Barack Obama and Duchess of Cornwall join Booker Prize ceremony

Barack Obama and Duchess of Cornwall join Booker Prize ceremony

Former US president Barack Obama, the Duchess of Cornwall and Nobel winner Kazuo Ishiguro will be among the star speakers at this year's Booker Prize ceremony.

The “ceremony without walls”, which was rescheduled to avoid clashing with Obama's presidential memoir release, takes place at London's Roundhouse on 19th November. It will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s “Front Row” and livestreamed on iPlayer and BBC Arts Digital from 7pm to 8pm.

Hosted by Radio 4’s John Wilson, it includes both virtual and in-person special guests.

On video, Obama will talk about what reading Booker Prize novels has meant to him and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will share her thoughts on the importance of reading during the pandemic.

Ishiguro will talk to Wilson about the experience of having won both the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature, while Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo will share what they have done since their joint Booker win last year. Wilson will also interview Evaristo in person about the challenges fiction has faced in 2020.

Elsewhere on the bill, the Chineke! Chamber Ensemble will be performing “String Quartet No 3” by Joseph Boulogne live from the Roundhouse. Meanwhile, on display in the venue will be the 2020 Booker Prize trophy and this year’s six bespoke bound books, created for the shortlisted authors by individual makers who are members of Designer Bookbinders.

All six shortlisted authors—Diane Cook, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Avni Doshi, Maaza Mengiste, Douglas Stuart and Brandon Taylor—will join the ceremony via a special screen in the Roundhouse and as part of a series of interviews filmed and produced by the BBC.

For the first time, The Booker Prize has partnered with The Old Vic to bring the shortlisted books to life. The six readings, directed by The Old Vic Baylis Director Katy Rudd, have been performed and filmed on The Old Vic stage and will be showcased exclusively in the ceremony.

The actors are Ann-Marie Duff for The New Wilderness (Oneworld), Thandie Newton for This Mournable Body (Faber), Ayesha Dharker for Burnt Sugar (Hamish Hamilton), Nina Sosanya for The Shadow King (Canongate), Stuart Campbell for Shuggie Bain (Picador), and Paapa Essiedu for Real Life (Daunt).

This year’s chair of judges, Margaret Busby, will be interviewed in person by Wilson before announcing the £50,000 winner.