Ian McEwan and a packed poetry programme lead our summer literature season

Friday, February 1, 2019 - 14:18

Proving that literature at Southbank Centre is for life, not just for London Literature Festival, it’s time to announce the enticing schedule of events, talks, workshops and showcases that make-up our Summer 2019 Literature Season. 

Our packed programme features major new novels by internationally renowned authors, such as Ian McEwan and Jeanette Winterson, hotly anticipated debuts from the likes of Candice Carty-Williams and Ocean Vuong and a host of emerging talent and inspirational voices.

Affirming our place as the home of poetry and spoken word in the UK, our new season is packed with poets, including our new National Poetry Library Lates events and a major partnership with Out-Spoken, one of London’s premier poetry and live music nights celebrating diversity of voice in writing and performance. They begin an exciting year-long residency with us in May.

We’re proud to present a summer season that brings together the brightest new talents with firm favourites and showcases the explosive energy of the poetry and spoken word scene
Ted Hodgkinson, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre

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

Unless otherwise stated, tickets for all events listed below are now on general sale.


Ian McEwan, novelist
15 April, 7.30pm / Royal Festival Hall

Ian McEwan: Machines Like Me

Multi-award-winning author of acclaimed novels Atonement and Enduring Love, Ian McEwan presents his new novel Machines Like Me, which explores the advent of artificial intelligence in an alternative 1980s London. In this pre-publication London exclusive, in collaboration with Vintage Live, McEwan will also reflect on a writing career which spans four decades. 

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16 April, 7.15pm / Purcell Room / tickets go on sale 19 February (Members) and 20 February (general sale)

Hisham Matar in conversation

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hisham Matar reflects on the abiding themes of his writing - from memory and family to war and repair. In this collaboration with Hayward Gallery, Matar discusses his work in relation to acclaimed artist, Kader Attia, who over the past twenty years has set out to create artworks that engage our capacity for thinking as well as feeling.

Further information available on 18 February.

Candice Carty-Williams, writer
17 April, 7.45pm / Purcell Room

Candice Carty-Williams: Queenie

Join us for this exclusive London launch event with highly-anticipated debut novelist Candice Carty-Williams. In conversation with June Sarpong, Carty-Williams will reflect on life, love, race and family as she discusses her debut novel Queenie, which follows the life of 25-year-old Jamaican-British Londoner Queenie Jenkins.

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Kim Hyesoon, poet
1 May & 26 June, 8pm / Hayward Gallery Cafe

National Poetry Library Lates

Our new evening poetry salons return for two summer editions. On 1 May we welcome two of South Korea’s most exciting poets, Kim Hyesoon (pictured), the first woman to receive the prestigious Kim Su-yông and Midang awards, and multi-award-winning Don Mee Choi to Hayward Gallery Cafe, and on 26 June we’re joined by Forward Prize shortlisted poet Mary Jean Chan ahead of the publication of her debut collection Flèche .

Wednesday 1 May
Wednesday 26 June

Robert Macfarlane
7 May, 7.15pm / Purcell Room

Robert Macfarlane: Underland

In this London-exclusive, the great writer on landscape Robert Macfarlane discusses his new book Underland, which takes us from the ice-blue depths of Greenland's glaciers, to Bronze Age burial chambers and the rock art of remote Arctic sea-caves.

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Bang Said The Gun, poet on stage with a Mic
8 May, 8pm / National Poetry Library

Bang Said The Gun

Although once touted as’ poetry for people who don’t like poetry’ Bang Said The Gun has previously been voted best poetry night in the UK by The Times, and in May, this unmissable evening of stand up poetry comes to Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library. Expect to see some of the rising stars of spoken word performing their work.

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11 May, 1pm - 4pm / Sunley Pavilion at Royal Festival Hall

Out-Spoken Poetry Masterclass: Anthony Anaxagorou

Alongside their monthly live poetry and music nights (see below) Out-Spoken presents a series of monthly poetry masterclasses. First up, poet and founder of Out-Spoken Anthony Anaxagorou explores how to edit a poem without subtracting from its essence. The class is open to people of all ages and abilities.

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16 May, 20 June, & 22 July, 7.45pm / Purcell Room


Out-Spoken kick off their year-long residency with a formidable trio of summer evenings of poetry, spoken word and music. Raymond Antrobus, Rebecca Tamás and Inua Ellams (pictured) are among the performers for Out-Spoken’s first night (16 May). At the 20 June edition, Forward Prize-winner Kei Miller and award-winning poets Sabrina Mahfouz and Ilya Kaminsky join the Out-Spoken regulars. And, the run of outstanding talent continues on 22 July with forward thinking literary star Morgan Parker and Hannah Sullivan, winner of 2019 T.S Eliot prize, plus Mersey Sound poet Brian Patten.

Out-Spoken: May
Out-Spoken: June
Out-Spoken: July

Olga Tokarczuk at the Man Booker podium
20 May, 7.45pm / Southbank Centre

Man Booker International Prize Readings 2019

Having hosted the Man Booker Prize shortlist evening for several years, this year we host its international counterpart for the first time. The Man Booker International Prize readings take place the night before the 2019 prize winner is revealed, and will feature the shortlisted authors (and translators) reading from their books and discussing their work.

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 Headshot of James Ellroy, American crime writer
27 May, 7.30pm / Queen Elizabeth Hall

James Ellroy in Conversation

Leading American crime writer James Ellroy, acclaimed for his ‘LA Quartet’ novels - The Black DahliaThe Big NowhereL.A. Confidential, and White Jazz - makes his first London appearance in five years in this London-exclusive to present his latest novel This Storm.

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30 May, 7.15pm / Purcell Room / tickets go on sale 19 February (Members) and 20 February (general sale)

Jeanette Winterson: Frankissstein

Multi-award-winning writer Jeanette Winterson presents her new novel Frankissstein in this London-exclusive. Taking a look at artificial intelligence, Frankissstein is an audacious exploration of identity, technology and sexuality which considers what will happen when homo sapiens are no longer the smartest beings on the planet, suggesting we are much closer to that future than we realise.

Further information available on 18 February.

5 June, 8pm / National Poetry Library

Out of Body Experience: Kate Davis, Abi Palmer & Meryl Pugh

Poets Kate Davis, Abi Palmer (pictured) and Meryl Pugh join us in the National Poetry Library to reflect on their work, which explores disability, place and the body, in this event which is chaired by creative producer and arts curator Georgia Attlesey.

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10 June, 7.30pm / Royal Festival Hall, Level 5 Function Room / Tickets on sale in March, 2019

Polari: featuring Dustin Lance Black

London’s leading LGBTQ+ literary salon Polari is back with us in June for an event featuring Academy Award-winning filmmaker, writer and social activist Dustin Lance Black discussing his new memoir Mama’s Boy. This evening also sees the longlist for the Polari First Book Prize unveiled.

Tickets for this event are expected to go on sale in March.

Joelle Taylor, Poet at National Poetry Day Live
15 June, 1pm - 4pm / Foyle Pavilion at Royal Festival Hall

Out-Spoken Poetry Masterclass: Joelle Taylor

In the second of Out-Spoken’s masterclass series, Joelle Taylor, host of Out-Spoken Live and founder of the national youth poetry slam SLAMbassadors, leads a workshop which focuses on the form of poetry reportage, as explored in her latest collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me. How can we create original and arresting poetry for performance out of news articles, interviews and archive images.

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Headshot of Ocean Vuong, American poet
2 July, 7.15pm / Purcell Room

Ocean Vuong: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Ocean Vuong, recipient of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the TS Eliot Prize for his debut poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds, presents his debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Written in the form of a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read, the novel traces a family history back from present day America to Vietnam. 

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13 July, 1pm - 4pm / Foyle Pavilion at Royal Festival Hall

Out-Spoken Masterclass: Raymond Antrobus

The third of Out-Spoken’s poetry masterclasses is led by Raymond Antrobus, author of The Perseverance (PBS Winter Choice 2018), winner of the 2017 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and one of the world's first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word education.

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John Hegley, Cina Aissa and Mike Tomes leaning against a wall
7 August, 8pm / National Poetry Library

Bonsoir, Monsieur Robinet

The English performance poet, comedian, musician and songwriter John Hegley reflects on his Gallic roots in conversation and song with French-Tunisian musician Cina Aissa. The event also features fantastic musical accompaniment from Adam Bradbury and Mike Tomes.

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This is far from all of our literature offering for summer 2019 as our packed programme also includes a number of free poetry events. We’ll celebrate Ten Years of Long Poem Magazine (3 April) in the National Poetry Library, which will also host a night championing the New Poet’s Prize Winners (3 July) and The Typographic Dante (2 April - 30 June), an exhibition in which artist Barrie Tullett has responded to Dante’s The Divine Comedy with typographic illustrations.

In addition to the Out-Spoken Masterclass events, Southbank Centre also plays host to some very special writing courses. These include Bearing Witness in Poetry with Forward Prize shortlisted poet Mary Jean Chan (six sessions; 23 April - 2 July) and a thought-provoking creative writing course from award-winning writer Sharlene Teo, Navigating Otherness (six sessions; 24 April - 3 July).

And if that wasn’t enough, we also have a host of other talks and discussions across our venues. On 1 May Kit De Waal presents The Common People Anthology on International Worker’s Day, leading a discussion on what it means to be working class in Britain today. The following month we explore The Lost Art of Scripture (3 June) with religious commentator Karen Armstrong. And, in the second instalment of Polari (26 July) curator, founder and host Paul Burston presents his new novel, The Closer I Get, in an evening which also reveals the Polari First Book Prize shortlist. 

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