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Stowmarket's Primadonna Festival offers dazzling line-up with La Roux, Abi Morgan and Viv Groskop



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An arts festival for all ages, Primadonna, will blend books, ideas, film, music, comedy, food and therapies, bringing together a mix of famous faces with sparkling new talent.

Set in the 75-acre grounds of Stowmarket’s Food Museum, the festival from next Friday to Sunday (July 29 to 31) ‘sets out to create the world as it should be for one weekend’ as its line-up champions brilliant writing, giving prominence to work by women and spotlighting authors from the margins.

Catherine Riley, festival director and a founding Primadonna, said: “We’ve set up some challenging, provocative and hilarious sessions this year which we know will create the buzz and excitement that Primadonna is known for.

Primadonna Festival 2021. Picture: Mecha Morton
Primadonna Festival 2021. Picture: Mecha Morton
Festival director Catherine Riley
Festival director Catherine Riley

“There are some amazing names on our line-up already, but we’re not finished programming yet.

"Expect some big announcements in the coming weeks as we bring even more fantastic talent to Suffolk for what we call ‘the world as it should be' weekend.

"It really is a perfect weekend for getting away from it all: and we also guarantee the best festival toilets around.”

Writer and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and actress Adjoa Andoh at last year's festival. Picture: Mecha Morton
Writer and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and actress Adjoa Andoh at last year's festival. Picture: Mecha Morton
Pop superstar La Roux
Pop superstar La Roux

The Primadonna Festival was launched by a group of 17 women from publishing and entertainment –including Sandi Toksvig, Catherine Riley (author and festival director), Kit de Waal and Sabeena Akhtar, in 2019 and new Primadonnas are added to the group every year bringing new ideas, energy and perspective.

This year’s line-up features international superstar musician La Roux (Elly Jackson) in conversation with friend and international writer Catherine Mayer in a session titled ‘Been there, done that, messed around’.

The lively chat will cover Elly’s career highlights, life in the paparazzi lens, and the “problems of being a ‘figurehead’ in a world that refuses nuance”.

Together, they will consider the pros and cons of the content-obsessed world we live in, and Catherine will share some of her insider tips on getting out the story you want to tell rather than the one the tabloids want you to sell.

Screenwriter Abi Morgan. Picture: Lorna Milburn
Screenwriter Abi Morgan. Picture: Lorna Milburn

Sunday Times bestselling author and acclaimed memoirist Cathy Retzenbrink will be in conversation with Kit de Waal, whose memoir Without Warning and Only Sometimes is out in August.

Author and Broadcaster Symeon Brown will host a discussion on influencer culture, and Viv Groskop will be recording an episode of her award-winning How To Own The Room podcast live at the Primadonna.

Sunday Times bestseller Erin Kelly, author of eight thrillers, will offer insider know-how on ‘How To Write A Killer Novel’ and author and features director of Red magazine Natasha Lunn will be leading some ‘Conversations on Love’, the title of her recent book and the focus of a panel on alternative happy endings – including divorce.

Podcaster Viv Groskop. Picture: Fiona Grundy
Podcaster Viv Groskop. Picture: Fiona Grundy

Juno Dawson and Zoe Howe will be exploring the phenomenon of witchcraft, the power of the witch figure and the legacy of the witch trials on contemporary culture and iconography.

Patsy Stevenson, whose face became the defining image of the Sarah Everard vigil in 2021, will be in discussion with activist and commentator Shola Mos-Shogbamimu on the scandals enveloping the Metropolitan Police
as well as the growing scrutiny of the monarchy in light of Megxit, Prince Andrew’s conduct and the Queen’s Jubilee year.

Conversation will turn to timely questions – is it time for these state institutions to be dismantled for good? What would the UK look like as a republic? Would defunding the police work? Are we ready for a revolution?

To purchase tickets, visit www.primadonnafestival.com.

As well as the main programme of talks, interviews and discussions, there will be plenty for adults looking to unwind and get away from it all, with chef demonstrations, live music, late night DJs and pop-up fun including a Time Machine Disco, steam engine rides and wellness therapies of all kinds.

There will also be lots of activities for children, including a ‘Festival of the Girl’ workshop, author readings, films, theatre, mini beast walks and crafts.