John Simpson and Jay Rayner at White Hart, Wytham Book Festival

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AS the White Hart of Wytham prepares for the start of its Week of Wit and Words, literary agent Joanna Frank and pub owner Mark ‘Baz’ Butcher invite literature lovers to buy tickets for a festival food and book shop

HAVING acquired full ownership of The White Hart last spring, after six years of negotiation, and following the success of our vaxxers literary dinner with Dame Sarah Gilbert, Catherine Green and Dr Rachel Clarke in the fall, we were inspired to consider the possibility of future copyright events.

Read more: Covid vaccine hero Sarah Gilbert gives her thumbs up to White Hart’s cool catering pods

With the brilliant acoustics provided by our all-weather observatory, the quality of food from our kitchen, Baz’s hospitality and my background in book publishing, we realized we were well placed to host luncheons and literary dinners, and we knew we had a discerning clientele that would react positively to such events.

Initially we proposed the pub as a satellite venue for the Oxford Literary Festival but naturally they want to stay in the city centre. So we thought: why not have our own boutique festival – and the White Hart Week of Wit and Words was born.

As this is our first year, we have decided to keep it small and selective so that we can offer maximum attention and visibility to each author, and we are extremely honored to welcome those who participate.

Clover Stroud

The week begins on Monday March 21, when the renowned Oxfordshire journalist and writer Clover Stroud joins us for dinner, where I will interview him about his latest book Le Rouge de mon sang. This is a raw, lyrical memoir about surviving the loss of her sister, Nell Gifford – founder of the much-loved Gifford’s Circus – and embracing death as an essential and rewarding part of life.

Read more: Clover’s story is a heartfelt story of resilience after tragedy

As with his previous books, The Wild Other and My Wild and Sleepless Nights: A Mother’s Story, Clover writes with unflinching honesty yet hopeful about the wonder of being human.

Jay Raynerthe flamboyant food critic and host of The Kitchen Cabinet on Radio 4, has already visited Wytham twice as a jazz pianist with the Jay Rayner Quartet, and he returns on Wednesday evening March 23 as an author .

Oxford Mail: Jay Rayner - Levon Bliss

Jay Rayner. Photo by Levon Bliss

It’s your last meal on earth – what are you going to eat? Jay’s latest book, My Last Supper, originated in being asked this question so many times, and in seeking to answer it, he also created a barnstorming one-man show. It examines our fascination with last meals and tells the often very funny stories behind the choice of ingredients for what would be his last supper.

He will recount how he was introduced to oysters by his mother, dying aunt Claire Rayner, and how he nearly burned down a hotel for the love of snails.

We are very fortunate to be joined on Friday 25 March by the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, host of BBC2’s unvarnished new version of the week’s global affairs program Unspun World, and resident of oxford, John Simpson.

Oxford Mail: White Hart Wytham.12/05/2021.Photo by Ed Nix..

White Hart Wytham’s stylish covered, weatherproof courtyard. Photo by Ed Nix

John calls on his unparalleled journalistic experience in his fiction and will join us for a literary dinner to talk about his latest novel, Our Friends in Beijing. He will talk about how cathartic he finds to write creatively after half a century covering some of the world’s most devastating conflicts and how liberating he finds to tell stories through the lens of his main character. There will be a question and answer session with the public after dinner and John will sign copies of his books.

Oxford Mail: Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James McConnel - White Hart Lit Fest

Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James McConnel will play the White Hart of Wytham

For the finale of the week, on Saturday March 26, we present to you Kit & McConnell with their glorious satirical cabaret without limits. Kit Hesketh-Harvey is a regular on Just A Minute on Radio 4 and James McConnel studied music at Oxford with Stephen Sondheim. These musically gifted comic geniuses aim their satire at everything from politics to celebrity culture for an evening of wit and song that weeps with laughter, complete with a 2-course dinner.

One of our clients recently observed that The White Hart was starting to become something of a cultural salon. Without wanting to be pretentious, it’s a label we don’t want to resist.

  • Tickets on the White Hart website: whitehartwytham.com/events, by email: [email protected], or by phone: 01865 244372

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