Marian Keyes, Eimear McBride and David Wallace-Wells lead our spring 2020 literature programme

Friday, November 1, 2019 - 11:11

London Literature Festival may be over for another year, but there’s no rest for our literature team here at Southbank Centre. We’re already looking to 2020, and are delighted to announce an enticing spring schedule of exclusive in-conversation events, specially-commissioned live readings and more from renowned authors and emerging literary talent.

Among the big names in literature descending on Southbank Centre in the new year are Marian Keyes, Eimear McBride, David Wallace Wells, Roddy Doyle and Isabel Allende. And affirming our place as the home of poetry and spoken word in the UK, we also look forward to the continuation of Out-Spoken’s year-long residency – which will include appearances by Simon Armitage, Robin Robinson and Jackie Kay – plus a host of emerging and established poetic talent through the return of National Poetry Library Lates.

2019 saw a record number of events across our literature programme, and after a truly inspiring and successful year, we’re delighted to start 2020 with an array of new and established authors and poets from around the UK and the world.
Bea Colley, Acting Senior Literature Programmer, Southbank Centre

Get a closer look at our fantastic line-up, below.

Marian Keyes, writer
5 February, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Marian Keyes

The renowned Irish novelist Marian Keyes possesses an incredible ability to tackle difficult subjects tactfully, often with perfectly weighted humour, and make them relatable to women all over. The two-time Irish Book Award winner, joins us in February to present her new much anticipated new book, Grown Ups.

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Eimear McBride, author
13 February, Purcell Room

Eimear McBride

Eimear McBride made a huge impact on the literary scene in 2013 when her debut novel A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing won the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize. Her 2016 novel The Lesser Bohemians saw McBride receive the James Tate Black Memorial Prize. She joins us in February for a Q&A, preceded by a reading from her third book Strange Hotel.

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Roddy Doyle, novelist
11 March, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Roddy Doyle

The Irish author, playwright and 1993 Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle reflects on his writing career in a special March appearance in Queen Elizabeth Hall. As well as discussing his much-loved work, Doyle reads from The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and A Star Called Henry.

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Isabel Allende, author
9 March, Royal Festival Hall / Tickets for this event are already on sale

Isabel Allende

The international bestselling Chilean writer, Isabel Allende, has been heralded as the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author. In March she makes her first visit to the UK in twelve years to present her much-awaited new novel A Long Petal of the Sea.

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David Wallace Wells, journalist
8 April, Queen Elizabeth Hall

David Wallace-Wells

Writer and journalist David Wallace-Wells reflect on his global bestseller The Uninhabitable Earth in a London exclusive event. His book, based on an essay of the same title, written in 2017, has sparked an unprecedented debate about how we should be talking about the planetary threat from climate change.

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Out-Spoken host poet Joelle Taylor
30 January, 27 February, 26 March & 30 April, Purcell Room


One of London’s premier poetry and live music nights, hosted by Joelle Taylor, continues its year-long residency at Southbank Centre with four live events. Headline poets for 2020 include Robin Robertson (January), Simon Armitage (February) and Jackie Kay (March), while April sees the Out-Spoken Prize for Poetry are announced as part of the night’s eighth birthday celebration.

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Anna Selby, author
25 March, Hayward Gallery Cafe

National Poetry Library Lates

Southbank Centre’s series of poetry salons returns for an evening of poetry inspired by the natural world, celebrating the Hayward Gallery’s Among the Trees exhibition. Taking place in the intimate atmosphere of Hayward Gallery Cafe, the evening features readings from leading poets including Anna Selby.

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Poet Ian McMillan, photographed by Des Willie
12 January, Royal Festival Hall / Tickets for this event are already on sale

TS Eliot Prize Readings

The first major highlight of the 2020 literary calendar, the TS Eliot Prize Readings showcases the poets shortlisted for the 2019 prize as they read their own works, in an always enthralling event, hosted by ‘The Bard of Barnsley’ Ian McMillan.

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There’s much to our packed programme of poets and prose, including the welcome return of London’s leading LGBTQ+ literary salon, Polari, featuring Paul Bailey (26 January), Lucy O’Brien(15 February) and Philip Hensher (27 March).

Hayward Gallery’s major exhibition Among The Trees (4 March – 17 May 2020) is the inspiration for performances and talks, also timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day; including poets Mona Arshi, Anna Selby, L.Kiew and Seán Hewitt performing newly-commissioned poems (22 April).  

Leading young voices on the climate emergency, Dara McAnulty, Yetunde Kehinde and Anna Taylor discuss their work on raising awareness about the future of the planet (16 April). Executive editor of Vice UK Zing Tsjeng chairs a panel talk which debates and explores the newly coined term ‘Eco-anxiety’ (6 April). And activist and co-founder of Working On Our Power Guppi Bola reflects on ‘decolonising climate conversations’ with a panel of environmental activists (19 March). 

Throughout spring 2020, the National Poetry Library presents a number of live readings and events including poetry/hip-hop crossover Pen-Ting Poetry (8 January) and Spanish poet Eduardo Moga and translator Terence Dooley (5 February). Jacqueline Saphra, Jessica Mookherjee and Julia Webb explore themes of myth, magic, fable and feminism (4 March), and UK-based poets of East Asian heritages and identities Natalie Linh Bolderston, L Kiew, Jennifer Lee Tsai, Jennifer Wong, Nina Mingya Powles and Jay G Ying reflect on East Asian visibility and representation in British culture (1 April). 

And of course, February, as ever brings our Imagine Children’s Festival, which includes the culmination of nationwide creative writing project, Imagine a Story, devised by Southbank Centre and delivered with author Sharna Jackson and illustrator Dapo Adeola.


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