Big Book Weekend is a free virtual festival for anyone who wants to take a break from the grind of lockdown life, watch some brilliant people discussing big ideas, and give themselves an injection of fresh inspiration and energy. We like to see it as the other national vaccine – the one that protects against boredom and exhaustion. And with talks and conversations ranging from WHY WE LOVE A LIAR to HOW TO BE A MAN to BRITISH VILLAGE LIFE: HEAVEN OR HELL?, we hope it’s got something for everyone – including people who can’t remember the last time they read a book.

BBW was born in March 2020, when authors Kit de Waal and Molly Flatt saw book festivals across the UK tragically getting cancelled due to coronavirus. Thanks to the BBC and the Arts Council England, after seven crazy weeks of work, we were able to bring 28 sessions from cancelled festivals online. With over 24,000 views over the weekend, and thousands more on catch-up, we were blown away by the response – especially when people from a whole range of backgrounds reached out to tell us that it was the first time they’d ever considered watching a book event, and that they wanted more.

The result was Big Book Weekend 2, broadcast live on BBC Arts online on 20-21 March 2021. Programmed from scratch this time, it brought the likes of Ian Rankin, Candice Brathwaite, Lenny Henry, Douglas Stuart, Guvna B, Val McDermid, Julie Ma and Ruby Tandoh right into the nation’s living rooms (or bedrooms, or baths) for intimate chats and debates alongside recommendations for books to keep our spirits high and our minds well-fed. All virtual, all free. Whether you’re a passionate reader or you prefer boxsets to books, we hope there was something to delight, inspire and uplift.

Some BBW2 sessions are still available for catch-up here, and the complete archive of sessions and transcripts will be uploaded to very soon. In the meantime, all 28 sessions from BBW 1 are free to watch right here. And never fear, there’ll be more fresh BBW goodness to come soon.

Enjoy – and let us know what you think.