The 2021 Booker Prize Winner Ceremony

Programme announced 14 October 2021

Hotly anticipated live BBC broadcast will feature high-profile guests and reach millions globally.

Today, Thursday 14 October 2021, the Booker Prize unveils the programme for its 2021 winner ceremony filled with exciting names from the prize’s past and present. As part of an ongoing partnership between Booker and the BBC, the event will be broadcast from the BBC’s Radio Theatre on Wednesday 3 November from 7.15-8pm GMT. It will be a world-class audio experience on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and a unique visual experience on BBC iPlayer, the BBC News Channel and BBC World News, with a combined audience of millions worldwide.

Publication date:

Press release PDF

The full press release can be downloaded here.

The 2021 Ceremony

The ceremony will include a one-off recorded conversation between long-term champion of the prize, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, and 2020 winner Douglas Stuart about his life-changing year since winning with Shuggie Bain.

The BBC’s Samira Ahmed will also interview Stuart live on the night, along with poet and novelist Ben Okri, who won the Booker in 1991 with The Famished Road. Three decades on from Okri’s win, they will discuss why books matter.

All six shortlisted authors — Anuk Arudpragasam, Damon Galgut, Patricia Lockwood, Nadifa Mohamed, Richard Powers and Maggie Shipstead — will join the ceremony in person, and as part of a series of pre-recorded filmed interviews.

BBC Broadcasting House

New creative talent

For the first time, the Booker Prize has partnered with the BBC to produce six short films for the shortlisted books. The films have been created by three gifted new directors, Yero Timi-Biu, Liam Young and Christine Ubochi, who are graduates of New Creatives, a scheme funded by Arts Council England and BBC Arts to highlight the best of emerging film and TV talent.

They will premiere on BBC digital platforms and the new Booker Prizes website in the week before the ceremony, and be aired during the event itself.

The actors featuring in this year’s films are: Paul G Raymond in A Passage North; David Jonsson in The Promise; Fiona Button in No One is Talking About This; Elmi Rashid Elmi in The Fortune Men; Luke Norris in Bewilderment; and Ria Zmitrowicz in Great Circle.

The directors have been mentored by Rural Media on behalf of the BBC. More information can be found on the Booker Prizes website here.

Set of Bewilderment

More about the ceremony

This year’s chair of judges, historian Maya Jasanoff, will be interviewed during the ceremony by Ahmed. Jasanoff will then announce the winner of the £50,000 Booker Prize, whom she and her  fellow judges ― writer and editor Horatia Harrod; actor Natascha McElhone; twice Booker-shortlisted novelist and professor Chigozie Obioma; and writer and former Archbishop Rowan Williams ― have chosen.

The winner will accept their trophy before delivering an acceptance speech and sharing their reaction with Ahmed. They will also be interviewed for the BBC News at Ten by arts correspondent Rebecca Jones.

On display at the Radio Theatre will be this year’s six bespoke bound books, created for the shortlisted authors by individual makers who are members of Designer Bookbinders.

While the prize organisers had hoped to invite a full live audience this year, Covid protocols have so far prevented it. Instead there will be a small private event in London to celebrate the shortlisted authors and the winner. The hope is that next year will bring the possibility of celebrating in person with a broader group of enthusiastic readers.

Additional rolling content will be available on BBC Arts Digital which will give audiences the opportunity to join in the discussion about the shortlist during the afternoon and evening of 3 November as the anticipation builds for the winner announcement.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and Anna Burns

Events

Ahead of the winner ceremony, there are plenty of opportunities for readers to get to know the shortlisted authors and their books including in Front Row’s Booker Book Groups, airing each week night from 7.15pm BST on Radio 4 from 21 October to 1 November, and in hybrid events at Coventry University on 29 October and Southbank Centre on 31 October. After the announcement, there are a series of digital events with the winner: Guardian Live on 9 November and as part of the Hay Festival Winter Weekend on 15 November. More details here.

This Friday 15 October at 7.30pm BST, there will be a special episode of BBC TWO’s Inside Culture devoted to reading. Presented by Shahidha Bari, it will include discussion with three former Booker winners: Eleanor Catton, Marlon James and John Banville.

Alex Clark talking to Nadifa Mohamed and Richard Powers, who are turned to face her in their chairs.