Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, is one of the star names already booked to appear at this year’s Marlborough Literary Festival in September – to talk about the war poets during the centenary year of World War I.
A poet himself, Dr Williams will be appearing with the philosopher AC Grayling, author of more than 30 books and founder of New College of the Humanities, the UK’s first independent arts university, and Jenny Uglow, the publisher, critic and biographer whose subjects include Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot and William Hogarth.
Announcing their names, the LitFest says: “This year will be our fifth anniversary and we very much hope you can celebrate with us. The dates are Friday 26 to Sunday 28 September. So write them in your 2014 diary as soon as you can.
“While we put together our programme, no one can accuse us of ‘dumbing down’ as we bring you some of the deepest thinkers of our time.”
And it adds: “We are especially thrilled to host Dr Williams here as Marlborough was the town where Siegfried Sassoon spent his formative years. This former Archbishop has been an outspoken force for justice and fairness in our society, with particularly strong views about the evils of war.
“He was once arrested for singing psalms as part of a CND protest and more recently expressed his disgust at British policy on Iraq.”
In fact, 63-year-old Dr Williams, now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, hit back at Christmas at what he described as “disturbing” comments made about food banks by Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith.
The Work and Pensions Secretary accused the Salisbury-based Christian charity The Trussell Trust, which has provided emergency food parcels in Cambridge – and Marlborough too — of being politically-motivated and scaremongering by blaming welfare reforms for the rise in the number of people it helps.
But Dr Williams, who is the patron of Cambridge City Foodbank, which supported 2,390 people in crisis last year, declared: “It is not political point-scoring to say that these are the realities of life in Britain today for a shockingly large number of ordinary people – not scroungers, not idlers — but men and women desperate to keep afloat and to look after their children or their elderly relatives.
“The real scaremongering is the attempt to deny the seriousness of the situation by – in effect – accusing those seeking to help of dishonesty as to their motivation.”
And Dr Williams added: “I would urge the Secretary of State to visit any Food Bank he chooses and to listen to the accounts of what is actually happening.
“It may not change his policies but it might at least persuade him not to attack the motives of hard-pressed volunteers and generous donors.”