The Man Booker Prize is marking its 50th anniversary in 2018 with year-long celebrations and a campaign to introduce new audiences to its winning, shortlisted and longlisted authors.
Launched in 1968 as a Commonwealth award, 2018 will be a milestone year for the literary prize and the Booker Prize Foundation is running a range of global activities to engage the public in its heritage "and inspire readers and writers for the next 50 years".
Its flagship event will be the Fiction at its Finest Festival in partnership with the Southbank Centre, scheduled from 6th to 8th July 2018, where events will be taking place in a variety of spaces, including Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Rooms. They will range from interviews and conversations between Man Booker-winning and shortlisted authors, to debates and masterclasses.
Ted Hodgkinson, senior programmer, Literature and Spoken Word, Southbank Centre, said the festival would offer "a rare chance to hear from leading authors of the last half century who have, with each passing year of the prize, expanded the possibilities of the novel itself, and through distinctive and irresistible prose, imagined the world anew". The event programme will be available from February 2018, when tickets go on sale.
The prize is also teaming up with other global literary festivals to access an international audience: Michael Ondaatje, joint winner of the 1992 prize for The English Patient, will appear at the Jaipur Literary Festival in January; Fiona Mozley, who was shortlisted earlier this year for Elmet (John Murray), is confirmed to speak at the Hay Festival Cartagena de Indias; and 2013's winner Eleanor Catton for The Luminaries (Granta) will appear at the Trinidad and Tobago BOCAS Literary Festival in April. Over the summer Margaret Atwood, who won in 2000 for The Blind Assassin (Virago) will be at Hay-on-Wye, too. Further appearances will be announced in the new year.
To commemorate its "landmark" 50th year, an anniversary diary has been created for 2018 in association with Third Millennium Publishing. The week-to-week illustrated diary showcases all the jackets of the winners, from its first winner Something to Answer For by PH Newby (Faber) in 1969, details of its shortlists and "behind the scenes" commentary of the prize "with all its debate, comment and controversy".
George Saunders became the second American to win the prize in 2017 for Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury Publishing), after the prize, previously a Commonwealth award, began admitting English-language authors outside of Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth four years ago. The Man Booker International Prize is awarded annually in May for the best single work of fiction translated into English and published in the UK.
Luke Ellis, c.e.o. of Man Group, said it was testament to the Booker Prize Foundation that the prize had become "more relevant and far-reaching than ever before".
Helena Kennedy, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, commented: "The Man Booker Prize is a banner for the power of books. It is a barometer of our creative vitality. In this landmark 50th year, we will be celebrating great writers and brilliant books so that we can draw more and more readers into the wonder of literature and the joys of readership. The right book can be a liberator, a healing potion or a stimulant better than any drug."
The BBC, the prize’s broadcast partner, will air a range of programmes around the anniversary and the Fiction at its Finest Festival in 2018, too. Additional partnerships and initiatives will be announced in the new year.
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