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Garden Museum Literary Festival 2019

“Glorious. A dream event.” - Country Living

The Garden Museum is thrilled to announce that this year’s Garden Museum Literary Festival will take place at Houghton Hall & Gardens in Norfolk, hosted by The Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley, on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 June.

This unique annual Festival is Britain’s only travelling Lit Fest, which moves to a new venue each year and offers a blissful weekend celebrating the best in garden writing. Previous Garden Museum Literary Festivals have been held at Boughton House (2017), Hatfield House (2015) and Petworth House (2014).

Christopher Woodward, Director of the Garden Museum, gives a sense of what to expect during a magical midsummer weekend of talks and conversations at one of Britain’s most enchanting private homes:

“We set up the Garden Museum Literary Festival to celebrate good writing about gardens – and to share what inspires us in gardens. There will be lectures by some of the UK’s most influential and award-winning garden designers and authors including Arne Maynard, Tom Stuart-Smith, Julian and Isabel Bannerman and the leading naturalist Richard Mabey. Sir Roy Strong will remember Cecil Beaton’s love of flowers, Catherine Horwood will give a first glimpse of her biography about the distinguished nurserywoman Beth Chatto which is due for publication in September 2019, Caroline Donald, gardening editor of The Sunday Times and author of The Generous Gardener: Private Paradises Shared, talks through a favourite chapter, about how hairdresser Sam McKnight was joined by designer Jo Thompson to create a garden in west London, and acclaimed author Lisa Chaney will reveal what gardens tell a biographer.

A choice of two or three talks or tours will be offered at any one time over the course of the weekend. Tickets however will be strictly limited to ensure a very special sense of intimacy.”

Houghton is one of the grandest survivors of the Palladian era, built in the 1720s for Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. It is a showcase of the work of architects James Gibbs and Colen Campbell complemented by the richly ornamented interiors of William Kent and furnished to reflect Walpole’s wealth and power. Now it is home to the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, Walpole’s descendant, and his family. The traditional parkland that surrounds the Hall, includes a spectacular herd of white fallow deer. The pleasure grounds to the west of the house follow the 18th century plans of Charles Bridgeman.

Next to the Stable block is an award-winning five-acre Walled Garden created by Lord Cholmondeley in memory of his grandmother, Lady Sybil Cholmondeley, with the help of then Head Gardener, Paul Underwood; and later advice from Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who also added a number of architectural elements.

A major theme of this year’s Garden Museum Literary Festival is the contemporary outdoor sculpture displayed in the grounds at Houghton, with several pieces specially commissioned. The collection began in 2000 with ‘Skyspace’ by James Turrell and now includes pieces by Richard Long, Rachel Whiteread, Anya Gallaccio, Phillip King, Stephen Cox, Zhan Wang and Jeppe Hein. What makes this collection so special is to see the engagement of these artworks in the historic setting of Houghton and Lord Cholmondeley will share the story of its making.

“Wherever this blissful young festival roams in the future it is certainly worth downing tools to follow it.” The Daily Telegraph

Please Note: The Festival will be on a Friday and Saturday (not a Saturday and Sunday) as on these two days Houghton Hall & Gardens are closed.

Ticket prices exclude lunch and refreshments, which will be available to purchase on the site. Accommodation is also not included.

Image: Houghton Hall & Gardens © Houghton Hall Archives