The former home of Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant is examining both the roots of tradition and the innovative thinking needed to tackle 21st-century issues at this year’s literary festival.

And, as ever, the farmhouse-based festival is punching well above its weight with some of the biggest names in contemporary writing contributing to debates and discussing their latest works.

This year the Charleston Festival is also supporting a programme of creative writing courses with the Faber Academy at nearby Tilton House.

Course tutors John Boyne (author of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas), novelist Jill Dawson, The Tiger Who Came To Tea creator Judith Kerr and Faber editorial director Hannah Griffiths will be joined by Starter For Ten and One Day author David Nicholls for the opening event tonight discussing their writing.

Also on the bill for the opening weekend are Mark Logue, the grandson of speech therapist Lionel Logue whose story was immortalised in the multi-Oscar-winning The King’s Speech, the BBC’s former economics editor Evan Davies on the decline of English manufacturing, best-selling authors Joanna Trollope and PD James, and the last surviving Mitford sister Deborah Devonshire.

Tomorrow’s Charleston Debate, from 7.30pm, will debate the motion “Our obsession with the past is a distraction from reality”. And on Wednesday Melvyn Bragg will be discussing the King James Bible on its 400th anniversary from 3.30pm, while later that evening at 8pm Edmund de Waal will be talking about his best-selling novel The Hare With Amber Eyes.

Other big name guests through the rest of the festival include Wallander creator Henning Mankell and philosopher A C Grayling on Friday, playwright Michael Frayn discussing his new memoir on Saturday, May 28, and biographer Michael Holroyd on Sunday, May 29.

As ever the festival closes with a theatrical performance by Eileen Atkins who will deliver two of Victorian actress Ellen Terry’s lectures on Shakespeare’s heroines.

For more information about the full festival programme, visit