Publishers and past winners joined the Duchess of Cornwall at a reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate 50 years of the Man Booker Prize last night (5th July).
Ten former Man Booker Prize winners attended: Julian Barnes, Paul Beatty, Peter Carey, Eleanor Catton, Kiran Desai, Alan Hollinghurst, Howard Jacobson, Marlon James, V. S. Naipaul and Ben Okri. Publishers at the event included Baroness Gail Rebuck, HarperCollins UK c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne, Bloomsbury chief executive Nigel Newton, Hachette UK c.e.o. David Shelley, Head of Zeus founder Anthony Cheetham, and Publishers Association c.e.o. Stephen Lotinga. Past judges at the event were Baroness Lola Young, Dame Carmen Callil DBE, Professor Sarah Churchwell, Dr Amanda Foreman, Professor Anthony Grayling CBE and Anthony Thwaite. Publisher Tom Maschler, who alongside Graham C. Greene was responsible for setting up the prize in 1968, also attended.
Speaking at the reception, Baroness Helena Kennedy, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: “The 50th anniversary is a landmark year for the Man Booker Prize, celebrating the past, present and future. Literature has the power to change lives, quite apart from the writers who the prize honours tonight. It has an enormous influence in prisons, libraries universities and schools, the work of the Booker Prize Foundation would not be possible without the very generous support of the Man Group.”
Luke Ellis, c.e.o. of Man Group, acknowledged the contributions to the prize of past literary director Ion Trewin and Dotti Irving, who runs PR company Four Colman Getty. He also defended the still controversial move to allow US authors to compete for the award. "The extending of the prize to include all novels written in English and the establishment of the Man Booker International Prize are merely recognition of something we all know – that great ideas don’t respect boundaries, that real excellence wants to perform on the widest stage possible."
The event marked the start of a weekend of anniversary activities. From Friday 6th to Sunday 8th July, all of the past winners in attendance will take part in the Man Booker 50 Festival at Southbank Centre. Featuring more than 60 speakers, the programme of literary debates, readings and masterclasses offers an unrivalled chance to hear these giants of fiction in conversation at the UK’s leading arts centre. The final event of the weekend, Golden Man Booker Live, will crown the best work of fiction from the last five decades of the prize as voted for by the public.