First names announced for Rochdale’s literature festival

Date published: 30 July 2019

The first five names on the line-up for this year’s Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival have been revealed.

The eight-day festival in October will feature bestselling feel-good fiction writer Milly Johnson, blogger, author and activist Erin Ekins, popular children’s authors Harry Heape and Hannah Lee, as well as award winning illustrator Olivia Lomenech Gill.

Author, columnist and poet Milly Johnson will host afternoon tea at Rochdale Town Hall, sharing some of the sparkling wit and humour that’s earned her the title ‘Queen of Feel-Good Fiction’. She’s already sold over two million books worldwide and her latest novel, The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew made the top five of the Sunday Times bestseller list. A regular on television and radio, Milly is also a popular after dinner motivational speaker and a professional joke writer.


Erin Ekins will be speaking at Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival
Erin Ekins


Erin Ekins was part of the Channel 4 documentary Are you Autistic? Her blog Queerly Autistic focuses on autism, invisible disability and LGBTQIA issues from the experience of an autistic adult.  She’s been engaging audiences up and down the country raising awareness of equality, intersectionality, attitudes towards autistic people, and the importance of holding to account authorities who fail those who are autistic, disabled and LGBTQIA+ people.


Harry Heape’s Shiny Pippin books have proved a big hit with children of all ages, and he’s bringing his live family show to Rochdale this October
Harry Heape


Harry Heape’s Shiny Pippin books have proved a big hit with children of all ages and he’s promising a fun and very interactive family event to celebrate the popular series.

Hannah Lee will be discussing her vibrant new children’s book about one little girl’s search for the best party hair. Her session will include crafts and laughs as children listen to the story and then design their own unique hairstyles.


Olivia Lomenech Gill will be appearing at Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival for the first time
Olivia Lomenech Gill


Olivia Lomenech Gill, award-winning illustrator of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is also the acclaimed illustrator of Michael Morpurgo’s Where My Wellies Take Me, shortlisted for the Kate Greenway Medal. She’ll be talking about the processes she uses to bring JK Rowling’s magical creations to colourful life.

This year’s festival runs from Monday 14 to Monday 21 October with organisers promising exciting arts for all ages.

Events will cover drama, comedy, poetry, spoken word, visual arts and children’s shows. For young people aged 14 to 25, there will be another ‘Generation Z’ programme.

Councillor Janet Emsley, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Community and Culture at Rochdale Borough Council said: “We have another superb line-up this year. Amazing writers, thinkers, artists and much-loved personalities will be coming to join us in Rochdale this October. Our new festival director Fiona Brown has been working hard to bring together a diverse and varied programme.”

The festival is aimed at celebrating and promoting the Maskew Collection of classic literature and philosophy at Rochdale Central Library, encouraging people to engage with books and ideas. Annie and Frank Maskew, a Rochdale couple who shared a passion for reading and thinking, met in Rochdale Library in the 1950s and left a sum of money to be used on resources and events related to literature and philosophy to ensure classic works are available for future generations.

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