NEWSNIGHT presenter Kirsty Wark gets this year’s Words by the Water Festival of Words and Ideas off to a flying start on Friday, March 7 (2pm), talking about the experience of writing her first novel.

With more than 100 speakers in the programme, the 2014 festival runs at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake until Sunday, March 16.

Saturday (March 8, 11am) opens with Anne Pierson’s Cumbria Young Writers Award, introduced by Melvyn Bragg with Blake Morrison guest speaker.

Now in its tenth year, three budding writers from South Lakeland schools are in the CYWA shortlist - Asher Amor-Train from Kendal’s Queen Katherine, Kirkbie Kendal’s Arran Wylde-Eccles and Molly Parry, from The Lakes School, Troutbeck Bridge.

Later on Saturday (12.45pm) Pat Barker will join Melvyn on the stage of the theatre’s main house to reveal the mysteries of writing fiction and discuss their different approaches.

A host of popular local writers will also be featured, including esteemed biographer, poet and novelist Kathleen Jones, who recently penned Norman Nicholson’s biography; writer Keith Richardson, who will share with the audience the great affinity he has with the River Greta, and art authority and scribe Chris Wadsworth, explains artist Percy Kelly’s connection with the coastline of west Cumbria.

The festival will host many high profile names from the worlds of journalism and broadcasting with Melvyn Bragg, Andy Kershaw and Jeremy Paxman among those joining the line-up.

Well-known politicians Jonathan Aitken, Ann Widdecombe, Alan Johnson, Roy Hattersley and Michael Meacher will take to the stage for events during the festival and there will be best-selling writers such as Louis de Bernières and Joanna Trollope discussing their work and reflecting on their careers.

Award-winning poet and Cumbrian resident Helen Farish will judge the 11th Words by the Water Mirehouse Poetry Competition, and will present the winning poems during a special free event at Mirehouse on Saturday, March 15.

For the full festival programme visit or telephone 017687-74411.

Student wishing to apply for up to ten free tickets to attend events at the festival – including Cumbria Young Writers – should email