New In-Conversation series for 2021-22

Sam Wood

The University’s ‘In Conversation’ discussion events will return for a new series on 28 September, with a further three planned through till May of 2022. Each event will take place at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre on the University’s Canterbury campus.

Launched in 2015, each event in the series consists of an informal conversation between the University’s Chancellor and author Gavin Esler, and a leading public figure.

The new series will feature individuals renowned throughout their field, promising exciting and insightful discussions on their careers as famed sailors, award-winning and multi-million copy selling authors and cookery experts and presenters.

The schedule of events are:

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston CBE28 September 2021:

Famed sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was the first person to take on the Sunday Times Golden Globe Challenge and sail solo nonstop around the world. In 1995, Sir Robin broke the around the world record and subsequently won the Jules Verne Trophy, International Sailor of the Year. Since his first solo trip he has continued to sail and race, being voted four times Yachtsman of the Year in the UK.

Sir Michael Morpurgo OBE – 1 December 2021:
Sir Michael Morpurgo is one of Britain’s best-loved story makers, has written over 130 books including the celebrated War Horse. Michael was awarded the OBE for his writing in 2006. His latest novels are When Fishes Flew (HarperCollins), Carnival of the Animals (Harper Collins) and Song of Gladness (Macmillan).

Dame Prue Leith DBE., DL7 March 2022:
Dame Prue Leith is a writer, restaurateur, cookery expert, TV presenter and is currently a judge on the Great British Bake Off. She was appointed an OBE in 1989, CBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours and DBE in the 2021 Birthday Honours for services to food, broadcasting and charity.

Val McDermid – 31 May 2022:
As an award winning author, Val McDermid has been dubbed the ‘Queen of Crime’, having sold over 17 million books, the best of which is the television-adapted Wire in the Blood. She continues to be a remarkably versatile writer and has recently returned to writing for the theatre with Margaret Saves Scotland, as well as creating the TV series Traces starring Molly Windsor and Martin Compston.

Each event will conclude with an audience Q&A, join the conversation on Twitter before the event using #GavinAsks, or email a question to

More guests in the series will be announced soon.

The booking pages are all live on the Gulbenkian website.

These events help fund the Kent Opportunity Fund – supporting a broad range of scholarships, student projects to enhance extra-curricular activities at Kent and bursaries for students working through financial hardship.

Previous guests for In Conversation include actor David Suchet CBE, crime writer Ian Rankin OBE, comedian Alan Davies, journalist and writer Polly Toynbee and film critic Mark Kermode.