Known as one of Britain’s “big four” literary festivals, the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival, now in its 22nd year, takes place March 17-25 in Oxford, England.

A little more than an hour’s train ride from London Paddington, the “city of dreaming spires,” as it was nicknamed by 19th-century English poet Matthew Arnold due to its prestigious university comprising 38 colleges, is easily reached.

The University of Oxford was nicknamed by English poet Matthew Arnold for its buildings numerous spires.

University of Oxford

With more than 200 scheduled events and 450 speakers from 30 countries appearing at venues around the university city center, the rather short journey to this notable more-than-weeklong event seems well worth the trip.

Presented in partnership with the University of Oxford, “this year’s program is perhaps the festival’s most ambitious to date,” and it will “welcome major figures from around the world and across the disciplines,” according to Vice Chancellor professor Louise Richardson.

The festival, which offers children’s, young people’s and adult programs and events, will showcase high-profile presentations and workshops by literary luminaries that will be held in some of the university’s amazing, historic buildings.

Bodleian Library’s Duke Humphrey’s is the library’s oldest reading room.

Duke Humphrey’s, the oldest reading room at Bodleian Library (Diliff)

A few locations hosting events are the Bodleian Library, which opened in 1602, making it one of Europe’s oldest libraries, and is the second-largest library in Britain, providing more than 12 million items; Sheldonian Theatre, the university’s elegantly majestic ceremonial hall that was built beginning in 1664; and Worcester College, considered one of the most beautiful of the university’s colleges because of its 26 acres of award-winning gardens and wooded grounds that include a lake, and medieval cottages.

The Sheldonian Theatre is Oxford University’s official ceremonial hall.

The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford University’s official ceremonial hall

In addition to its numerous scheduled happenings, the Oxford Literary Festival also will continue its themed days and events, according to festival director Sally Dunsmore.

“Italian Day includes talks on living and eating the Italian way, the Medici and event the rare Marsican brown bear,” she wrote for the festival’s program.

“Our American weekend has talks by graphic novelist Nadja Spiegelman and by astrophysicist Dr. Jillian Scudder, and a dinner to welcome our friends from the states. …

“The Irish literature and culture them includes leading Irish novelists, the Irish critic Declan Kiberd and the well-known poet Michael Longley.”

Bringing together a wide array of visitors, authors and experts from around the world, the Oxford Literary Festival provides numerous talks, book readings, seminars and more focusing on a vast variety of topics that include culinary, economics, environment, history, literature, philosophy, politics, religion, science and travel. 

But, above all else, it functions to foster an all-important love of reading, writing and literature in young and old alike. After all, once you open up a book, you never know what adventures or discoveries may lie ahead in its pages.

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