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The 2020 Booker Prize Innovative Celebrations for Shortlist and Winner

The 2020 Booker Prize Innovative Celebrations for Shortlist and Winner

The Booker Prize is delighted to announce its exciting new partners and programme of events for 2020, which will offer readers around the world the chance to celebrate the shortlist and winner from the comfort of their own homes.

Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, says:

'We're delighted to be bringing The Booker Prize winner ceremony to thousands this year. The year of Covid has led us to interpret in a new light the Booker Prize Foundation's purpose of promoting the art of literature for the public benefit. We're grateful for the collaborative creativity of the BBC, The Old Vic, the Roundhouse, and many generous-spirited organisations and individuals, with whom we are working to allow readers all over the world to join us in celebrating the year's finest fiction. We look forward to welcoming you on 19 November.'

Jonty Claypole, Director of BBC Arts, comments:

‘The Booker Prize is one of the cultural landmarks of the year. A moment when we celebrate the power of literature and connect hundreds of thousands of readers with extraordinary books. Its global recognition is testament to our creative confidence as a nation and our ability to shine a light on great art wherever it comes from. Its mission feels more important than ever in 2020 and the BBC is proud to support it, celebrating the shortlist — and winner — across the UK and to the world.’

Kate Varah, Executive Director of The Old Vic, adds:

'Stories have been told from The Old Vic's stage for over 200 years. We are thrilled to see 2020's Booker Prize shortlist be brought to life in the birthplace of so much creativity, in partnership with The Booker Prize and the BBC — two inspiring collaborators.  In recent months we have all become more aware than ever before of the importance of cultural experiences to connect us across divides; we feel privileged to be part of sharing and celebrating the achievements of this incredible group of writers.’

Shortlist celebrations

Over the next month, as anticipation builds for the winner announcement on Thursday 19 November, there are numerous opportunities for readers to get to know this year’s six shortlisted authors and books: Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body, Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar, Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King, Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain and Brandon Taylor’s Real Life.

From Monday 26 October, The Booker Prize will showcase two books each week. On Mondays and Thursdays (7.15pm), BBC Radio 4’s Front Row will air its Booker Book Groups, which give readers the chance to ask questions of each shortlisted author. Meanwhile, on Tuesdays and Thursdays (5pm), The Booker Prize will livestream, on its Facebook and YouTube channels, exclusive author conversations and readings as well as interviews with some familiar faces, who will reveal which book they are particularly enjoying.

On Wednesday 11 November (7pm, £5), Guardian Live will host the six shortlisted authors together for the first time in a livestreamed discussion chaired by writer and critic Alex Clark.

On Friday 13 November (7pm, free), Doncaster Creates, the prize’s regional partner for 2020, will bring together the six 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 on Monday 16, Tuesday 17 and Wednesday 18 November (7.30pm, free), The Booker Prize and Waterstones and are teaming up to host Instagram Live conversations, featuring interviews with two shortlisted authors every evening.

Also in the run-up to the winner announcement, BBC Two and BBC World News will broadcast a special 30-minute Booker Prize programme. 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 unprecedented global events of 2020. She’ll profile the six shortlisted authors and discover the novels in contention for the prize, as well as speaking to members of this year’s 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, to explore not only the life-changing effect of winning the Booker, but also the issue of diversity in publishing highlighted by this year’s Black Lives Matter movement. And she’ll investigate how the pandemic has affected both the book trade, and the books that we’re reading.

Winner ceremony

The shortlist activity will culminate on Thursday 19 November in an innovative globally accessible awards ceremony without walls, bringing together three of the UK’s leading cultural brands: The Booker Prize, the BBC and The Old Vic.

Broadcast from London’s Roundhouse, it will a be world-class audio experience on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row (7.15-8pm) and visual experience livestreamed on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Arts Live Page (both 7-8pm), which can be accessed by listeners and viewers across the world. It will be hosted by Radio 4’s John Wilson and feature a line-up of special guests, including last year’s winners Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood, and members of the Chineke! Orchestra.

For the first time, The Booker Prize and BBC are partnering with The Old Vic to bring the shortlisted books to life through a series of performances directed by The Old Vic Baylis Director Katy Rudd. The six readings, performed and filmed on The Old Vic stage by celebrated actors, will form an integral part of the ceremony.

This year’s Chair of Judges Margaret Busby will announce the winner of The 2020 Booker Prize, who will hear the news live and deliver an acceptance speech on screen. The winner will give their first television interview to BBC arts editor Will Gompertz for BBC News.

There will be additional rolling content on the BBC Arts Live Page during the afternoon and evening of 19 November as the buzz builds for the winner announcement, as well as coverage on BBC World News.

Winner event

Following the announcement, Southbank Centre will host the first digital event with the winner on Monday 23 November (7.30pm, £5) as part of its 'Inside Out' series. The interviewer will be Bernardine Evaristo.

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 Man Booker-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. The award will be announced in January 2021.

Listeners can tune in to a new episode of The Booker Prize podcast today to hear host Joe Haddow talk to Literary Director Gaby Wood, the National Literacy Trust’s Jonathan Douglas, and Bastille’s lead singer Dan Smith.