London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre

London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre, 18th – 29th October 2023.
The annual London Literature Festival returns with a guest-curator for the first time, George the Poet, kicking off the festival’s electric spoken word focus with a Royal Festival Hall takeover for one night only. Other programming highlights include new memoirs by Sir Patrick Stewart, Kerry Washington, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Ed Gamble, alongside new work by literary excellence including Yu Miri, Teju Cole, Ian Rankin and Bryan Washington.
The Southbank Centre’s new partnership with the Black British Book Festival celebrates Black British writing across all genres and offers free workshops and events, while family events with the likes of Jacqueline Wilson, Jeffrey Boakye and free activities offer ways for families to enjoy literature and culture over October half term. The National Poetry Library also marks its 70th birthday this year, with events spotlighting the spoken word poetry scene and a new free exhibition, A Birthday Garland.
Tonight, the festival opens with a discussion between London’s rising literary talent; authors who present their debut books, all of which feature London as a backdrop – making them a neat fit for the festival’s opening night. This is hosted by Editor in Chief of VICE and VICE UK, Zing Tsjeng.
Bryan Moriarty was born in Dublin and studied at Trinity College Dublin before moving to London to train as an actor at LAMDA (London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art). In addition to performing in theatre, film and TV, he has written and produced several short films, plays and a web series. His first novel, Sounds Like Fun, was selected for the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2021.
‘London’s size, its lack of a single centre, its never-ending sprawl of beauty and grot all overwhelmed me when I first moved here, and about ten years later seeped its way into my first book,’ says Moriarty. ‘To meet and connect with readers is so encouraging, particularly as you’re starting out as a writer, and events like the London Literature Festival make that possible.’
Amongst a stellar line-up, events include:
A Birthday Garland Opening Night

19 October, 7:30pm, National Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall

The opening of the National Poetry Library’s latest exhibition, featuring new work by Mary Kuper. Commissioned as part of the library’s 70th birthday celebrations, Kuper’s work explores the etymology of words to create dream-like images in which past and current meanings meet, pointing towards future possibilities.

Mary Kuper: A Birthday Garland

20 October – 11 February, Tuesday 12-6pm, Wednesday to Sunday 12-8pm, National Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall

The latest National Poetry Library exhibition, featuring new work by Mary Kuper. Commissioned as part of the library’s 70th birthday celebrations, Kuper’s work explores the etymology of words to create dream-like images in which past and current meanings meet, pointing towards future possibilities.

George the Poet Presents

20 October, 7:30pm, Royal Festival Hall

George the Poet, the acclaimed spoken word artist and award-winning podcaster of Have You Heard George’s Podcast?, curates an electric night of music and spoken word. Drawing on his new anthology, Part of a Story That Started Before Me, George the Poet is joined by musicians and talent from London’s spoken word scene, including Sophia Thakur, Henry Stone, Proph and Inua Ellams, to kick off the opening weekend of the London Literature Festival.

Creative Future Writers’ Award Showcase

20 October, 7:30pm, Level 5 Function Room, Royal Festival Hall

Twelve promising writers from a variety of backgrounds read from their award-winning work at this tenth showcase of underrepresented talent. Hosted by Wayne Holloway-Smith, Irenosen Okojie and Nina Mingya Powles, this event sees the winning writers read their word, alongside the hosts and Creative Future’s 2023 regional Writers In Residence. Presented in partnership with Creative Future, a development programme for talented writers from a wealth of backgrounds.

Creative Future Writers’ Day

21 October, 11am, Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer

Collect industry tips, advice and resources from literary professionals at this day of panel events and talks. A literary fair also takes over the Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer, with leading literary organisations and publishers exhibiting their work and welcoming chats. Talks range from getting published to insider knowledge on acquiring representation. Presented in partnership with Creative Future.

Autumn Readings

21 October, 7:15pm, Level 5 Function Room, Royal Festival Hall

Mark the launch of Poetry London magazine’s autumn issue at an event featuring a reading from poet Michael Hofmann. Poetry London is supported by Arts Council England, Cockayne Foundation and London Community Foundation.

The New Poets Collective Showcase

21 October, 7:45pm, Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Our 2022/23 New Poets Collective perform and present their work created over the year. With support from the TS Eliot Foundation, our New Poets Collective is a free programme that helps a new group every year develop as versatile creative artists. Beginning annually at the London Literature Festival, the collective are tutored by poets Vanessa Kisuule, Will Harris and special guest poets.

Stress Test

21 & 27 October 7:45pm, Blue Room, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall

Challenge yourself to write a poem or song in 15 minutes to perform in front of an audience, alongside a group of Stress Test regulars – Joe Dunthorne, Ella Frears, John Osborne and Martha Sprackland – plus special musical guests and poets. Stress Test has been broadcast on Soho Radio since 2019.

Poetry and Paint

22 October 4:30pm, The Clore Ballroom, Level 2, Royal Festival Hall

Get ready for an evening of creativity and empowerment, celebrating the talent and artistry of Black women poets and artists with Black Woman Artist Network (BWA). In this collaboration connecting visual and spoken art, poets perform pieces while visual artists paint live on stage inspired by the words that are spoken. During this event, BWA welcomes the audience to participate in an open mic session which you can sign up to in advance online.

Wordriver: Celebrating Ursula K Le Guin

25 October, 7:45pm, Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

The written and spoken word meet at this performed reading inspired by the sci-fi author Ursula K Le Guin’s work. Reading at the event are So Mayer and Sarah Shin, the editors of Space Crone, a new collection of Le Guin’s writing which brings together her words on feminism and gender, including Dangerous People, for the first time. They are joined by Nisha Ramayya, the poet and academic. Wordriver explores the confluence of the written and spoken, the currents of truth in fiction, and the flows between daughters and mothers in a matrilineal society still marked by the legacies of militarism and toxic masculinity.

Out-Spoken: October

26 October, 7:45pm, Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

London’s premier night of poetry and live music, hosted by TS Eliot and Polari Prize winner Joelle Taylor. These vibrant monthly events feature live sets of music by world-class musicians performed between spoken word poetry sets by the hottest UK poets. Performing in this London Literature Festival edition are Jay Bernard, Joe Carrick-Varty and Denise Saul. Out-Spoken are in residency at the Southbank Centre and bring monthly events that champion diversity in voice and performance, with Sam ‘Junior’ Bromfield spinning the best in reggae, soul and R&B throughout the evening.

The National Poetry Library Open Day

29 October, 11-5pm, National Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall

A day of spoken word performances from poets making waves in the spoken-word scene, interactive workshops and hidden gems anchored on the theme of Spoken Word in the National Poetry Library – the largest public collection of modern poetry in the world. The annual open day is a chance to view the rarities and new acquisitions from the collection and learn more about poetry. With this year’s theme in mind, the Open Day explores how performative and spoken forms of poetry have developed from the Dadaists, through to the Beats and the current generation of poets who are exploding the binaries between poetry and music, text and visual art.

Seamus Heaney: A Life in Letters

29 October, 2:15pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall

We mark ten years since Seamus Heaney’s passing with readings from and discussion of a new book of his letters, revealing the late poet’s life in his own words. Alongside poems and reflections from a panel of writers, this one-off event charts the life and poetic development of a literary titan.

National Poetry Library at 70

29 October, 7pm, Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Legendary Mersey Sound poets Roger McGough MBE and Brian Patten are among the stars appearing at this gala celebration of the National Poetry Library’s 70th birthday. They lead an exciting line-up of poets taking to the stage to bring the incredible range of poetries in the library’s collection to life, as well as answering questions from the audience. The second half of the event features quick-fire readings from the next generation of poets who are breaking new ground.



For more information about London Literature Festival, visit the Southbank Centre website.

Image courtesy of Toyin Dawudu.

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