Preview: Words in the Park, 18-20 May 2012.

Dates: Friday 18 – Sunday 20 May 2012, from 11 a.m.
Venue: Opera Holland Park, London, W8 6LU
Tickets: Individual passes £12, day passes £50.

Buy online at, or call 0300 999 1000.

The full programme is available here.
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Ways With Words has been running festivals of words and ideas for over 20 years across the UK in Devon, Suffolk, Cumbria, and in Italy and France. This May, it will bring to London a new three-day literary celebration under the canopy of Opera Holland Park. Some of the UK’s finest writers and journalists are set to appear at the festival alongside broadcasters, historians, philosophers, fashion and design icons, foodies, actors and politicians.

Festival goers can hear crime veteran P.D. James in conversation with friend and fellow writer Penelope Lively, laugh at the hilarious life observations of actress Maureen Lipman, join John McCarthy on a journey into the complex Middle East as he discusses his travels in Palestine with Sandi Toksvig, be inspired as A.S. Byatt looks back on her best-loved novels with Culture Editor of the New Statesman Jonathan Derbyshire, and revel in the foodie tales of Sophie Dahl and Mary McCartney, who will be launching her debut cook book, Food. Political legend Tony Benn will speak with young author and agitator Owen Jones, and Chinese writer Jung Chang with critic Maya Jaggi, reflecting on China in the 21 years since the publication of her epic family memoir Wild Swans.

The Britain of yesterday, today and tomorrow will also be scrutinised by some of our sharpest and most renowned minds. Delving into history, Jeremy Paxman will investigate the effect of the British empire on our lives and Andrew Marr will discuss the astonishing reign of Elizabeth II as Jubilee fever mounts. Questioning the society in which we live, Evan Davis will shine a light on our current economic state, while politician and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow will discuss why democracy matters and parliament’s role in the 21st century, with author and political professor Matthew Flinders.

The changing face of the modern world and technology will be explored by a panel of high profile speakers in our Google keynote debate, including author, journalist and free speech campaigner John Kampfner, technology activist and ex-WikiLeaker, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Channel 4 News international editor, Lindsey Hilsum, and author and journalist Nick Cohen, debating the role of the internet in breaking down the barriers of establishment.

For audiences looking for comedy and controversy, A.A. Gill speaks with the comedian Jimmy Carr about his travels around the world, in what promises to be a lively event from two infamously acerbic wits.

And then philosophy: atheist Alain de Botton will argue why even the non-believer can learn from religion, television presenter and historian Bettany Hughes will explain how Socrates can help us live the good life, and Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the bestselling author of The Cloudspotter’s Guide and The Wave-Watcher’s Companion, will encourage us to spend more time looking skywards.

The festival will also offer audiences the chance to meet fellow literary enthusiasts, wander the beautiful park, enjoy excellent food and wine, browse the festival bookshop and meet the authors at book signings.

See you there!

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