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From the 18th to the 29th of October 2023, the London Literature Festival returns to the Southbank Centre for its 16th edition, bringing prestigious authors and rising literary talent together to offer a celebration of the written and spoken word.
The festival opens with Debut London Literature, presenting writers who all feature London as a backdrop in their debut novels. Talents such as Nicola Dinan, Brian Moriarty and Wiz Wharton talk to Zing Tsjeng, Editor in Chief at VICE and VICE UK, and author of Forgotten Women, about their debuts.
This year’s edition celebrates poetry with a night of music and spoken word curated by George the Poet, bringing to life his anthology Part of a Story That Started Before Me, a powerful poetical journey through Black British History. There will also be gala events dedicated to 70 years of the National Poetry Library, the world’s largest public collection of modern poetry.
Whether you want to hear from your favourite authors, discover new talent, or learn more about the publishing industry, there is an event for you. While most events are ticketed, some are free to attend, such as talks part of the Creative Future Writers’ Day and an evening of Poetry and Paint. Here are some of the highlights from the talks and events you can attend throughout the festival:
Black British Book Festival – For the first time, the Black British Book Festival, Europe’s largest celebration of Black literature, will take place at the Southbank Centre. Featuring events from emerging and leading Black British authors across all genres, such Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Gary Younge, and Oti Mabuse, the festival aims to make literature more accessible to communities who might not be reached by the publishing industry. For instance, the session Unmasking Brilliance: Black British Voices showcases the extraordinary role and achievements of Black British voices in the media, with talks concerning the present and future of representation in the media landscape. Also, if you are an aspiring BookToker and want to learn how to build your online presence and create engaging content, then this #BlackBookTok Masterclass with Fats Timbo is an unmissable chance to hear from a social media star (who you probably know from TikTok).
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Prestigious prize-winning authors – Hear award-winning authors present their newest novels, such as Dylan Thomas Prize winner Bryan Washington’s Family Meal and Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists’ Adam Thirlwell with his newest book The Future Future. Also, Korean author and winner of Japan's most prestigious literary prize, the Akutagawa Prize, Yu Miri, brings her latest novel to be translated into English, The End of August. More authors include Helen Oyeyemi, Ian Rankin, and Teju Cole.
Stars of stage and screen – Memoirs, memoirs, and memoirs, from Kerry Washington, Jada Pinkett Smith, Patrick Stewart, and many more screen talents. Dance star Oti Mabuse, champion of Strictly Come Dancing and host of CBeebies Boogie Beebies presents an interactive celebration of her picture book Dance With Oti: The Lion Samba.
New books and new ideas – The concept of truth is explored in Sandra Newman’s retelling of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four with her latest book Julia, and in a conversation about true-crime between novelists Eliza Clark and Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. There will also be moments to reflect on our future, with Oliver Jeffers introducing his new picture book for adults, Begin Again: The Story of How We Got Here and Where We Might Go, and Thomas Heatherwick’s Humanise offering an analysis on the influence of buildings on humanity and the planet, and how these can be improved.
Revisiting visionary writers – Fellow science fiction fans, these two events are for you. Douglas Adams: 42 will be a panel discussion celebrating the author and present John Davies’ new book, 42, in which hundreds of Adams’ personal artefacts are collected, including notebooks, letters, scripts, and jokes. Wordriver: Celebrating Ursula K Le Guin will be a performative reading by So Mayer and Sarah Shin to mark the publication of a new collection of Le Guin’s writing, Space Crone. Last but not least, there will be readings from a new book, Seamus Heaney: A Life In Letters, to mark ten years since the poet’s passing.
Photo by Rumman Amin (licensed under Unsplash Licence)
Fostering new talent – The festival provides a platform for emerging literary talent, with events such as Debut London Literature and the Creative Future Writers’ Award Showcase introducing and empowering new voices. Hear from the newest names in poetry at the New Poets Collective Showcase, where they will present the work created in their year-long tutelage.
Free events, talks and more – As previously mentioned, there is a wide range of free events that you can participate in. Attend a live recording of BBC Radio 4’s show Open Book, or challenge yourself to write a poem or song in 15 minutes at the festival’s Stress Tests. Lastly, the festival wraps up on the 29th of October with the National Poetry Library Day, a day of performances, an interactive workshop, and a display of the collection’s hidden gems.
For further information and to see all of the London Literature Festival’s events, visit the Southbank Centre’s website here.
Edited by Lara Mae Simpson, Literature Editor