Your highlights from London Literature Festival 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 12:36

So that’s that then. The dust has settled, the dust jackets closed, and the final sentences of the latest chapter of the London Literature Festival have reached their final full-stops. After nineteen days, our packed programme of the published word, poets and powerful prose came to an emphatic end, as Tom Hanks said goodnight to a packed Royal Festival Hall.

Of course, it’s easy for us to sit here and tell you just how incredible this year’s festival has been. But given the esteem we hold our brilliant literature programming team in, that would hardly be impartial. Instead we turn the wrap-up over to you, the many thousands of people who packed into Southbank Centre for London Literature Festival 2017. Here, crafted from the #LondonLitFest hashtag are your words and images on a fantastic few weeks.

Kicking off this year’s London Literature Festival was Poetry International, celebrating it’s 50th year since it was founded here at the Royal Festival Hall by Ted Hughes. ‘A whole weekend of poetry?!?! My inner arty geek got a good serving’ said Sangs Notebook on Instagram


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So much poetry in fact that we were struggling to fit it all in, but where there’s a will there’s a way - particularly if it’s a will to cram into a cupboard.

Yep, poetry was everywhere, both inside and outside the Southbank Centre, with Morten Søndergaard, Kayo Chingonyi and Jasmine Cooray’s deeply moving Wall of Dreams projected onto our Royal Festival Hall.

Whilst we had big words on the outside of our iconic building we were just getting started with big names on the inside, as Hillary Rodham Clinton joined us to talk about What Happened on Sunday 16 October.


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In an enthralling, and candid talk Rodham Clinton told those present in the Royal Festival Hall, and the thousands watching on a global live-stream, all about that election campaign.

In a discussion that certainly contained some admirably well-channelled and well-controlled anger at the events of 2016, Rodham Clinton also offered some important words of advice we can all take on board.

On Thursday 19 October we welcomed the brilliant Philip Pullman to the Royal Festival Hall; an event which had a lot of you excited.

Pullman’s talk coincided with the launch of his much anticipated follow-up to the His Dark Materials trilogy, The Book of Dust; sales of which had certainly been brisk in the vicinity of Southbank Centre.


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In conversation with BBC Radio’s Cerys Matthews, Pullman gave an insight into the first volume of his new series, La Belle Sauvage, as well as the process of writing and rhythm of his work.

Pullman also had some sage advice when it came to encouraging children to read, words which struck a chord with a number of you, including Sophie, below.

On London Literature Festival’s middle Sunday our packed programme continued apace with photographer Annie Leibovitz joining our Artistic Director Jude Kelly in conversation. A much anticipated event for many of you.

For the keen photographers in the audience there was some encouragement to be found too, in the realisation that even the most renowned of the professionals face the same struggles as us mere mortals.

Later that night we were back in the Royal Festival Hall once again for an inspirational night of reading and discussion on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. As this tweet from our Senior programmer for Literature and Spoken Word, Ted Hodgkinson, shows, it was a night with a pretty impressive ensemble.

Perhaps unsurprisingly with such a big-hitting cast on offer, the night itself proved one to remember for all present, and not just for Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown’s Amy Winehouse anecdote (yes, we’re afraid you had to be there).

As part of our year-long celebration of Nordic culture, Nordic Matters, this year’s London Literature Festival featured a number of high-profile authors from that part of the world, including Per Peterson, at whose talk halfpintjourneys took this fantastic photo.

Elsewhere on our Nordic strand Karl Ove Knausgård was offering inspiration and a chance for reflection on the value of the written word.

In half-term we welcomed a number of popular children’s authors and illustrators to Southbank Centre to read an afternoon story for some of the festival’s younger attendees; and it was great to see the readers enjoying it just as much as those being read too.

And it wasn’t just the children in the audience who took things from these readings, with Children’s Laureate Lauren Child in particular striking a chord with the wider audience in the room.

These events led neatly into our Young Adult Literature Weekend at the end of October, which saw young, old, and, er, miniature bears, get the chance to meet some of their favourite authors.

On Wednesday 27 October we celebrated the work and life of Sylvia Plath in a live reading of some of her newly published letters. It was an event which certainly resonated with a huge number of you, including Alison Gamble on Instagram, who wrote ‘I don’t have enough synonyms for ‘inspiring’ to accurately express how I feel right now’.


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You certainly weren’t alone in that Alison, as similar sentiments of awe for Plath’s work peppered the #LondonLitFest hashtag throughout the evening and beyond.

Although it has to be said, in some instances that inspiration found itself channelled through less obvious means.

Whilst Maggy headed for the tattoo parlour, we were back in the Royal Festival Hall to hear from another empowering female voice; Rebecca Solnit.

Solnit’s latest work The Mother of All Questions, offers a commentary on women who refused to be silenced, and the continuing presence of misogyny and dominance of mysogynistic attitudes in society. An undisputedly important subject to discuss at any point, but one given added impetus in the lead up to this talk with the #MeToo movement.

Solnit’s talk with Bonnie Greer offered great inspiration, and important lessons for writers of any background, and indeed, any gender.

‘A great evening with wonderfully thought-provoking comments from both the speakers and the audience,’ is how ourdoreen summed it up on Instagram and it’s very hard to argue with any of that.


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And so to the final night of this year’s London Literature Festival, and a chance for us to welcome a little-known typewriter enthusiast from Concord, California to our stage.

OK, yes, that typewriter enthusiast just happened to be the one and only, the actual, Tom Hanks, and it’s safe to say there was quite a buzz in Royal Festival Hall ahead of his arrival.


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And yes, we all like Tom Hanks, but it turns out that it is possible to like him even more once you’ve seen him offscreen talking enthusiastically about type, typewriters and his collection of short stories, Uncommon Type.

So there you have it; a whistle-stop flick through of the incredibly packed 2017 London Literature Festival in your words and pictures. A huge thank you to all of you who joined us for any of the 200 plus events that made up this year’s programme, and thank you to those who took to the #LondonLitFest hashtag to share your thoughts.

If you missed out, you can listen to some of the best bits of this year’s festival on our highlights podcast.

listen to the podcast

Our literature and talks programme doesn’t end with the London Literature Festival, as we host a wide range of events throughout the year.

see the programme