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Man Booker 50 Festival programme unveiled

Man Booker 50 Festival programme unveiled

Today, Wednesday 11 April 2018, the Man Booker Prize announces the programme for the flagship event of its year-long 50th anniversary celebrations, the Man Booker 50 Festival. Run in partnership with Southbank Centre from 6 to 8 July, the festival’s heavy-weight line-up celebrates 50 years of the finest fiction and introduces new audiences to its winning, shortlisted and longlisted authors.

Featuring more than 60 speakers, including 17 winners from the prize’s history, from Kazuo Ishiguro (1989) to Paul Beatty (2016) – the programme of literary debates, readings and masterclasses offers an unrivalled chance to hear these champions of fiction in conversation at the UK’s leading arts centre. Spanning 17 acres, events will take place across the site in Royal Festival Hall and the newly refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room.

Tickets go on sale via Southbank Centre’s website at 1pm Wednesday 11 April to Southbank Centre members, and will be available for the general public to buy from 10am on Thursday 12 April.

The festival, curated by Festival Director Mary Sackville-West, will open on the Friday night with two giants of historical fiction, winners Pat Barker and Hilary Mantel, examining how the form can shine a light on our present, along with the challenges of writing trilogies. Saturday night sees a trio of special events, including a rare public appearance from mother and daughter Anita and Kiran Desai – both prize alumni – who discuss writing across the generations; the 2017 Man Booker International winner, David Grossman in conversation with author and former judge Natalie Haynes; and a screening of Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of the Booker-winning novel The English Patient featuring a Q&A with its author Michael Ondaatje.                                      

The star-studded Golden Man Booker Live will bring the festival to a close on the Sunday night. Compered by Jude Kelly and featuring the prizes’ judges, along with readings from actors, the event will reveal the result of the public vote and crown the best work of fiction from the last five decades of prize (see notes to editors for further information about this prize).

Helena Kennedy, Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, says:

‘The Man Booker Prize has celebrated the defining novels and authors of our times and I am delighted to mark this milestone in its history with this special festival at Southbank Centre. The one-off programme will acknowledge the prize’s past, present and future, celebrating the last 50 years of authors, looking ahead to the new voices of the literary stage and recognising the power of the art form. If the next 50 years is as fierce, playful, radical and reflective as the last, I can’t wait to be a part of it.’

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:

‘We are excited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize this year, and to have played a meaningful role in supporting this remarkable award. The Man Booker 50 Festival will mark the history and continuing relevance of the prize, with a programme which celebrates outstanding fiction from the past half century and seeks to inspire the readers and writers of the future.’

The festival programme spans literature, politics, history, art and film and features a series of unique pairings and panels including: Peter Carey and Julian Barnes on literary passions, influences and storytelling techniques; Kamila Shamsie, Andrew O’Hagan and DBC Pierre on the role of the novel in our connected world; Paul Beatty, Eleanor Catton, Deborah Levy and Graeme Macrae Burnet on experiments in literary form; Paul Beatty and Roddy Doyle on the use of comedy in fiction; Alan Hollinghurst and Marlon James considering the commonalities in their portrayal of gay sexuality and the political, cultural and sexual climates of their novels’ times; Anne Enright and Penelope Lively examining how the past impacts the present and how memory affects perception; and Colm Tóibín and Turner prize-winning artist Rachel Whiteread discussing their collaborative work on The Testament of Mary.

Ted Hodgkinson, Senior Programmer, Literature and Spoken Word, Southbank Centre, says:

‘Distilled from five decades of the finest fiction, this singular festival promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of literary brilliance. Such a rare convergence of world renowned writers spanning genres, geographies and decades of the Man Booker Prize signifies an important moment to take stock of why novels matter and how they have captured our changing world over half a century. With the festival taking place right across the whole Southbank Centre whose 1950s and 60s cultural venues have showcased the best in both established and upcoming artistic talent over the years, it is a fitting space to be celebrating these true titans of the novel as well as hearing from the visionaries writing the next chapter.’

As broadcast partner of the prize, BBC Arts is making a series of programmes throughout the festival, engaging audiences around the world in the celebrations. These include an hour-long documentary on BBC Four; Howard Jacobson’s keynote speech, which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking; and BBC World Book Club with Harriet Gilbert, during which she will discuss Bring Up the Bodies with double winner Hilary Mantel in front of a live festival audience.

The weekend will also present an exclusive strand of masterclasses offering an insight into the industry from authors at the top of their game. Ben Okri, Eleanor Catton, Kamila Shamsie and Graeme Macrae Burnet will all lead small-scale workshops on creativity and writing, and leading figures from the world of publishing will run sessions for aspiring writers on how to find a literary agent, get published and edit their novel.

The full line-up of Man Booker authors is Pat Barker, Julian Barnes, Paul Beatty, Peter Carey, Eleanor Catton, Anita Desai, Kiran Desai, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, David Grossman, Alan Hollinghurst, Kazuo Ishiguro, Howard Jacobson, Marlon James, Deborah Levy, Penelope Lively, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Hilary Mantel, Andrew O'Hagan, Ben Okri, Michael Ondaatje, DBC Pierre, Kamila Shamsie and Colm Tóibín.