The Duchess of Cornwall led celebrations for the seventh anniversary anniversary of the National Literacy Trust’s flagship criminal justice programme, Books Unlocked, which is supported by The Booker Prize Foundation.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is patron of the National Literacy Trust and has previously visited HMP Brixton and HMP Styal in support of Books Unlocked, which provides those in prisons and young offender institutions with free copies of Booker Prize titles to read, discuss and keep, and facilitates visits from the authors of these titles.
The royal attend a special reception at KPMG’s literacy café in central London, which has been transformed into a Books Unlocked pop-up café open until December. KPMG will donate some of the profits of every ‘literacy latte’ sold during this time to support the programme.
At the reception, the Duchess met key supporters of the Books Unlocked programme, including Booker Prize shortlisted authors Stephen Kelman and Rachel Seiffert who have visited prison reading groups in support of Books Unlocked, and prison librarians from around the country.
Booker shortlist Elif Shafak and 2019 Booker judge Peter Florence took part in a panel discussing the complexity of identity as well as how the ‘extreme reading’ that the Booker Prize judges must undertake is a challenging but wholly enriching experience.
In the Q&A which followed, the Duchess asked Shafak, who is a multi-lingual writer, how she chooses which language to write in and Shafak spoke about how she cherishes being able to express stories in different languages and often finds she can portray sadness well in Turkish and irony in English.
Prison librarians also asked Shafak and Florence, on behalf of their prison reading groups, about the importance of getting reluctant readers into reading and representation. Kelman and Seiffert also contributed their experiences of visiting prison reading groups as part of Books Unlocked.
Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the National Literacy Trust, said: “We were delighted to be able to celebrate Books Unlocked today with some of the incredible people who make the programme such a success, including Her Royal Highness, inspiring authors and extraordinary prison librarians. Not only that, but we were able to get an unrivalled insight into The Booker Prize and bring questions from people in prisons directly to the authors whose books they have read, discussed and now own. The event was a fitting tribute to the power of reading, right down to the setting in the fantastic Books Unlocked pop-up café.”
The event was recorded by National Prison Radio and will be broadcast directly into almost 80,000 cells in prisons and young offender institutions across England and Wales in the coming weeks. Books Unlocked works with National Prison Radio to serialise audiobooks of Booker Prize titles, as well as broadcasting author interviews.
Chair of the Trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC added: “The Booker Prize Foundation is honoured to support the work of the National Literacy Trust and their Books Unlocked initiative. We would also like to thank HRH The Duchess of Cornwall for her ongoing support.”