Booker Prize reveals shortlist events ahead of big announcement

Booker Prize reveals shortlist events ahead of big announcement

The Booker Prize will showcase its shortlisted authors with appearances via “Front Row”, social media and Guardian Live alongside readings from the Old Vic on the big night.

This year's winner of the £50,000 prize will be revealed on 19th November, in a ceremony at London's Roundhouse that was delayed to avoid clashing with the launch of Barack Obama's memoirs.

The books in contention for 2020 are Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness (Oneworld), Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body (Faber), Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar (Hamish Hamilton), Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King (Canongate), Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain (Picador) and Brandon Taylor’s Real Life (Daunt Originals).

From 26th October the prize will showcase two books each week. On Mondays and Thursdays at 7.15pm, BBC Radio 4’s “Front Row” will air its Booker Book Groups, which give readers the chance to ask questions of each shortlisted author. Meanwhile, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5pm, The Booker Prize will livestream, on its Facebook and YouTube channels, exclusive author conversations and readings as well as interviews with some familiar faces, who will reveal which book they are enjoying.

On 11th November at 7pm, Guardian Live will host the six shortlisted authors together for the first time in a livestreamed discussion chaired by writer and critic Alex Clark.

Two days later, on 13th November at 7pm, arts programme Doncaster Creates, the prize’s regional partner for 2020, will bring together the authors with Sheffield-born poet and former Man Booker International judge Helen Mort.

Over three consecutive nights from 16th November The Booker Prize and Waterstones are teaming up to host Instagram Live conversations, featuring interviews with two shortlisted authors each evening.

Also in the run-up to the winner announcement, BBC Two and BBC World News will broadcast a special 30-minute Booker Prize programme. Kit de Waal will follow the progress of the prize, profile the authors, speak to the judging panel and talk to last year's co-winner Bernardine Evaristo.

Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: “We're delighted to be bringing The Booker Prize winner ceremony to thousands this year. The year of Covid has led us to interpret in a new light the Booker Prize Foundation's purpose of promoting the art of literature for the public benefit. We're grateful for the collaborative creativity of the BBC, The Old Vic, the Roundhouse, and many generous-spirited organisations and individuals, with whom we are working to allow readers all over the world to join us in celebrating the year's finest fiction.”

It all culminates on 19th November in a ceremony broadcast on “Front Row” from 7.15pm and streamed on iPlayer and the BBC Arts Live Page. It will be hosted by Radio 4’s John Wilson and feature a line-up of special guests, including last year’s winners Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood, and members of the Chineke! Orchestra.

For the first time, The Booker Prize and BBC are partnering with The Old Vic to bring the shortlisted books to life through a series of performances by celebrated actors, directed by Katy Rudd. 

This year’s chair of judges Margaret Busby will announce the winner, who will hear the news live and deliver an acceptance speech on screen. The author will then give their first television interview to BBC arts editor Will Gompertz for BBC News.

Following the announcement, Southbank Centre will host the first digital event with the winner, interviewed by Evaristo, on 23rd November.

Jonty Claypole, director of BBC Arts, added: “The Booker Prize is one of the cultural landmarks of the year. A moment when we celebrate the power of literature and connect hundreds of thousands of readers with extraordinary books. Its global recognition is testament to our creative confidence as a nation and our ability to shine a light on great art wherever it comes from. Its mission feels more important than ever in 2020 and the BBC is proud to support it, celebrating the shortlist—and winner—across the UK and to the world.”