The third edition of BLF saw the festival grow in size once again, attracting over 50,000 people and being acknowledged as ‘the Most Diverse Festival in the UK’.


The 2017 festival featured a wide range of well-known names: authors included Germaine Greer, Ben Okri, Joanna Trollope, Jeanette Winterson and John Boyne; poets Linton Kwesi-Johnson, Jackie Kay, Lemn Sissay and Anthony Anaxogorou; politicians such as Shashi Tharoor, Baroness Syeeda Warsi and Harriet Harman; and international journalists including Jenni Murray, Mona Eltahawy, Christina Lamb, Boyd Tonkin and Gary Younge.


A major theme in 2017 was Empire, as the festival brought together authors, historians and politicians to discuss ongoing implications 70 years after the partition of the Indian sub-continenet. The festival’s annual strand on British Islam continued to offer both secular and theological perspectives on the issues that affect British Muslims. There was also a concentrated focus on current affairs to address the current political climate and encourage audiences to consider the humanitarian issues that sit behind the headlines. This included speakers such as Inua Ellams, award-winning poet and playwright, whose show An Evening with an Immigrant offered an intensely personal reflection on the experiences of an immigrant making a life for himself in the UK.

Yorkshire’s literary landscape was also a major focus, from the festival’s flagship Brontë Heritage Weekend to celebrations of the county’s finest contemporary writing. The festival also celebrated Yorkshire sport, with events on the history of Yorkshire cricket in partnership with The Cricketer magazine, and a special event with the authors of Four Mums in a Boat, the Yorkshire women who broke a world record and rowed 3,000 miles to cross the Atlantic in The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

In the words of one happy audience member, “this festival feeds your soul.”