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Matthew Pearson

London Literature Festival 2019

London Literature Festival 2019 features a whole host of interesting events, book readings, performances and talks. Held annually at the Southbank Centre, this year's event promises to be bigger, more diverse and more engaging than ever. So here’s our quick guide to the festival, including...

  • How it's organised
  • Some of our selected highlights
  • Info on how to get the most from it

What is it?

London Literature Festival 2019 is a series of talks, performances and readings featuring some of the planet’s most popular, thought provoking and important writers, thinkers and commentators. Now in its thirteenth year, the festival comprises of an extensive programme of events held at the Southbank Centre. They've got a particularly diverse and eclectic lineup of writer events, performances and panels this year. But, as ever, several of this year's events hinge on a particular theme. This year, a series of events linked under the banner Once Upon Our Times will explore how classic fairytales are retold by contemporary writers. They'll dig into reasons writers use classic tales to help us understand the world as we find it today. London Literature Festival 2019 opens with Poetry International, five days of poetry and spoken word performances by some of the world’s most powerful poetic voices. The biennial poetry festival was founded by Ted Hughes back in 1967 and this year will feature more than 40 different unique poets and performers. As London Literature Festival 2019 runs during October half term week, the Southbank are putting on plenty of family-friendly events. So those with kids kicking their heels at home should check out the huge number of inspiring and entertaining events on the programme. And there’s plenty of free stuff too!

When is it?

London Literature Festival 2019 runs for 11 days between Thursday 17th October and Sunday 27th October.

How do I get involved?

You can book tickets to individual events. Alternatively, tap into multi-buy discounts when you grab tickets for three or more events (selected events only). You can find the whole line up and book tickets here.

What are the non-fiction highlights?

Poet, playwright and broadcaster Lemn Sissay will be discussing his new memoir, My Name Is Why. The creation of a mind that has always stopped to question, Sissay's biography interrogates notions of Britishness, race and home. Personal and pertinent, My Name Is Why explores Sissay's life with frankness and charm. Suede frontman Brett Anderson will be in conversation with Miranda Sawyer on 23rd October. He’ll be chatting through his second autobiography, Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn. It covers the early days of Suede, when the singer's creative partnership with Bernard Butler was just starting to bloom. The memoir also portrays Anderson's dark days of addiction with a brutal, reflexive honesty. Anthony Daniels, beloved for his portrayal of multi-lingual droid C-3PO in the Star Wars film franchise, will be talking about his new memoir. Discussing My Life as C-3PO, he’ll be looking back on his decades-long career playing the neurotic robot. Expect plenty of stories from set, from the early days when no one knew they had a cultural phenomenon on their hands, right up to filming the latest installment. [caption id="attachment_5353" align="alignnone" width="1000"]


And the fiction highlights?

The main event in the London Literature Festival 2019 running thread of fairy tales retold, Once Upon Our Times closes out the festival. The October 27th event sees performances of five distinct and powerful retellings of ancient folk stories. With a company of actors and live music soundtrack, its a perfect way to end the festival. There’ll be live readings of Salman Rushdie’s version of a story from Arabian Nights; a piece by Marlon James, inspired by African folklore; and specially commissioned pieces by Daisy Johnson and Sharlene Teo. Bernardine Evaristo and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi will be speaking with one another about the themes and ideas that went into each of their latest books, Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other and Makumbi’s Manchester Happened. Though distinct and penetrating in their own ways, both take their readers on a far-reaching search for identity. Tuesday 22nd October sees Heather Morris discussing the follow-up to her hugely successful debut novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The New York Times bestselling author will be talking through the real life inspiration behind her new novel, Cilka’s Journey.


Trailblazing poet and activist Nikki Giovanni will be talking about her storied career, influential work and views on contemporary issues in race, politics, sex and loneliness. A leader amongst leaders in the Black Arts Movement of the 60s and 70s, Giovanni is today one of the world’s most famous and acclaimed African American poets. She’ll be in conversation with writer Bridget Minamore. The Poetry International festival which opens London Literature Festival 2019 sees the launch of Poems from the Edge of Extinction. This important, revolutionary anthology collects poems written in the world's most endangered languages. The collection brings together a diverse set of poets from every continent, and shines a light on the reasons why their native tongues are in danger of being forgotten. Whether the result of political actions, climate change, genocide or the lasting scars of colonialism, the poems powerfully put forward the need to preserve languages facing existential threats.

And for young people?

YA Lit Day (Saturday 26th October) is a highlight for all fans of Young Adult fiction, aged 13 and up. This year’s event sees panels discussing topics as diverse as Fairy Tales in the 21st Century; Social Media and Social Norms; and how dystopian worlds help us understand the issues most relevant to our time. Highlights for young kids include Baba Yaga, a retelling of a classic Russian fairy tale. Also, there's a must-see show based on Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns by Olivier-nominated production company Wizard Presents. And Eoin Colfer, known best as the author of Artemis Fowl, launching the new spin off series, The Fowl Twins.

Where do I get tickets?

You can read more about London Literature Festival 2019, find out about all the events you can see and buy yourself some front row tickets right here.

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