Autumn Events 2023 – Tickets available now!

Emma Donoghue: Learned by Heart

Tuesday 3 October 2023, 7-8.30pm. St Peter’s School, Clifton, York, YO30 6AB.

Tickets £8.

Bestselling author Emma Donoghue will be discussing her latest novel, Learned by Heart with writer, Fiona Shaw. Adding to the already moving, richly told and gripping collection of historical fiction from Emma Donoghue, Learned by Heart is the heartbreaking story of the love of two women – Anne Lister, the real-life inspiration behind Gentleman Jack, and her first love, Eliza Raine. In 1805, at boarding school in York, two fourteen-year-olds meet – an orphan heiress, sent from India to England at six, and a gifted troublemaker. Anne Lister would go on to be a gifted diarist, famous the world over. But in the early nineteenth century she met Eliza Raine, someone who would change her life forever.

Born in Dublin in 1969, and now living in Canada, Emma Donoghue writes fiction (novels and short stories, contemporary and historical, most recently Haven), as well as drama for screen and stage. Room was a New York Times Best Book of 2010 and a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth and Orange Prizes, selling between two and three million copies in forty languages. Donoghue was nominated for an Academy Award for her 2015 adaptation starring Brie Larson. She co-wrote the screenplay for the film of her 2016 novel The Wonder, starring Florence Pugh (Netflix, 2022).

‘Donoghue conjures a whole new world’ – The Observer

Rick Broadbent: Now, Then: A Biography of Yorkshire.

Friday 6 October 2023, 7-8.30pm. St Peter’s School, Clifton, York, YO30 6AB.

Tickets £8.

Written from the perspective of an exiled Yorkshireman this bestselling, award winning author returns to his native county to discover and reveal its soul. We all know the tropes – Geoffrey Boycott incarnate, ferret-leggers and folk singers gambolling about Ilkley Moor without appropriate headgear – but why is Yorkshire God’s Own County? With Now, Then exiled Yorkshireman Rick Broadbent sets out to find out whether Yorkshireness is something that can be summed up and whether it even matters in a shrinking world.

Along the way he meets rock stars, ramblers and rhubarb growers as he searches for answers and a decent cup of tea. This is a funny, wise and searching account of a place that claims to have given the world its first football club and England its last witch-burning. It does include cobbles, trumpets and stiff-necked, wilful obstinacy, but it is also about ordinary Yorkshire and its extraordinary lives.

Rick Broadbent has written for The Times for 20 years and authored and ghost-written 12 books. He has been shortlisted for the William Hill Prize three times and has won a British Sports Book award. His books have included a biography of Emil Zatopek, a Czech Olympic hero and political activist, and That Near-Death Thing, about the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world. Rick was born in Leeds and now lives in Dorset.

Emma Smith: Portable Magic: A History of Books and Their Readers.

Monday 9 October 2023, 7-8.30pm. St Peter’s School, Clifton, York, YO30 6AB.

Tickets £8.

Most of what we say about books is really about the words inside them: the rosy nostalgic glow for childhood reading, the lifetime companionship of a much-loved novel. But books are things as well as words, objects in our lives as well as worlds in our heads. And just as we crack their spines, loosen their leaves and write in their margins, so they disrupt and disorder us in turn. All books are, as Stephen King put it, ‘a uniquely portable magic’. Here, Emma Smith shows us why. Portable Magic unfurls an exciting and anarchic new story of the book in human hands, exploring when, why and how it acquired its particular hold over us. Gathering together a millennium’s worth of pivotal encounters with volumes big and small, Smith reveals that, as much as their contents, it is books’ physical form – their ‘bookhood’ – that lends them their distinctive and sometimes dangerous magic. Emma Smith was born and brought up in Leeds, went unexpectedly to university in Oxford, and never really left. She is now Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, the author of Portable Magic and the Sunday Times bestseller This is Shakespeare. She enjoys silent films, birdwatching, and fast cars.

photo (c) John Cairns



If you wish to volunteer as a steward for the York Literature Festival then please get in touch with us at Please be aware that volunteers may be required to carry out light manual tasks (e.g. moving chairs) and must have an enthusiasm for literary events. Volunteers will be asked to steward for 30-60 minutes before the start of each event and will be welcome to join the audience once the event has started.

Sponsored by York St John University

Our thanks go to those people and organisations that continue to support us every single year: York St John University, St Peter’s School, The Mount School, York Theatre Royal and Explore York Libraries and Archives. 

Rob O’Connor, Festival Chair.