London Literature Festival 2019

By Matthew Pearson

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"][/caption]

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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Celebrate a royal tradition

See the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace You can’t visit London without a glimpse of the iconic Buckingham Palace, home of the British monarchy and one of the largest – and certainly most opulent – palaces in the world. The ‘Changing of the Guard’ is one of the oldest traditions to take place at the palace and a unique event that really, you ought not to miss. The ceremony occurs when a new guard changes places with the one on duty – however, it’s not as simple as checking off your time sheet, it is a perfectly practiced and choreographed routine and part of the Palace’s history and tradition. To fill you in with a bit of history, the Guard which mounts at Buckingham Palace is called The Queen’s Guard and is divided into two Detachments: the Buckingham Palace Detachment (who are in charge of looking after Buckingham Palace) and the St James’s Palace Detachment (who are in charge of St James’s Palace). Just like it says on the tin. Household Troops have guarded the Sovereign and the Royal Palaces since 1660, however, bet you didn’t know that the sovereign lived mainly at the Palace of Whitehall until 1689, where they were guarded by their own Household Cavalry. It was only when Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace in 1837 from St James’s Palace that the Queen's Guard remained at St James's, with a detachment guarding Buckingham Palace, the same as it does today. Who knew... A sentry, or soldier, in front of the palace will be on duty for a two-hour period and every 10 minutes they will come to attention and march 15 paces across the post. Each sentry will do this four to five times before halting. Take our word for it - it's better in person, you have to be there to appreciate it! The ‘Changing of the Guard’ takes place in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace daily from April until June and is held at 11:30am. Foot Guards will usually be wearing their full-dress uniform of red tunics and bearskins and be accompanied by a Guards Band, which plays a range of traditional military marches, as well as songs from films and musicals and even famous pop songs. If you’ve already seen it and fancy something else, Buckingham Palace isn’t the only place to see the Changing of the Guard. Windsor Castle – the official weekend residence of the Queen – also hosts its own ceremony outside the Horse Guards Arch, daily at 11am. Kill two birds with one stone and visit the castle when you’re there, too! To find out more about the schedule and tradition, click here.
Vanessa Teo

Diwali in London 2019

Diwali in London 2019, including... What is Diwali? And where can I celebrate Diwali 2019? What is Diwali? Diwali is a festival of lights, observed by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists all over the planet. Around one billion people will be celebrating Diwali this year, a festival that looks to new beginnings and speaks to the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. The word Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit deepavali, which translates as ‘rows of lighted lamps’. Small oil lamps called diyas decorate public places and light them up through the night. Lanterns are lit and paraded, and firework displays illuminate the sky. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains each have their own stories associated with Diwali, and focus the celebrations towards their separate religious figures, gurus and gods. But the championing of light and displaying of optimism for the new year is common to each religion’s Diwali celebrations. As is a focus on food and feasting, with lots of little sweets and treats closely associated with Diwali. The atmosphere of the five-day celebration is one of positivity, unity and festivity, with dancing, singing, colourful clothes and bright, symbolic artworks all part of the occasion. Where Can I Celebrate Diwali in London? Diwali on Trafalgar Square The biggest public festival celebrating Diwali in London takes place on Trafalgar Square. Thousands head to this free party, right in the centre of London each year. Join them and witness some fabulous Garba dance performances. Instructors are there to teach you how to join in with the dance. The kids area, packed full of fun and educational activities (including the chance to make their own candles and lanterns), is perfect for young guests. And, when their crafting and arguments over glue sticks have stressed you out, head over to the yoga area for some guided meditation and yogic exercise. Hosted each year by the Mayor of London, 2019’s event looks to be as uplifting and vibrant as ever. Sunday 3rd November 2019, 13.00 - FREE [caption id="attachment_5371" align="alignnone" width="1000"][/caption] Light up the Night at Wembley Park A huge celebration of Diwali and Bonfire Night, Light Up the Night fuses the two light-filled festivals together to reflect the cultural diversity of the Wembley Park neighbourhood. Get ready for a big and bold and vibrant parade. Expect to see illuminated butterfly sculptures, live bands, hundreds of lanterns made by the local community, troupes of fantastically dressed dancers and light-up mechanical puppets. There’ll be tons of fabulous street food available and funfair rides in Market Square. Then a fireworks display will take over the sky at 19.00. After that, the local Boxpark will stay open for those still in the mood to dance and celebrate. Also, entry is completely free. Sunday 10th November 2019, 17.00 - FREE [caption id="attachment_5373" align="alignnone" width="1000"][/caption] Diwali: Festival of Light at National Maritime Museum Diwali: Festival of Light is a perfect event for those wanting to get involved in the traditional art, dance and music of Diwali. So try your hand at lantern making, helped on your way by artist Ling Chiu who’ll teach you all about her lotus flower-inspired designs. Join artist Meera Chauda to learn more about Rangoli art, colourful pattered pieces made from coloured rice, flour, sand and flower petals. See the stories of Diwali brought to life in the storytelling area. Another zone introduces you to the beats, sounds and rhythms of the festival in a special drum workshop. There’s a dance workshop too, where Bollywood Co dancers will perform and teach you some of their moves. Everyone is encouraged to take part in the evening parade, bringing along all they’ve made and learned throughout the day. Together, all the day's guests create a jubilant, lively and colourful parade from the National Maritime Museum to Greenwich Park. It’s all free. Saturday 26th October 2019, 11.00 - 16.30 - FREE Diwali and Harrow Fireworks A joint celebration of Diwali and Guy Fawkes Night, Diwali and Harrow Fireworks is a whole day event with funfair rides, food, dancing and pyrotechnics. Arrive between 12.00 and 16.00, entry is entirely free. There's a small fee payable after that. There’ll be traditional dance performances and entertainment. And plenty of shopping stalls and food from all over the world, including fish and chips, a carvery, a BBQ, hog roast and lots and lots of Indian food. Finally, the fireworks kick off around 19.45, and zip off into the air soundtracked by famous songs from the movies. Saturday 2nd November 2019, 12.00 onwards - FREE UNTIL 16.00 Diwali with Dishoom and Dinerama Popular and critically-lauded Indian restaurant chain Dishoom are once again celebrating Diwali in London at Dinerama this year. There’s an incredible line-up of live musicians to enjoy, including fusion artist Vibe Bhatia, Sarangi player Amrit Kaur Lohia and headliner Soumik Datta, as well as spoken word poetry from Jaspreet Kaur. In addition, DJ Ryan Lanji will be keeping the mood up and happy and celebratory throughout the evening. When it comes to food, Street Feast’s traders will be dishing out their best veggie dishes, and Dishoom are set to be serving a huge jackfruit biryani and a secret new street food dish from Chef Naved. Everyone’s welcome, but they recommend 12 and over when it comes to the kids. Tickets are £8 and include a Dishoom chai and mithai. Tuesday 22nd October. 18.00 - 22.30 [caption id="attachment_5370" align="alignnone" width="1000"][/caption] Diwali Night at Wanstead Rugby Club Wanstead Rugby Club provides the setting for this Diwali celebration. Including Puja (a prayer ritual) and Rangoli (an art form associated with Diwali), this is one of the most traditional events celebrating Diwali in London. At the rugby club, there’s face painting and mehendi, special dance performances and DJs to look forward to. From 20.00, you'll be tucking into a three course vegetarian meal. Also, please note that guests are encouraged to bring their own fireworks to add to the communal pile. There is a strictly ethnic Indian dress code. Saturday 2nd November 2019, 18.00 - £22.25 So, that's it for our Diwali in London feature. And if you're looking for more things to do this Autumn, have a look here.
Matthew Pearson

Windsor Castle, fit for a Queen!

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and has been the home of British kings and queens for nearly 1,000 years. It’s an official residence of Her Majesty the Queen- and her favourite weekend retreat! Lying just 25 miles from central London, it’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city into the quiet, rural (and very green) Berkshire. As a favourite address of the Queen, she spends most of her private weekends at Windsor Castle and also likes to stay there during Easter and for a week’s holiday in June, when she attends Royal Ascot. So if it’s good enough for the monarchy, it’s good enough for us... As one of the oldest royal landmarks in Britain, and largest inhabited castles in the world, it’s used regularly for ceremonial and state occasions and often hosts state visits from other monarchs and presidents. Covering a site of over thirteen acres, Windsor Castle sprawls a huge expanse and is a prominent feature on the hilltop of Windsor. From State Apartments to the Round Tower there’s so much to explore and discover in the lavish rooms to the portrait-lined hallways. Ever wondered how the royals live? Well don’t miss the State Apartments, which reflect the changing tastes of the Castle’s royal occupants, especially Charles II (r.1660-85) and George IV (r.1820-30). It’s lavish, up a notch! Another of the major highlights is Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, arguably the largest, most exquisite and most famous dolls’ house in the world. It was created for Queen Mary by the leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924 and is a true testament to intricate design and architecture. Travel back in time and picture the royal weddings of the 18th and 19th centuries in St George’s Chapel. It’s one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England and is also the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter: the senior order of British Chivalry established in 1348 by Edward III. If you want something a bit more interactive, why not take one of the many expert-led tours by to discover the palace and learn about it’s rich past, including an audio tour with an introduction by the Prince of Wales, and special audio tours for children, too. Make sure you remember your camera – it’s a picture perfect landmark! Check out our infographic to learn about the riveting history about Windsor Castle from the past to present. Plus, with a London Pass you can even visit without any further payment! It’s not to be missed...
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