Today, The Booker Prize unveils the programme for its innovative, globally accessible 2020 winner ceremony without walls, which is now just one week away. Broadcast from London’s Roundhouse on Thursday 19 November it will be a world-class audio experience on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row (7.15-8pm GMT) and visual experience livestreamed on BBC iPlayer and BBC Arts Digital (both 7-8pm GMT) available to listeners and viewers across the world.
The ceremony, hosted by Radio 4’s John Wilson, includes both virtual and in-person special guests. President Obama will talk about what reading Booker Prize novels has meant to him and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall will share her thoughts on the importance of reading during the pandemic (both on video). Kazuo Ishiguro will be talking to John about the experience of having won both The Booker Prize and The Nobel Prize in Literature, and Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo will share what they’ve been up to in their year as Booker Prize winners. John will also interview Bernardine in person about the challenges fiction has faced in 2020.
The Chineke! Chamber Ensemble will be performing String Quartet No.3 by Joseph Boulogne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges live from the Roundhouse. Meanwhile, on display in the venue will be the 2020 Booker Prize trophy and this year’s six bespoke bound books, created for the shortlisted authors by individual makers who are members of Designer Bookbinders.
All six shortlisted authors — Diane Cook, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Avni Doshi, Maaza Mengiste, Douglas Stuart and Brandon Taylor — will join the ceremony via a special screen in the Roundhouse and as part of a series of interviews filmed and produced by the BBC. For the first time, The Booker Prize has partnered with The Old Vic to bring the shortlisted books to life. The six readings, directed by The Old Vic Baylis Director Katy Rudd, have been performed and filmed on The Old Vic stage and will be showcased exclusively in the ceremony. The actors are Ann-Marie Duff for The New Wilderness, Thandie Newton for This Mournable Body, Ayesha Dharker for Burnt Sugar, Nina Sosanya for The Shadow King, Stuart Campbell for Shuggie Bain, and Paapa Essiedu for Real Life.
This year’s chair of judges, Margaret Busby, will be interviewed in person by John before announcing the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize. The winner will then join the ceremony live on screen to deliver an acceptance speech and speak to John.
The BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz and Arts Correspondent Rebecca Jones will be bringing the story to BBC News and BBC World News audiences in the UK and across the globe, reaching more than 500 million households.
There will be additional rolling content on BBC Arts Digital which will give audiences the opportunity to join in the discussion about the shortlist during the afternoon and evening of 19 November as the anticipation builds for the winner announcement.
Final shortlist celebrations
Ahead of the winner ceremony, there are still plenty of opportunities for readers to get to know the shortlisted authors and their books.
Tonight, Thursday 12 November, BBC Two will broadcast a special 30-minute Booker Prize programme at 7.30pm GMT. Novelist and activist Kit de Waal will follow the progress of the prize and examine the wider landscape of the publishing industry in the wake of the year’s unprecedented global events. She’ll profile the six shortlisted authors and discover the novels in contention for the prize, as well as speaking to members of the judging panel. She’ll also talk to Bernardine Evaristo, winner of last year’s prize and the first black woman to win since The Booker’s inception in 1969. This will also be broadcast on BBC World News (schedule here).
On Friday 13 November (7pm GMT, free), Doncaster Creates, the prize’s regional partner for 2020, will bring together the six shortlisted authors with Sheffield-born poet and former Man Booker International judge, Helen Mort. Doncaster Creates is a dynamic arts programme set up to celebrate the town’s creativity and unsung narratives of ‘grit and grandeur’.
Over three consecutive nights leading up to the winner announcement, The Booker Prize and Waterstones are hosting Instagram Live conversations, featuring interviews with two shortlisted authors every day. On Monday 16 November, author and presenter Sara Collins will interview Tsitsi Dangarembga (6.30pm GMT) and Diane Cook (7.15pm GMT); on Tuesday 17 November journalist Sarah Shaffi will interview Avni Doshi (1pm GMT) and Maaza Mengiste (7.30pm GMT) and on Wednesday 18 November presenter and BookTuber Simon Savidge will interview Douglas Stuart (7.30pm GMT) and Brandon Taylor (8.15pm GMT).
Following the announcement, Southbank Centre will host the first digital event with the winner on Monday 23 November (7.30pm GMT, £5) as part of its ‘Inside Out’ series. The interviewer will be Bernardine Evaristo.
The winner will also be interviewed by author and former prize judge Natalie Haynes for the Hay Festival Digital Winter Weekend on Friday 27 November (5.30pm GMT, free).
As part of The Booker Prize’s continuing partnership with Doncaster Creates, there will be a virtual Open Mic night on Thursday 26 November hosted by 2020 Booker judge, writer and broadcaster Lemn Sissay MBE, and 2017 shortlisted author Fiona Mozley, who will read passages from their work side-by-side with Doncaster writers. As both the finale and legacy of the partnership, Fiona Mozley will lead the search for a Doncaster New Writer to mentor, who will be announced in January 2021.