Popular East Anglian book festival returns for 2021 edition

Suffolk-based author Wendy Holden with Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke

Suffolk-based author Wendy Holden with Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke. She will be discussing her bestselling book ‘Born Survivors’ at this year's festival - Credit: Two Rivers Book Festival

As the weather cools down and autumn settles in, there’s no better time than now to lose yourself in a new book (or few). 

And this month, one of the region’s most-beloved book festivals makes it return for the third year in a row. The Two Rivers Book Festival will be taking place this month, between Saturday, September 5 and Saturday, September 11.  

Organised by Waveney and Blyth Arts, it aims to connect local people with books, as well as raise the profile of those who promote, protect, create and distribute books across the region.  

Each year, it has a variety of talks, workshops and walks hosted by guest speakers, bookshop owners, librarians and volunteers.  

And now that restrictions have eased, organisers are incredibly excited for this year’s events. 

"We’re feeling tremendous about it,” explains Brian Gutherie, a writer and editor on the Waveney and Blythe Arts committee. 

“There’s a matter of uncertainty and trepidation in regards to whether people are itching to get out, or if they’re still nervous - but we’re anticipating a good crowd nonetheless.” 

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The week-long festival features a range of diverse topics - ranging from hauntings and crime fiction, to the climate crisis, and the legacy of war.  

Its events will take place in a variety of locations across the region, including Diss, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth – and a full day of events in Halesworth.  

So what can attendees expect?

Kicking off festivities is an online panel featuring a handful of local and national authors, including Jessie Greengrass, whose new novel ‘The High House’ revolves around a family stranded on a flooded East Anglian coast. 

Also making an appearance over the week is University of East Anglia creative writing professor Henry Sutton, who will talk about his other life as Harry Brett, author of crime novels set in Great Yarmouth.

East Anglian-based author Henry Sutton, who writes crime under the pen name Harry Brett

East Anglian-based author Henry Sutton, who writes crime under the pen name Harry Brett - Credit: UEA

He will be in conversation alongside Peggy Hughes from the Norwich’s National Centre for Writing, providing tips for aspiring writers. They will be taking to the stage on Tuesday, September 7 at the Primeyarc Gallery in Great Yarmouth.  

For any history buffs, over in Wortham on Wednesday, September 8, biographer June Shepherd will be in conversation, celebrating the life of prolific author Doreen Wallace.  

Halesworth activist Doreen Wallace (with her husband Rowland Rash on the right)

Halesworth activist Doreen Wallace (with her husband Rowland Rash on the right). Her life has been immortalised in a book by biographer June Shepherd, which will feature at this year's festival - Credit: Two Rivers Book Festival

Doreen, who taught at Diss Secondary school, married Wortham farmer Rowland Rash and joined the resistance against paying unjust church tithes in the 1930s. To commemorate her life, there will also be readings from the 2001 Eastern Angles play ‘Tithe War!’ featuring actors from the regional RoughCast Theatre. 

Rounding off the weekend’s activities will be a number of events taking place in the town of Halesworth.  

Halesworth will play host to a number of events at this year's Two River Book Festival

Halesworth will play host to a number of events at this year's Two River Book Festival - Credit: Adrian S Pye/Geograph

On Friday, September 10, over at The Cut, Suffolk-based author Wendy Holden talks about her bestseller ‘Born Survivors’, which follows three young, newly-pregnant women going through the gates of Auschwitz. Joining her on stage is one of the surviving babies, Eva Clarke. 

On the following day, local authors Victoria Panton Bacon and Ted Wilson team up to discuss the use of fact and fiction within history writing in an event hosted by Emma Shercliff of Laxfield Literary Associates.  

And finally, Suffolk-based writer John West will be introducing his book ‘Britain’s Ghostly Heritage’, which is comprised of stories from his research and experience. He will be concluding the weekend with a haunted heritage walk through the town’s streets alongside local writer and bookseller Ann Green, who is planning an account of the town’s ghostly heritage.  

But why has the Suffolk town of Halesworth been chosen to host many of the festival’s events?  

“There’s a lot of energy there, and it’s in the centre of our territory. It has a very lively bookshop who are involved in these sorts of events, and The Cut in Halesworth is a very energetic theatre that fits perfectly with this year’s festival,” explains Brian.  

To find out more about the festival or to buy tickets, visit the website

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