Read all about it! Literary Festival engages all ages

In a week-long celebration of the written and spoken word, Orpington Literary Festival 2023 saw a series of free events taking place in Orpington town centre, with something for everyone from those in reception to retirees.


Organised by Orpington 1st Business Improvement District (BID) in partnership with Bromley Libraries and supported by Rotary Satellite in Orpington - author talks, workshops, a literary quiz, a puppet show, and poetry performance were among the eighteen events held as part of the festival which ran from the 15 May – 21 May.


Day one saw the first of several sessions at Orpington Library, with children’s author and illustrator Rose Robins inviting pupils from Darrick Wood Infants School to design and draw their own cartoon characters and learn how to create a visual story of their adventures.


In total, ten local schools were invited to events at Orpington Library over the course of the festival, with children’s author visits including former Orpington boy Sam Gayton (‘World Weavers’), New York Times Bestseller Mo O’Hara, Nizrana Farook (‘The Girl Who Stole an Elephant’), Vennessa Taylor (Baller Boys), and Penny Chrimes (‘Wilder’).


In a midweek event aimed at adults, Mona Dash read from her critically acclaimed short story collection ‘Let Us Look Elsewhere’, discussing with attendees the virtues of memoir, poetry, and novel – all forms in which she has published work.

Below: Dr Tessa Dunlop discusses her insights into the marriage of the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

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With the festival in full swing, historian, writer and broadcaster Dr Tessa Dunlop was welcomed back to the town centre on Wednesday evening.


An audience at London South East College’s BR6 Bakehouse were treated to entertaining takes on all things royal and some fascinating insights into the marriage of Elizabeth & Philip.


Copies of Tessa’s latest book ‘Elizabeth & Philip: The story of young love, marriage and monarchy’ were available to purchase with audience members taking the opportunity to pick up signed copies.


Day four, and at ‘Orpington in Letters’ local poets Richard Bowdery & Jerry Dowlen took a light hearted look at some famous and not so famous literary figures, whilst back at BR6 Bakehouse a plurality of poets were invited to perform at 'The Spoken Word'.


Compered by local poet and schoolteacher Ajay Desai (below) - the line-up featured Jimmy Bowman, Reanna Valentine, and Cleo Felstead, with poet, playwright and novelist - and Young People’s Laureate for London 2020/2021 - Cecilia Knapp, topping the bill.

Ajay Desai
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Above: Cecilia reading from her book 'Peach Pig'

Friday brought a trip to Orpington Library for five local secondary schools, coming together for the visit of Joseph Elliot.


Joseph is the author of the critically acclaimed Shadow Skye trilogy - an epic fantasy series set in a mythical version of Scotland, featuring magical beasts, deadly shadows and a protagonist with Down syndrome.

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Saturday, day six, and at a buzzing Orpington library, local families joined author, editor, lecturer, and mentor Sara Grant for an interactive story-creating session for parents and children five and older.

Sara grant

Children and adults alike left enthused, with their imaginations in overdrive


With Masala Dabbas as hosts, the final day of Orpington Literary Festival saw Susan Elkin discuss her book 'The Alzheimer's Diaries', detailing her role as a carer for her husband.

Susan Elkin 2 Copy

l - r, Masala Dabass' Raghu Govada, Cllr. Pauline Tunnicliffe, Orpington 1st's Chris Travers, author Susan Elkin, Cllr. Kim Botting, Brenda Parsons of Rotary Satellite Orpington, and Nikki Fishman from Bromley Well. 

Susan's humour, pragmatism, poignancy, and poetry were a big hit with the audience. And, in Dementia Awareness Week, a fitting festival finale.

Orpington 1st Executive Director, Chris Travers, said “it’s been a pleasure to work on Orpington Literary Festival with Bromley Libraries and a delight to bring residents to the town centre to celebrate literature. We’re big believers in the positive role that arts and culture can play in shaping places.”

More photos on our Facebook page 


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