The Utrecht book festival gets even bigger!

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The Utrecht book festival will now last for two full weeks

An interesting outlook from the organiser has seen the expansion of the Festival. People don’t want to come every day he feels, so why not spread it out so that they can make choices about when they attend, seems like common sense and Michaël Stoker, director of Het Literatuurhuis might just be right!

“A visitor chooses one night to go, and stays the other days at home”, he says.

From this Saturday there are daily literary activities in the Unesco City of Literature. It starts with a book market in the opening weekend and a book parade and ends two weeks later with the annual highlight of Dutch poetry, the Night of Poetry.

In between, there are evenings where we will have the opportunity to see international star authors like Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes and John Irving. There will also be ‘reading clubs’ in the afternoons where other authors will be present, from Esther Gerritsen to Paolo Cognetti.

There are symposia, book trade activities, evenings with Tom Lanoye and M. Vasalis. There is also an additional program with a reading marathon of Anna Karenina, every day at the Utrecht Centraal Station, where a thousand women will read aloud Tolstoy’s classic in relay.

A two-week festival was a long-cherished wish, says Stoker. Or rather, he is looking at three weeks. “As they do in Edinburgh, where the annual Book Festival attracts some 250,000 visitors in three weeks with 900 writers. That is a bit higher, but our ambition is to use our new standard for two weeks.”

Why is there this urge to grow? Stoker says it is to be able to focus on all book lovers, “Where the existing literary festivals in the Netherlands put a certain emphasis or have a specific signature, we want to involve as many different people as possible. … there are events in which we want to stretch the border of literature, such as a performance by Turkish singer Selda Bagcan, who sings poetic protest songs.”

Stoker wants to attract a very different audience to the festival than the normal visitors to literary evenings.

The personal favourite of Stoker is the evening in the heart of the festival, ‘The evening of the novel’ on Friday 21 September where in four rooms of TivoliVredenburg. They will be discussing what literature still has to offer contemporary society and what does the novel say and teach us?  Stoker tells us, “There will be a great ensemble of international authors and the current value of classics will be discussed. And it’s about what exactly is the core of what such a festival has to offer.”

Exciting times for both literature lovers and those intrigued by the written word.

How can literature move us forward? What does it have to offer the modern world? What insights can literature give us into how we should be confronting today’s issues? What do you think? Let us know at

Image credit: Pxhere

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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