Sir Lenny Henry Opens Wimbledon BookFest's Sunrise Festival

Reads from his debut novel The Boy With Wings to 500 school children

Sir Lenny Henry at Sunrise Festival. Picture: Wimbledon BookFest / John Stone

Comedian, actor, writer and national treasure Sir Lenny Henry opened this year's Wimbledon BookFest’s Sunrise Festival on 9 June. 500 school children aged 8 – 11 from ten local primary schools heard Sir Lenny read from his debut novel, The Boy with Wings – the heart-warming story of Tunde, an average kid who suddenly sprouts wings during a football match, embarking on an exciting and sinister journey of discovery.

In conversation with BBC broadcaster Brenda Emmanus, Sir Lenny spoke about coming up with the idea for protagonist Tunde, how writing differs to making television, and the importance of diverse representation in children’s books. He also answered a number of questions about his career posed by the young audience members.

Speaking about his appearance, Sir Lenny Henry said, “I’ve had the best time at Wimbledon BookFest. How wonderful to have 400 kids in a room all paying really close attention to me talking about my book, ‘The Boy with Wings’. I’ve loved it, it’s been a lovely hour. It’s so brilliant to have these young kids asking questions. They got to see illustrations from the book by Keenon Ferrell. They asked about the writing process. How fantastic. If I’d known when I was nine that there was a place you could go to just talk about books and listen to authors talking, I would have tunnelled my way in!”

Sir Lenny’s event marks the beginning of five days of author events for schools as part of Sunrise Festival. 5000 students visited BookFest’s marquee village on Wimbledon Common for events with award-winning authors Rob Biddulph, Simon Farnaby, Alex Wheatle MBE, Jean Menzies and Elle McNicoll.

Meanwhile, Sunrise Festival’s public programme included events with 2022 Nobel Prize Winner Abdulrazak Gurnah; Booker Prize-winner Julian Barnes; and the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction-winner Susanna Clarke in her only live event for Piranesi.

The Sunset Festival is due to take this year from 22 – 25 September). It will feature BookFest’s characteristic mix of high-profile speakers alongside diverse rising stars and local talent.

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June 20, 2022