Mantel and Ishiguro among stars at Man Booker 50th anniversary festival

Mantel and Ishiguro among stars at Man Booker 50th anniversary festival

A “star-studded” line up for the announcement of the Golden Man Booker prize, including authors such as Hilary Mantel and Kazuo Ishiguro, as well as special BBC broadcasts and seven publishing masterclasses will be among the events featured in the Man Booker’s 50th anniversary festival in July.

Run in partnership with Southbank Centre in London between 6th to 8th July, the festival “celebrates 50 years of the finest fiction and introduces new audiences to its winning, shortlisted and longlisted authors”. It will include the announcement of the Golden Man Booker prize, which puts all 51 past winners in contention to discover which has best "stood the test of time" and "remains relevant to readers today".

Featuring more than 60 speakers, including 15 winners from the prize’s history, from Ishiguro to Paul Beatty, the festival will span the centre’s site in Royal Festival Hall and the newly refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room.

Curated by festival director Mary Sackville-West, the festival will open on the Friday night with Pat Barker and Mantel, while Saturday night features a “rare” public appearance from mother and daughter Anita and Kiran Desai – both prize alumni – who discuss writing across the generations; the 2017 Man Booker International winner, David Grossman in conversation with author and former judge Natalie Haynes and a screening of Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of the Booker-winning novel The English Patient featuring a Q&A with its author Michael Ondaatje.

The Golden Man Booker Live event will bring the festival to a close on the Sunday night. Compered by Jude Kelly and featuring the prizes’ judges, along with readings from actors, the event will reveal the result of the public vote and crown the best work of fiction from the last five decades of prize. Plans for this special award were announced in February.

As broadcast partner of the prize, BBC Arts is making a series of programmes throughout the festival. These include an hour-long documentary on BBC Four; Howard Jacobson’s keynote speech, which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s "Free Thinking" and BBC "World Book Club" with Harriet Gilbert, during which she will interview double winner  Mantel in front of a live festival audience. 

The weekend will also present an "exclusive strand of masterclasses" offering an insight into the industry from authors at the top of their game. Ben Okri, Eleanor Catton, Kamila Shamsie and Graeme Macrae Burnet will all lead small-scale workshops on creativity and writing, and leading figures from the world of publishing will run sessions for aspiring writers on how to find a literary agent, get published and edit their novel.

Julian Barnes, Peter Carey and Roddy Doyle will also appear. Other authors at the event include: Anne Enright, David Grossman, Alan Hollinghurst, Marlon James, Deborah Levy, Penelope Lively, Andrew O'Hagan, DBC Pierre, and Colm Tóibín.

Helena Kennedy, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: "The Man Booker Prize has celebrated the defining novels and authors of our times and I am delighted to mark this milestone in its history with this special festival at Southbank Centre. The one-off programme will acknowledge the prize’s past, present and future, celebrating the last 50 years of authors, looking ahead to the new voices of the literary stage and recognising the power of the art form.”

She added: “If the next 50 years is as fierce, playful, radical and reflective as the last, I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Ted Hodgkinson, senior programmer for literature and spoken word at the Southbank Centre, said: "Distilled from five decades of the finest fiction, this singular festival promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of literary brilliance. Such a rare convergence of world renowned writers spanning genres, geographies and decades of the Man Booker Prize signifies an important moment to take stock of why novels matter and how they have captured our changing world over half a century." 

Tickets go on sale via Southbank Centre’s website at 1pm Wednesday (11th April) to Southbank Centre members, and will be available for the general public to buy from 10am the following day.

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