panel of experts discussing volunteering includes Ann Widdecombe, Martyn Lewis (Chairman of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service) and Vaughan Lindsay (CEO of Dartington Hall Trust). Impressed yet?

Mind-broadening speakers come from all over the globe and include award winning writer Neel Mukherjee from Calcutta, Ramita Navai from Tehran and Chinese author Jung Chang.

Someone I am really looking forward to hearing is HRH Princess Michael of Kent speaking on 15th century France through the eyes of Yolande, the Queen of Four Kingdoms.

Aspiring authors will enjoy hearing Jill Dawson discussing how to turn factual events into fiction, or attend Simon Heffer’s entertaining talk on “Writing Proper” with frequent howlers about the unintended misuse of the English language.

Daily themes include Family Stories, Affairs of the Art, Global Voices, Mysteries of the Mind, Women’s Lives, Appreciating the Mind, Conflict and other broad topics. The final Saturday has a series of Oxford Short Talks.

Tickets and accommodation for the Ways With Words Festival

Most attendees of this literary gathering either live in Devon or book a holiday cottage in the area in order to attend several days of the festival. Holiday cottages in Brixham, Paignton and Dartmouth are all just a short drive away and make a great base, especially if you are attending as a group.

Tickets to this impressive lineup of literary and political heavyweights are available per individual event (around £6-12), or per day (from £16-48 depending on the events). There’s sure to be something for anyone who loves to play with words.

Have you heard any of these guest speakers before? We’d love you to add your personal recommendations to help other readers attending this prestigious festival.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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