DORCHESTER'S literary event of the year was concluded with a talk by former poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.

The first woman to hold the prestigious position, Carol visited The Thomas Hardye School to read and discuss her work with an audience of 300. Fans were delighted by her witty words on gorillas, pub signs, empty nests, and what Mrs Darwin and Mrs Faustus thought about their famous husbands.

Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2019, Carol was also the first Scottish-born and the first LGBT poet to hold the title.

The event brought to a close the Dorchester Literary Festival of 2019, which had welcomed a wide variety of leading novelists, poets, biographers and historians.

Janet Gleeson, co-director of the festival, commented: "What an amazing festival line up it has been. The audience numbers were up, the authors were all fascinating in their different ways. It's hard to pick out a favourite - they were all so good. And now the planning starts for next year!"

The festival opened on October 12 with a talk by Alexander McCall Smith, a British-Zimbabwean writer best known for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Alexander shared stories and anecdotes about his life and writing career, including how he came to hire a bulldozer instead of the holiday rental car he'd expected.

The programme continued with appearances by best-selling novelists Tracy Chevalier, Tim Pears and Victoria Hislop, as well as eminent historians A. N. Wilson, Simon Heffer, Kate Williams, Fiona Davison, Martin Kemp and Leo McKinstry. The stage also welcomed cookery writers, nature writers and intrepid travellers, from Prue Leith, Sabrina Ghayour and John Wright to Tristian Gooley, Raylor Winn and Dom Joly.

Tim Waterstone shared the secret behind his extraordinary success, revealing how his high street book chain only started after he lost his job at WHSmiths, while Farrow and Ball colour specialist Joa Studholme showed us how to decorate our homes.

More surprises were in store from the Countess of Carnarvon, who lifted the lid on life in Highclere Castle, the real Downton Abbey.

Having taken place for the last five years, the Dorchester Literary Festival is set to return in the autumn of 2020. For updates and the latest news, visit


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