History of Cambridge Literary Festival

The original idea for Cambridge Literary Festival was originally conceived as part of a joint initiative between several private and government bodies. A strategy paper released in 2003 by the now defunct Cambridge Horizons (a body created to manage sustainable growth for the region) noted that Cambridge University’s rich literary heritage and resources were not very accessible to the public at regional level. As such, building on an earlier study by Arts Council England (ACE), and in association with the Cambridgeshire County Council, an effort was made to identify strategic opportunities to develop literature events using Cambridge as the focal point.

The offices of Cambridgeshire County Council at Shire Hall in Cambridgeshire. Image courtesy of Wikimedia


Soon after, Cambridge Wordfest was unveiled by a group of dedicated volunteers under the leadership of the current festival director and Cambridge alumna Cathy Moore, with support from the Cambridgeshire County Council.

The inaugural festival boasted of 28 separate events, and featured readings from prominent personalities such as Scottish poet Jackie Kay, journalist Polly Toynbee and bestselling children's author Francesca Simon. The success of the first festival meant that it was set to become an annual affair. However, the larger than expected turnout eventually led to the festival being expanded into a twice yearly affair by 2010 – named the Spring and Winter Festival.

Despite having cemented a place in the festival circuit, the organisers embarked on a new strategy in 2014 to further improve the visibility of the festival on the national and even international stage. As part of this new approach, Cambridge Wordfest was rebranded to Cambridge Literary Festival along with a new logo. According to the creative team behind the redesign, the new visual identity is meant to elevate the festival above competitors’ noise and position it as a “landmark cultural event.”