Isabel Allende, Roddy Doyle, Jackie Kay, Marian Keyes, Eimear McBride, David Wallace-Wells announced as part of Spring 2020 Literature Season

Southbank Centre announces its Spring 2020 Literature Season featuring Isabel Allende, Roddy Doyle, Jackie Kay, Marian Keyes, Eimear McBride and David Wallace-Wells 

Also announced: Simon Armitage, Guppi Bola, Sam ‘Junior’ Bromfield, Seán Hewitt, L.Kiew, Yetunde Kehinde, Dara McAnulty, Ian McMillan, Robin Robertson, Anna Selby, Yomi Ṣode, Joelle Taylor, Anna Taylor, Zing Tsjeng, Jack Underwood, Jude Yawson plus a supporting programme of public talks around Hayward Gallery’s major exhibition for spring 2020, Among The Trees.

Southbank Centre announced its Spring 2020 literature season featuring a packed programme of more than 30 events taking place from January to April 2020 across its 17-acre site (Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, National Poetry Library, Hayward Gallery and foyer spaces).

The Spring season encompasses exclusive in-conversation events with award-winning UK and international authors, specially-commissioned live readings, panel discussions, new creative writing and poetry courses, exhibitions and prizes. The Spring season also presents a supporting programme of public talks around Hayward Gallery’s major new exhibition Among The Trees (4 March – 17 May 2020), timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which brings together artworks that reflect on our multifaceted relationships with trees, forests and nature.  

Southbank Centre also continues its commitment to present the best in spoken word and poetry with events and exhibitions curated by its National Poetry Library, and the hugely popular live poetry and music night Out-Spoken continues its residency in the Purcell Room. 

Spring 2020 Season highlights include:

  • Marian Keyes – Author

    A series of London exclusive in-conversation events and readings with award-winning fiction writers Marian Keyes (QEH, 5 Feb), Eimear McBride (PUR, 13 Feb), Roddy Doyle (QEH, 11 Mar) and already announced Isabel Allende (RFH, 9 Feb)

  • David Wallace-Wells makes a London exclusive appearance to discuss his international bestseller The Uninhabitable Earth (QEH, 8 Apr)
  • A one-off live reading responding to the Hayward Gallery’s new exhibition Among the Trees (4 March – 17 May 2020) with poets Mona Arshi, Anna Selby, L.Kiew and Seán Hewitt who perform newly-commissioned poems (HG, 22 Apr)
  • Vice UK Executive Editor Zing Tsjeng chairs a special panel discussion with climate and mental health specialists on the term ‘Eco-anxiety’ as part of Southbank Centre’s Reading the Mind series (PUR, 6 Apr)
  • Leading young voices on the climate emergency Dara McAnulty, Yetunde Kehinde and Anna Taylor discuss the breadth of their activism (PUR, 16 Apr)
  • The continuation of Out-Spoken’s residency at Southbank Centre with monthly masterclasses and live poetry and music nights featuring award-winning poet Robin Robertson (PUR, 30 Jan), poet laureate Simon Armitage (PUR, 27 Feb), Scotland’s national poet Jackie Kay (PUR, 26 Mar) and more
  • The return of National Poetry Library Lates (HG, 25 Mar) and a new free exhibition, by Joo Yeon Park, Library of the Unwords, in Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library  (NPL, 5 Dec – 29 Mar 2020)
  • The annual T.S. Eliot Prize readings, showcasing the poets shortlisted for the 2019 prize (QEH, 12 Jan)
  • The return of Polari, London’s leading LGBTQ+ literary salon featuring Paul Bailey (L5FR, 26 Jan), Lucy O’Brien (L5FR, 15 Feb) and Philip Hensher (L5FR, 27 Mar)
  • Imagine Children’s Festival returns for its 19th year with a nationwide creative writing project provided for free to primary schools and teachers alongside many talks, events and workshops (12 – 23 Feb)


Bea Colley, Acting Senior Literature Programmer, Southbank Centre, said: “2019 saw a record number of events take place across Southbank Centre’s 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 UKand the world. We’re particularly excited to be celebrating Hayward Gallery’s new exhibition ‘Among the Trees’ with a supporting programme of talks and events around the natural world and environmental issues.” 

Tickets go on sale to Southbank Centre Members on Tuesday 5 November and to the General Public on Wednesday 6 November with the exception of Polari, which will go on sale at a later date. Isabel Allende: A Long Petal of the Sea, T.S. Eliot Prize Readings and T.S. Eliot Prize Preview with Jeremy Noel-Tod are already on sale. For more information please visit the Southbank Centre website HERE.

More events are to be added to the programme. 

Further Programme Detail


Award-winning writers present new works of fiction in exclusive London events. Renowned Irish novelist Marian Keyes presents her much anticipated new book Grown Ups (QEH, 5 Feb); award winning Irish writer Eimear McBride reads from her third novel Strange Hotel followed by a Q&A (PUR, 13 Feb); Beloved Irish writer Roddy Doyle reflects on his writing career as he reads from titles such as The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and A Star Called Henry (QEH, 11 March) and international bestselling Chilean writer Isabel Allende visits the UK for the first time in 12 years to present her much-awaited new novel A Long Petal of the Sea (RFH, 9 Feb). 

The season’s non-fiction programme sees writer and journalist David Wallace-Wells reflect on his global bestseller The Uninhabitable Earth in a London exclusive event. His book has sparked an unprecedented debate about how we should be talking about the planetary threat from climate change (QEH, 8 Apr). 


Leading young voices on the climate emergency, Dara McAnulty, Yetunde Kehinde and Anna Taylor reflect on a year of unprecedented growth in youth activism as they discuss their work on raising awareness about the future of the planet (PUR, 16 Apr); executive editor of Vice UK Zing Tsjeng chairs a panel talk with climate and mental health specialists debating the term ‘Eco-anxiety’, anxiety arising from feelings of hopelessness surrounding climate change, whilst reflecting on how to deal with anxiety and stay informed in the climate change movement. The event is part of Southbank Centre’s Reading the Mind series exploring mental health and wellbeing through literature (PUR, 6 Apr); writer and activist Guppi Bola discusses the theme of ‘decolonising climate conversations’ with a panel of environmental activists (PUR, 19 Mar).


Out-Spoken, one of London’s premier poetry and live music nights, continues its year-long residency at Southbank Centre with four live events. Hosted by poet and founder of SLAMbassadors national youth slamJoelle Taylor and featuring the beats of DJ Sam ‘Junior’ Bromfield, the performances are headlined by multi-award winning poets Robin Robertson (PUR, 30 Jan), poet laureate Simon Armitage (PUR, 27 Feb) and Scotland’s national poet Jackie Kay (PUR, 26 Mar) with further names to be announced. The April edition marks Out-Spoken’s eighth birthday, where the winners of the prestigious Out-Spoken Prize for Poetry are announced. The evening will see performances from six shortlisted poets in each category, performance and film as well as readings from the panel of judges (PUR, 30 Apr). Four corresponding masterclasses open to anyone with an interest in poetry, are hosted by leading poets including Jack Underwood and Yomi Ṣode (SUN, 25 Jan; 29 Feb; 21 Mar; 25 Apr).

National Poetry Library LatesSouthbank Centre’s series of poetry salons in the Hayward Gallery Cafe, 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 Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery Cafe, the evening features readings from leading poets including Anna Selby whose poetry often explores our relationship with water and the natural world (HG, 25 Mar). 

Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library presents a number of live readings this Spring. London open-mic night Pen-Ting Poetry brings to the library an evening of live poetry and hip-hop with Pen-Ting founders SKY GOD and The Repeat Beat Poet (NPL, 8 Jan); a week after the announcement of the T.S. Eliot Prize winners, the library hosts a special T.S. Eliot Prize Book Club offering the opportunity to discuss the winning poetry collection (NPL, 20 Jan); Spanish poet Eduardo Moga and translator Terence Dooley read from a newly published anthology, Streets Where to Walk is to Embark: Spanish poets in London 1811 – 2018 (NPL, 5 Feb); leading voices in contemporary poetry Jacqueline Saphra, Jessica Mookherjee and Julia Webb explore themes of myth, magic, fable and feminism as they read their poetry (NPL, 4 Mar) 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 as they read from their recent work and respond to existing work in the library. Actor and writer David Tse Ka-Shing will give an introductory talk ahead of the readings (NPL, 1 Apr). The library also marks the 30th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s death with Library of the Unwords, a new free exhibition from South Korean artist Joo Yeon Park who has created new works in response to Beckett’s poems (NPL, 5 Dec – 29 Mar 2020). 

Author Johny Pitts is joined by Benin City’s poet Joshua Idehen and musicians Tom Leaper and Shanaz Dorsett for a multi-sensory whistle-stop tour around unseen Europe through music, readings, images and film. The performance will lead through various locations showcasing the continent’s diversity, from Sheffield’s once-glorious industrial past to an exploration of the Afropean music of Brussels. The evening, presented in collaboration with A Speaking Volumes Production, also features a screening of an episode of the iconic BBC documentary series Arena (PUR, 30 Mar).

Southbank Centre welcomes back London’s leading LGBTQ+ literary salon, Polari, for three events this Spring Season, curated and hosted by founder and writer Paul Burston, and featuring leading authors from the LGBTQ+ community. The first is headlined by writer and critic Paul Bailey who will read from his first poetry collection Inheritance (L5FR, 29 Jan); The second welcomes Lucy O’Brien for an evening dedicated to British pop singer Dusty Springfield and LGBTQ+ History Month (L5FR, 15 Feb) whilst British novelist Philip Hensher headlines the March edition as he reads from his new novel A Small Revolution in Germany (L5FR, 27 Mar). 

Ten leading poets including Mona Arshi, Anna Selby, L.Kiew and Seán Hewitt come together in the Hayward Gallery for a performance of newly commissioned poems in response to the gallery’s new exhibition Among the Trees. The poems will be read aloud by the poets in different locations throughout the gallery as visitors move around the exhibition at their own pace (HG, 22 Apr). 

Writer, poet and essayist Jude Yawson leads Writing to understand Climate Change, a new course for Spring 2020. Over the course of 6 sessions, Yawson will offer tips on how to approach research, debate and documentary and how writing can tackle and help understand the climate crisis. The course is focussed on the history, present and future of climate change (20 Jan – 6 Apr, BR & SUN).

Southbank Centre also presents Unearthing The Southbank, a six-part poetry course, which explores queerness, self, desire and landscape. The course, led by poet Richard Scott, over 6 sessions draws inspiration from Southbank Centre’s archival materials and exhibitions and supports aspiring poets to develop their poetical skills (20 Jan – 6 Apr, BR & SUN). 

The T.S. Eliot Prize Readings will be the first major highlight of the 2020 literary calendar, showcasing the poets shortlisted for the 2019 prize. Hosted by Ian McMillan, the evening of poetry will offer the opportunity to hear some of the best contemporary poets in the English-speaking world reading from their own work, on the evening before the award ceremony and the announcement of the winner (RFH, 12 Jan).

Ahead of this, poetry critic Jeremy Noel-Tod will open up discussions around the ten books shortlisted for this year’s prize in a preview event  (L5FR, 12 Jan). 

From 12 – 23 February 2020 the UK’s leading children’s festival, Imagine Children’s Festival, returns to Southbank Centre for its nineteenth year with twelve days of performance, music, literature, comedy, creativity, parties, participation and free fun for children aged 0-11 and their grownups. Culminating at the festival is Imagine a Story: a nationwide creative writing project provided for free to primary schools and teachers devised by Southbank Centre and delivered with author Sharna Jackson (High-Rise Mystery , Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week), illustrator Dapo Adeola (Look Up!; The Last Last Days of Summer) and Brixton-based publishers and founders of #BooksMadeBetter, Knights Of

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