Canongate creates Letters Live company

Canongate creates Letters Live company

Canongate has created a spin-off company to further develop its Letters Live series of events.

Five shows, which will feature actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Louise Brealey, will run at the Freemasons’ Hall from 31st March to 4th April 2015. The live events will celebrate the “enduring power of literary correspondence”, and will support the literacy charities The Reading Agency, First Story, and Ministry of Stories.

Canongate has partnered with the film and television production company SunnyMarch to build Letters Live into what it described as a “far-reaching and ambitious business”. SunnyMarch is a UK based production company run by producers Adam Ackland, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Adam Selves. Writers Shaun Usher and Simon Garfield are also shareholders of the new Letters Live business.

The first Letters Live took place in December 2013, inspired by the anthology Letters of Note compiled by Shaun Usher (originally crowd-funded on Unbound, and then published with Canongate) and To the Letter by Simon Garfield (Canongate). Alongside the five spring events, a further "half dozen" events are being planned for 2015, including its first overseas reading on 16th June in Los Angeles, when it partners with 826LA to present a celebration of letter writing for 826LA’s 10th anniversary. The event will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

Cumberbatch and Brealey will take to the stage for every night of the Freemasons’ Hall run, reading letters alongside a diverse array of world class performers each evening, including luminaries from the stage, screen, music, art and literary worlds. Cumberbatch's production company will also help develop the multimedia side of the business, with filmed content to be made available on the Letters Live website.

Canongate m.d. and publisher Jamie Byng said the decision to partner with SunnyMarch was a result of Cumberbatch's role in the first Letters Live shows. "Benedict had been such a great part of those events, and having met Adam and Adam, it felt very natural to create this partnership. We could have carried on trying to build it as a Canongate business, and we spent a lot of time thinking about that. But we have limited resources, and in terms of taking it to the next level, building the type of events we wanted to put on, as well as increasing the regularity, we needed to do it as a separate thing."

Byng said the business was now in discussions about additional events for 2015, as well as a programme of evenings for 2016. "It's all really pretty exciting," he said. Letters of Note Vol. II: More Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience will be published by Canongate in September.