We know that you will be clicking on every page of this website because you’re… well… curious.   But if you’re looking at this page first, don’t forget to check out the programming that we think writers will particularly enjoy and the events that are on the programme just for fun. We haven’t yet worked out the final schedule so we don’t know when these are going to take place so do check back nearer the time and we’ll publish the actual programme. We’ll be announcing more events over the next few weeks so stay tuned for updates!

Sandi Toksvig in conversation with Jude Kelly

TV’s best-loved host Sandi will talk about her career, from Footlights to primetime, together with her political activism and how easy it is to accidentally set up a political party. Expect quips, sparkling humour, warmth and an opportunity to ask that burning question, or even that question about burning (buns, that is).

Killing Eve in Apple Tree Yard

How does a book make it from print to screen?   From the first phone call to the first night what happens to your character and how easy is it to hand them over to someone else’s creative vision?  Luke Jennings (author of Killing Eve) and Louise Doughty (Apple Tree Yard) are just two of the writers who’ll be sharing their stories on this fascinating panel.

 If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ’em

Women have had to masquerade as men and hide behind male pen names for centuries – but why is this still happening in 2019? Comedy performer and writer, Anneka Harry, shares research tales from her hilarious and heart-breaking debut book, Gender Rebels, and explores why women continue to have to disguise themselves to get sh*t done in a man’s world.

Her Breasts Preceded Her Into The Room* 

Male authors don’t always get female characters quite right, psychologically or anatomically. This panel will explore what it takes for men to write women and we'll hear from writers who have done it successfully. Chair Sandi Toksvig will be joined for this discussion of the pitfalls and pleasures of imagining another person’s experience by Luke Jennings (“Killing Eve”), Michael Donkor, Naomi Paxton, and Lisa Milton. She’ll also read out examples (horrific or great) so tweet your favourites to @PrimadonnaFest hashtagged #ManBoobs.

*Our thanks to Jennifer Weiner for the panel title

 The Power and Pleasure of Food and Drink

This panel brings together people who really know their oats about food—and are united in appreciation for the sheer pleasure it can provide and its power to unite, delight and transform. Chaired by Jamie Klingler, who has launched two food festivals and the London Book Club, the panel will include Asma Khan, visionary founder of Darjeeling Express and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table; Mecca Ibrahim, co-founder of Women in the Food Industry; and food writer Tessa Allingham, co-author of Suffolk Feast.

Proud sponsors of Women with Balls

Proud sponsors of Women with Balls

Women with Balls - proving Oscar Wilde right

Oscar Wilde said ‘football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but it hardly suitable for delicate boys’. In this panel, which will feature superfans and football players alike, we ponder a world where the beautiful game is for women only: no diving, no rioting and no John Terry.

Where There’s Muck, There’s Brass

A panel on working class writers and the realities of being skint whilst trying to break into the arts. Kerry Hudson will be joined by Sabeena Akhtar, Sabrina Mahfouz, Jenny Knight, and Eva Verde to discuss everything from structural barriers to light hearted anecdotes, as this group of working class authors reflect on navigating the multiple barriers to publication.

Damned if You Do and Damned if You Don’t

Mother or not, motherhood impacts every woman in multiple and different ways. The only common experience is this—whether you’re a mum or childless, by choice or otherwise, someone will think you’re doing it wrong and there are other, more serious penalties too, cultural and economic. This is a complicated and difficult subject that deserves plenty of time to debate, and consequently this will be a round table discussion where audience and panellists including Sinéad Gleeson, Lorna Gibb, Hannah Peaker, Monisha Rajesh, Jude Kelly, Catherine Mayer, and Sabeena Akhtar share views and experiences.

The Deader the Better

We take a look at the writing of biographies.  How do you choose your subject? How do you know who’s going to spill the beans or let you in their attic to rifle through family letters? How much of yourself do you put in the book? How do you promote your book when your subject has a lot of influence in the media, and what do you do when they threaten to sue you?  At what point do you leave them behind or do you have to be a spokesperson on their butler, their wayward children and their choice of coffee. A panel on the mechanics of writing but also on ego, celebrity and nuclear fall-out.  Our panel will include Primadonnas Catherine Mayer (Prince Charles) & Sonia Purnell (Boris Johnson, Clementine Churchill and Virginia Hall).

In Praise of Older Women

“Ageing,” observed columnist Suzanne Moore, “is a process of editing.” She didn’t mean it in the literary sense. “You know those people you didn’t like much? Well, don’t bother with them.” This panel explores the liberating effects of age, especially potent for women, and celebrates the productivity and entrepreneurialism of older women. It also takes a look at the tougher realities too: a gender pay gap that made pension shortfalls commonplace even before ill-considered changes to the State Pension Age, and ageism and sexism that impact women in specific and more damaging ways. With five women for whom life is in full swing: Asma Khan, Joanna Baker, Kit de Waal, Maxine Mawhinney and chair Catherine Mayer.

The (Absolute) State of Politics

Here’s one thing we can all agree on: politics both sides of the Atlantic is heroically messed up. Will it get worse and how did we get here? Where are the bright spots—and believe us, there are bright spots. This round table discussion features people such as Hannah Peaker, Jude Kelly, and Mandu Reid who have insider experience and a compulsion to spill state secrets (only partly joking).

BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought

We’re so delighted that the BBC will be recording a special edition of their thought-provoking podcast Four Thought. We know that this will be recorded on Friday afternoon and we are opening the gates nice and early to accommodate this. One of the speakers will be Louise Doughty, author of nine novels including Apple Tree Yard which was adapted for television with Emily Watson in the lead role. Louise will be joined by writers Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Winnie M. Li, and Monisha Rajesh who will each deliver a 13-minute thesis on an issue close to their heart.

Adele Parks

Adele has written an awe-inspiring 19 best-selling novels over 19 years, covering romance, historical, domestic noir and psychological thrillers.  Adele will be sharing her thoughts on the pros and cons of genre writing and whether it’s possible to break free of a genre once you start writing in it.  We’re delighted to have the opportunity to listen to a writer at the top of her game.

Miss Understandings– written and performed by Athena Stevens

Two women. One photograph. A young woman sends a shirtless selfie to her boyfriend she assuming it would give him a bit of a laugh. When he shows it to his best friend he can't imagine her having any other reaction. But what starts out as a joke soon turns into an accusation of something much darker. When someone has proven themselves to be an objectively good person at what point is that label no longer applicable? At what point do we say stop when it becomes apparent that we are complicit in hurting other women? And how do you pick up the pieces when someone you thought would always listen to you just doesn’t care?

Representations of Self 

We invite a group of authors including Winnie M Li, Alya Mooro, and Ashley Hickson-Lovence to discuss how stereotypes, colonial narratives and representations of body image have effected their work. Do writers in the margins feel compelled to resist life and language in the mainstream?

What would Mary Wollstonecraft do? aka the Primadonnas get it off their chests

“Isn’t Primadonna just about bashing the patriarchy?” asks the Today Programme. “No” says Kit de Waal, “but I’m sure we’ll fit some in.”  Well this is the bit where the Primadonnas introduce themselves, tell stories about their struggle, the worst thing that people have said or done to them in their career, and pay homage those who have inspired them.   Audience members are invited to participate in voting for Heroes and Zeroes. Hang on, maybe we’ve listed this in the wrong session – it’s just for fun really.

Living Language

A group of authors including Guy Gunaratne, Preti Taneja, Michael Donkor, and Lennie Goodings discuss how language is used to push beyond dominant narratives and offer alternative retellings. From slang, to translations and rewriting 'the canon' - is language in literature always political or does that depend on who is doing the writing?


We’ll have a series of interviews with some of the most successful and critically acclaimed writers of today, including Joanna Cannon, Bernardine Evaristo, Angela Saini, Kit De Waal and Elif Shafak alongside some astonishing new voices such as Ashley Hickson-Lovence and  Ely Percy.

 Wanderlust: The future of travel writing

A group of highly respected travel writers including Bee Rowlatt, Monisha Rajesh, Kia Abdullah, and Jini Reddy share their compulsion to travel, their experiences while travelling and what drives them to document it for others.  Whether alone or with babies, they really have been there, seen it, done it.  What borders and boundaries are next for them?

Alexa, While You’re Down There…

Have you ever wondered why virtual assistants are always female? Did it occur to you that the future is being built by too narrow a range of people?  This round table discussion will extend to algorithms, AI, big data, sex robots (yes, really) and all things tech, with brilliant experts Rachel Coldicutt, Seyi Akiwowo, Kate Devlin, Pragya Agarwal and Catherine Mayer and plenty of time for audience input. Come along and help to build a better future.

Professor Kate Williams on Mary Queen of Scots

The most fascinating of Queens - if you've seen the film you'll have had the Hollywood version but the reality is more extraordinary, crossing countries and the most ruthless families of Europe.  To hear her extraordinary story delivered by one of TV's favourite historians will be a highlight of the festival.

Rubáiyát of Rojava –  Rahila Gupta’s Epic poem read by great actress Jaye Griffiths with introduction & Q&A with Gupta

Rahila’s epic poem has as its subject matter the women's revolution taking place in Rojava, a self-governed region located in Northern Syria, where groups of women are leading systems of communal social life involving councils, parties, cooperatives, academies and defence units, to structure society according to anti-sexist and non-patriarchal principles.

The Seashell and the Clergyman – with live soundtrack created and performed by the Deben Collective

Laffitts Hall has been the home of Pettafiesta and Mekonville festivals before becoming home to Primadonna, and it has become a tradition, and highlight of festivals here to have a late-night screening of a silent film by the campfire with specially created soundtrack performed live by the Deben Collective.  The BFI have this film as one of few feminist films from the silent era. It was directed by a woman, and features a bra burning, but is so surreal that it’s hard to find the meaning. See what you think. Bring a bra to burn on the campfire and enjoy the music created by ambient genius Jan Pulsford and her musical collective.

Bibliotherapy with Ella Berthoud

Bibliotherapy is the art of prescribing fiction for life’s ailments. Bibliotherapy is the art of prescribing fiction to cure life’s ills. The idea behind bibliotherapy is that reading is a healing experience. This idea dates back to Plato, but it is becoming increasingly popular as a way of dealing with pain of all descriptions. Bibliotherapists choose fiction that has relevance to the client’s life situation, in order to help, heal or provoke. Ella Berthoud will be running 20 minute bibliotherapy session on Sunday, 1 September.

Don’t Mess With Writers, We’ll Describe You

Maxine Mawhinney will be joined by writers Jenny Knight and Preti Taneja and literary agent Julia Kingsford to swap tales of their worst setbacks, whether rejection letters (received or sent), harsh reviews or misfires. Every panellist has stories. Some may even have old scores to settle. Share your own #rejectionstories on social media using this hashtag and tagging Primadonna. We’ll read out some and the best—or, to be more precise, the worst—wins its recipient a spot on the panel plus two tickets to Primadonna.

Activities for kids of all ages

From Spell-threading and Printing the Hedgerow (hosted by Suffolk Artlink), to a scavenger hunt and den building, kids of all ages will find loads to do over the weekend. We also have Kick the Can (officially the best kids game!), Brexit Bulldog (the Brexit version of British Bulldog), Kids Lingo Bingo, sessions on writing and staging a play, and learning how to rap.


We’ll be presenting poetry between music sets on Sunday.  Watch out for some of the country’s best poets in action, including Gray Crosbie, Nadine Jassat, Raymond Antrobus, Sabrina Mahfouz and many others.

… and relax

There will be lots of opportunity to look after yourself at Primadonna.   You can pre-book private therapies via this link if you want to be super-organised and not miss out.  There will also be group sessions on stretching, looking after your pelvic floor (not just for men!) and gong baths available for free!   Delivered by highly experienced pilates teachers Kelly Steventon & Sarah Doherty , and gong therapist Jenna Gooding.