It’s approaching festival time again – and this year’s week of events, which runs from October 25 to November 2 2014, is set to be our best yet!


There are murderous goings on afoot at our first ever murder mystery evening in The Bear Hotel on October 25 2014.

Locals are being called on to crack “an unsolved crime” while enjoying a rather splendid three-course meal.

This event is likely to be a sell out, so do call your friends and book a table quickly via our website www.wantagebetjeman.com and at the Vale and Downland Museum in Church Street, Wantage.


Like so many areas across the country, Wantage was greatly affected by WW1, so it seems fitting to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the conflict during a special day of events on October 26.

In addition to a series of talks by former war correspondent Kate Adie, authors Stephen Cooper and Jenny Lewis, and a concert of WW1 music by The Pavlova Wind Quintet, we will be encouraging people to bring in their First World War stories and memorabilia to a roadshow event at The Beacon. So if you have a box hidden deep in the attic, or under the bed, that holds your great grandfather’s war diary, a photo, or a letter from the front line – please come along.

For the children, actress and historian Nikky Arding will be in costume as VAD nurse Nora; while Sir Charlie Stinky Socks author Kristina Stephenson will be doing a dramatised presentation of her latest book with costume and sound effects. To add to the fun, there will be mad-cap jokes, japes and tips on story-writing from Ciaran Murtagh, author of the award-winning Genie in Training series and the much-loved trilogy Dinopants, Dinopoo and Dinoburps.

The festival line up also includes: the elusive SAS veteran Andy McNab, environmental reporter Roger Harrabin, plus poetry to music from the Little Machine Band, talks on the life of Dylan Thomas, King Henry VIII’s wife Jane Seymour, J.R.R Tolkien and Roy Jenkins.

Debbie Martin, Wantage (not just) Betjeman Literary Festival chairman, said she hoped there would be something for everyone during the fun-packed week.

“We’ve tried hard this year to suit all tastes with a mixture of events for young and old, from those who like poetry, wine, history and music, to talks and different perspectives on the First World War, travelling, the environment and John Betjeman’s unpublished letters.

“And for those who want to learn tips from the top, there will be informative workshops to show budding authors how to write a best seller, a screenplay or even a crime novel.”

But it’s this year’s murder mystery dinner on October 25, that we hope will get people in the mood for some literary laughs.

Set as the fictitious Lord Goodbottom’s annual birthday bash, locals will be invited to “dress to impress” and book a table for a three-course meal, before Agatha Christie-style antics begin.

And in true who-dunnit style, guests will need to sift through a series of clues to unmask the murderer among them.

After all, Wantage is no stranger to crime. Just a short distance from The Bear Hotel, barmaid Ann Pullen was beheaded in 1833 by a disgruntled drinker at a town centre pub, which apparently stood on the site now occupied by the Victoria Cross Gallery.

Keith Walkley-Pratt, manager at The Bear Hotel, said: “The hotel is nearly 500 years old and its period features, history and presence at the heart of Wantage, really lends itself to a murder mystery evening like this. I think it will be a great success.”

Culture Minister and Wantage MP Ed Vaizey said he was staggered by the range of events being offered this year.

“This is a fantastic line up, and shows the Wantage Literary Festival is going from strength to strength,” he said.

“People like Kate Adie and Andy McNab are household names and it’s a testament to the festival’s growing impact that they are coming.”

To find out more about the festival or to book online, go to www.wantagebetjeman.com.

Tickets can also be purchased at The Vale and Downland Museum, Church Street, Wantage.

For up to the minute info, follow us on Twitter @WantageBetjeman
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