The end of August sees a new festival join the circuit, one all about celebrating difference, welcoming in outsiders, and lifting up non-conformists


Primadonna festival takes place from 30 August – 1 September in Pettaugh, Suffolk. It bills itself as more than just a festival, but an opportunity to step outside the craziness and enjoy “the world as it should be, for one weekend”. And it includes everything from interviews with famous writers to live music from up-and-coming bands, Dirty Dancing to gong baths, and even a bit of football from the women at Delia’s club Norwich City.

Primadonna is the brainchild of Jane Dyball, one of the music’s industry’s most powerful players, and author and Women’s Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer.

They had the idea for a different kind of festival that featured new as well as famous names in literature, music, arts and culture, putting women – including trans and queer women – first, and gathered a group of 15 more “Primadonnas”  – including lesbian icon Sandi Toksvig – to help them make their idea a reality, and the Primadonna Festival was born.

The Primadonnas

The festival line-up includes an appearance by Sandi, who will be speaking onstage to Catherine about her life, career and becoming a “national Trevor”.

Sandi began her comedy career at Cambridge University before moving into kids’ TV and then a number of mainstream comedy shows. She came out in 1994, against the advice of many of her colleagues in the media, and as a result received death threats and had to take her family into hiding.

Since then she has campaigned for gay rights and gender equality, co-founding the Women’s Equality Party with Catherine in 2015, all while being really quite successful on TV, radio, in books, on the stage and generally in everything else.

Sandi is a big fan of one of the other entertainment acts appearing at Primadonna, the surrealist comedian Ada Campe. Ada’s cabaret will be part of the late night line-up which also includes comedian Katy Brand introducing her favourite film Dirty Dancing, followed by a live screening of the film (with optional dirty dancing), and live music from the likes of Ginny Dix, Rokky, Hurtling and Gina Birch of Raincoats fame.

Dirty Dancing Friday GIF by Lionsgate Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

Many of the main events focus on writers and writing – there are poets, novelists, historians, memoirists and biographers on the bill. You can see the likes of Elif Shafak, Michael Donkor, Guy Gunaratne, Diana Evans, Luke Jennings (of Killing Eve fame), Amanda Prowse, Raymond Antrobus and Kit de Waal – huge names in the literary world – speaking on the same stage as emerging voices such as trans poet Gray Crosbie and queer writer Ely Percy.

And if you’re an aspiring writer yourself, you can get advice from literary agents, publishers, writers and editors at a variety of workshops and talks that offer face-to-face opportunities for you to learn from the very best.

Overwork GIF by Carlotta Notaro - Find & Share on GIPHY

There’s also a very special opportunity for aspiring comedy writers, who can come along to “Make Sioned Laugh” and try out some of their best punchlines on Sioned Wiliam, Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor for Comedy.

Everything is designed to be family friendly – so keep the jokes clean – which means there’s plenty for kids to do if you have some to bring along. Konnie Huq, one of Britain’s most-loved TV presenters (Blue Peter, The Xtra Factor, King of the Nerds and London Talking) will introduce her science geek character Cookie, star of her three new young fiction books, and children’s illustrator Debbie Allwright will be adapting her most famous book The Night Pirates into a participatory art event with animals, trees, insects and perhaps people too.

So if you’re looking for a weekend away to mark the end of a splendid summer, and you’re not one for quiet nights under the stars (although we’re told you can have that too), check out and we’ll see you under the awning at the end of August.

Twitter: @PrimadonnaFest

Facebook: @primadonnafestival

Instagram: @PrimadonnaFestival

There’s still time to grab tickets for this year’s best new festival, but hurry: they’re selling fast, and you really don’t want to miss out.

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