Bradford Literature Festival
BeginsLate June
EndsEarly July (variable dates)
Location(s)Bradford, West Yorkshire
Years active7
FoundersSyima Aslam
Irna Quresh
Most recent2019
Next event2022
Attendance50,000 (2017)
WebsiteOfficial website

The Bradford Literature Festival (sometimes abbreviated to BLF)[1] is a spoken and written word event that promotes literature and is held for ten days annually over June and July in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. The first event was held in 2014 and was attended by 968 people; by the time of the 2018 event, the attendance had risen to over 70,000. The event is noted for its attendance by minority groups and writers, with over 50% of attendees coming from BAME backgrounds.


The Festival was started by Syima Aslam and Irna Qureshi in 2014 for a weekend. By the time of the 2017 event, they had a full-time staff of seven besides themselves with funding from Bradford Council, the Arts Council and the National Lottery.[2][3] After the short weekend festival in 2014, the event was lengthened to cover ten days which was held across late June/early July for the 2017 and 2018 and 2019 festivals. The 2016 event was held in late May of that year.[4] The festival is a series of events held at different locations across the Bradford District including theatres such as the Alhambra, bookshops, schools, colleges, Bradford City Hall, bars and art galleries.[5] Whilst the emphasis is on the written word, some parts of the event include the arts, theatre, film, music[6] and talks by famous people such as the former boxer, Frank Bruno, hip-hop artist Akala, 80's icon Luke Goss and former footballer John Barnes.[7]

In 2018, as a celebration of the 200 years since Emily Brontë's birth, the festival installed four stones engraved with specially commissioned poems from four contemporary female writers, at strategic points between Thornton and Haworth.[8] Jeanette Winterson, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay and Kate Bush have each written a piece of poetry that will adorn the four stones. The stones form a walk which connects the Bronte birthplace at Thornton, with the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth.[9]

In 2019, the festival attracted speakers such as Jeanette Winterson, Elif Shafak, John Barnes, Habib Ali al-Jifri, Luke Goss, Saul Williams, Lady Leshurr and Michael Rosen, attracting an audience of over 70,000 including a free Education Programme which reached over 18,000 young people.[10] Approximately 15 of the 500+ booked speakers pulled out of the event when it was revealed that some of the sponsorship for the festival had come from the Home office's Building a Stronger Britain Together programme. One of those who withdrew, journalist Hussein Kesvani, stated that if he had appeared at the festival, then it would have been a conflict of interest. Some of the young Muslims whom he had interviewed "expressed how the expansive counter-extremism programme had affected their ability to express their religious identity".[11]


Date Attendance No of events Notable people Notes
2014 968 24 [6][12]
15–24 May 2015 11,000 150 Shabnam Khan, Brian Patten, Sukina Owen-Douglas [6][13]
20–29 May 2016 32,000 200 Carol Ann Duffy, Nadiya Hussain, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi [14][15][16]
30 June–9 July 2017 50,0000 300 Jeanette Winterson, Joanna Trollope, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Germaine Greer [15][17][18]
29 June–8 July 2018 70,000 400 Frank Bruno, Suzi Quatro, Kate Bush [15][19][20][21][22]
28 June–7 July 2019 400 [23]
2020 Event cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic[24]
25 June–4 July 2021 100 Caitlin Moran, Abdul Hakim Murad, Jeanette Wilson, Michael Rosen, A A Dhand, Anita Rani, Saima Mir, Aamnah Rashman 220 speakers in 100 sessions, with 50% of these online[25]


  1. ^ "An Evaluation of Social Return using Willingness to Pay" (PDF). December 2017. p. 4. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  2. ^ Armitstead, Claire (26 June 2017). "Brontes, Bradford and Buddhist poetry - meet the women transforming the literary festival". The Guardian. p. 12. ISSN 0261-3077.
  3. ^ Wilde, Claire (6 February 2015). "Bradford wins extra Arts Council funding". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Bradford Literature Festival - University of Bradford". Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  5. ^ Johnson, Helen (12 June 2018). "Bradford Literature Festival: Everything you need to know about this year's literary extravaganza". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "Festival review: Bradford Literature Festival". The Yorkshire Post. 26 May 2015. ProQuest 1683071685.
  7. ^ Jalal, Sabah (7 July 2018). "Top author and former heavyweight boxing champion to appear at Bradford Literature Festival". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  8. ^ Knights, David (3 April 2018). "Brontës at Bradford Lit Festival". Keighley News. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  9. ^ Kelly, Lauren (26 April 2018). "Kate Bush to write a new tribute to Emily Bronte". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Bradford Literature Festival: In-depth Review". Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  11. ^ Beever, Susie (20 June 2019). "Six speakers boycott Bradford Literature Festival in anti-extremism funding row". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Bradford Literature Festival 2018 Programme Announcement @ University of Bradford Union of Students". Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Bradford Literature Festival pays tribute to JB Priestley's works". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. 5 May 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  14. ^ Stelfox, Hilarie (16 May 2016). "Will freshly-baked star Nadiya rise to the challenge at Bradford festival?". Huddersfield Examiner. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  15. ^ a b c Young, Chris (12 October 2017). "Record number of 50,000 take part in Bradford Literature Festival". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  16. ^ Clayton, Emma (20 May 2016). "BRADFORD LITERATURE FESTIVAL: From pirates to a Poet Laureate - looking ahead to the first weekend of Bradford Literature Festival". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  17. ^ "What's happening in the literary world". The Sunday Times. 4 June 2017. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  18. ^ Young, Chris (29 June 2017). "FULL SCHEDULE: Over 300 events taking place for Bradford Literature Festival". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  19. ^ Young, Chris (12 June 2018). "University to play major role in Bradford Literature Festival". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  20. ^ Young, Chris (19 May 2018). "Festival details launched". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  21. ^ Young, Chris (19 May 2018). "Festival details launched". Craven Herald. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  22. ^ "Bradford Literature Festival visitor attendance up 40% | The Bookseller". Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  23. ^ Black, Michael (29 March 2019). "Bros star and St George's Hall rap concert among 2019 Bradford Literature Festival events". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  24. ^ Clayton, Emma (9 July 2020). "Bradford Literature Festival is cancelled". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  25. ^ Kitchen, Ruby (25 June 2021). "Coming together at diverse literature festival". The Yorkshire Post. p. 3. ISSN 0963-1496.