Katherine MacAlister rounds up some of the best highlights at the Blenheim Palace Literary Festival

The Blenheim Palace Literary Festival 2014 programme is so packed with goodies, it’s hard to know where to start, featuring writers and public figures from the fields of music, history, food and drink, politics and literature.

Perhaps with the highlights then, the five time Grammy-award-winning opera singer, Ms Jessye Norman’s presence being a massive coup for the festival organisers. She will speak about her forthcoming book Stand Up Straight and Sing and is flying in from the US specially.

An ITV partnership is another first, meaning that Julian Fellowes, creator of the hugely successful Downton Abbey, will be speaking about his new ITV film Great War House, in suitably lavish surroundings. Another TV scripter currently reigning supreme is Kate Brooke, writer and executive producer of ITV’s period drama Mr Selfridge, who will be joined by cast members Trystan Gravelle and Amy Morgan to chat about television collaborations and drink cocktails.

Other notables include: The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, on hand to discuss some of the major moral dilemmas of the 21st century, world-renowned scientist Richard Dawkins will talk about the early influences on his life and work, accompanied by the Orchestra of St John who will perform some of his favourite pieces of music live.

Other musical events include leading jazz poet Jeremy Robson introducing his new collection of poetry with readings by the celebrated actress, Maureen Lipman as well as a show from jazz singer Jacqui Dankworth who has worked with Paloma Faith and Gregory Porter. World-famous chef Ken Hom will discuss the connection food has with family, heritage, storytelling, health and good living with one half of BBC2’s Incredible Spice Men, Cyrus Todiwala. Other leading figures taking part this year include former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox MP, Sir Roy Strong, and rock musician Steve Hogarth.

The festival opening dinner will take place in Blenheim Palace’s Orangery with multi-talented actor, television presenter, writer, doctor and director, Sir Jonathan Miller talking about his writings over the last 60 years.

Blenheim Palace Literary Festival
Thursday to Sunday, September 25–28
For full details and to book, visit www.blenheimpalaceliteraryfestival.com