Our Event Chairs

Chairing an interview with a writer is a very underestimated skill and we are really proud of the immense quality of our event chairs at Stratford. Each one of our team combines the key ingredients of good chairing: being well prepared, being gentle but searching and, most importantly, knowing when to interrupt!

Olivia (Liv) Chapman

Liv is an experienced event manager, book festival programmer, event chair, conference facilitator and workshop leader. She currently works at Writing West Midlands and runs events at Birmingham Literature Festival and Hexham Book Festival in Northumberland. Her favourite novel is Perfume by Patrick Suskind.

Clare Clark

Clare is the author of seven critically acclaimed novels. Twice longlisted for the Women’s Prize, her work is translated into seven languages. Clare reviews fiction for the Guardian and non-fiction for the Mail on Sunday. A member of the Cheltenham Festival Advisory Board since 2013, she chairs literary events across the UK. Her favourite novel? Impossible. But she has recently been pressing into people’s hands Intimacies by Katie Kitamura.

Image: Lorentz Gullachsen

Jo Durrant

Jo is the award winning presenter of Jo Durrant’s Beautiful Universe, an independent arts and science podcast. She’s also a highly experiences interviewer and chair, and has worked as a broadcaster for BBC radio for 20 years. Jo is passionate about the cross section of arts and science and wants everyone to feel welcome to the conversation. On The Road by Jack Kerouac or The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald are her tied favourite novels.

Tim Hubbard

Tim taught Drama and English before joining the BBC where he was a journalist and presenter for many years. As well as hosting at literary festivals, he now writes for newspapers and magazines and has written two books about Cornwall. A third, Secret Gardens of Cornwall, is to be published in October 2023. He lives by the sea in Mousehole. His favourite novel is The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.

Image: Lorentz Gullachsen

John Jefferies

John has taught History and Politics at Warwick School since 1995. He is currently Senior Tutor and Head of Politics. He writes A Level politics textbooks and has been interviewing for the Stratford Literary Festival for 10 years. He lives near Leamington with Rachael and their daughters Henrietta and Emily. His favourite novel is John Steinbeck's East of Eden

Image: Lorentz Gullachsen

Meg Sanders

Meg is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, and an editor. She works extensively in writer development at festivals and for the Royal Literary Fund, interviewing writers, running workshops and classes. Her favourite book would be a toss up between Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Image: Lorentz Gullachsen

Deirdre Shields

Deirdre’s first job in publishing involved being sent to buy whisky for Kingsley Amis. She spent many happy years working in magazine journalism, and has chaired and interviewed at literary festivals for ten years. She has a particular interest in creating words and music events, most recently writing shows on Laurie Lee performed by Anton Lesser, and P G Wodehouse with Alexander Armstrong. Her favourite novel is Middlemarch by George Eliot.

Image: Lorentz Gullachsen

Julia Wheeler

Julia is a writer, journalist and former BBC Gulf Correspondent. She chairs discussions at festivals including Cheltenham (Literature and Science), Hay, Manchester, Stanfords and Dubai. She has moderated events at The British Library, Royal Geographical Society and onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. Julia is a Stratford Literary Festival trustee. Her favourite novel is (still) Pride and Prejudice but her favourite recent novel is Still Life by Sarah Winman.

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