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Southbank Centre Announces It’s New Series Exploring Mental Health In Literature

By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 08:28, 05 June 2020

Southbank Centre today announces its most jam-packed literature season to date with more than 35 events taking place from September – December 2019 across its three auditoriums (Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room) as well as in its National Poetry Library, Hayward Gallery and foyer spaces.

The season sees an expanded programme of non-fiction talks and discussions with leading writers and thinkers on topics from atheism to parenting to talking to strangers. As part of the non-fiction programme, Southbank Centre is delighted to launch a new series of events Reading the Mind exploring mental health and wellbeing through literature.

The series begins in September with award-winning writers and qualified nurses Nathan Filer and Christie Watson, in conversation together for the first time, and continues into 2020 with events in the Spring and Summer seasons.

Louis Theroux © Paul Mark Mitchell; Nadiya Hussain © Dan Kennedy; Sara Pascoe © Sara Pascoe; Lenny Henry © Jack Lawson

Alongside Anthony Anaxagorou, Raymond Antrobus, Nihal Arthanayake, Liz Berry, Adam Buxton, Leo Boix, Anne Carson, Russell T Davies, Richard Dawkins, Inua Ellams, Salma El-Wardany, Nathan Filer, Hannah Gadsby, Salena Godden, Will Harris, Lenny Henry, Lisa Jewell, Etgar Keret, Mariam Khan, Zaffar Kunial, Theresa Lola, Sabrina Mahfouz, Hollie McNish, Nico Muhly, Paul Muldoon, Randall Munroe, Daljit Nagra, Courttia Newland, Joo Yeon Park, Bobby Parker, Sara Pascoe, Philippa Perry, Antoni Porowski, Yara Rodrigues Fowler, Luzia Sauma, Joelle Taylor, Christie Watson and more

Alongside this, the bumper season features leading authors discussing new works of fiction, TV personalities and comedians reflecting on their careers with the launch of new books, live readings, panel discussions and new creative writing and poetry courses. In addition, Southbank Centre continues its commitment to present the best in spoken word and poetry with events and exhibitions curated by its National Poetry Library, the largest collection of modern poetry in the world, and the continuation of Out-Spoken’s year-long residency.

Autumn 2019 Season highlights include:

  • Talks and in conversation events with leading writers and thinkers including psychotherapist Philippa Perry, science writer Richard Dawkins, cartoonist Randall Munroe, writer Will Self and journalist Malcolm Gladwell

  • Appearances from TV personalities including documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux, Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski and The Great British Bake Off’s Nadiya Hussain who launch new books

  • Comedians Richard Ayoade, in conversation with Adam Buxton, Sara Pascoe and Lenny Henry discussing new books whilst Hannah Gadsby brings her live show Douglas to Royal Festival Hall

  • London exclusive appearances from award-winning fiction writers Malorie Blackman, Etgar Keret and Celeste Ng

  • The continuation of Out-Spoken’s year-long residency at Southbank Centre with monthly masterclasses and live poetry and music nights featuring Anthony Anaxagorou, Hollie McNish, Liz Berry, Zaffar Kunial, Salena Godden and more

  • London Review of Books celebrating its 40th anniversary with an exclusive, collaborative literary-music event featuring Anne Carson, Nico Muhly, Paul Muldoon and guests

  • The return of National Poetry Library Lates and new free exhibitions in Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library

  • Schools National Poetry Day Live featuring workshops and live poetry readings from Theresa Lola, Raymond Antrobus, SLAMbassadors and more

  • The return of the Booker Prize Shortlist Readings

  • The return of Polari, London’s leading LGBTQ+ literary salon featuring screenwriter and TV producer Russell T Davies and writer Lisa Jewell

  • Readings, performance and discussion from contributors to new anthologies Smashing It: Working Class Artists on Life, Art and Making It Happen, Un Nuevo Sol: British Latinx Writers and It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race

  • New six week autumn courses in poetry and creative writing

  • Southbank Centre’s thirteenth London Literature Festival featuring 11 days of talks, readings, poetry and performance, opening with Poetry International (programme to be announced)

Ted Hodgkinson, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre said: “It’s a thrill to present an Autumn Season brimming with big personalities, the world’s most exciting literary talents and the very best of the poetry and spoken word scene in London and beyond.

From striking up conversations with strangers to unlocking the mysteries of the human mind, our expanded array of talks with leading thinkers and cultural commentators promises to provoke and challenge. Appearances from beloved storytellers alongside frank reflections on life from celebrated comedians will delight and disarm in equal measure, in a season that will make us think, make us laugh and bring us together.”

Tickets go on sale to Southbank Centre Members on Tuesday 25 June and to the General Public on Wednesday 26 June with the exception of Will Self on a Life in Writing, London Literature Festival and Poetry International which will go on sale at a later date. Hannah Gadsby: Douglas and Malorie Blackman: Crossfire are already on sale. For more information please visit the Southbank Centre website HERE.

Further Programme Detail


Southbank Centre expands its non-fiction programme this season with writers, thinkers and experts exploring key issues and topics in today’s society in London exclusive events.

Science writer Richard Dawkins puts forward his argument for atheism as he discusses his new book Outgrowing God (QEH, 22 Sep)

American cartoonist and creator of webcomic xkcd Randall Munroe presents his latest book, How To, offering audiences an entertaining insight into the science and technology behind the everyday (RFH, 7 Oct); journalist Malcolm Gladwell explores how and why we so often misread other people, discussing his new book Talking to Strangers (RFH, 25 Nov); acclaimed writer Will Self opens up about his drug addiction in the 1980s as he launches his new memoir Will (QEH, 9 Nov); psychotherapist and author Philippa Perry explores parenting in conversation with broadcaster Nihal Arthanayake as she discusses her bestselling The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (QEH, 19 Sep)and launching a new strand Reading the MindSouthbank Centre presents a special event chaired by journalist Christina Patterson with Costa Prize winning authors and qualified nurses Nathan Filer and Christie Watson in conversation together for the first time as they explore mental health through literature (PUR, 9 Sep).

TV personalities discuss their work and present new books. Documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux reflects on a weird, wonderful journey through two decades of groundbreaking television as he presents his new memoir (RFH, 25 Sep); and in London exclusive events, Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski invites audiences to ask him questions on healthy living and eating as he celebrates the publication of his first cookbook, Antoni in the Kitchen (QEH, 25 Sep) and fellow chef and bestselling author Nadiya Hussain reflects on her life and roles as mother, Muslim, working woman and celebrity as she presents her brand new memoir Finding My Voice, in conversation with broadcaster and cultural commentator Emma Freud (RFH, 1 Dec).

The season also features appearances from some of today’s most entertaining comedians in London exclusive events. Acclaimed writer and director, and star of The IT Crowd, Richard Ayoade reflects on his award-winning films and comedy as he discusses his new book Ayoade on Top in conversation with fellow comedian, actor and director Adam Buxton (RFH, 5 Sep); cherished comedian and national treasure Lenny Henry takes the stage to share his long-awaited autobiography, Who Am I, Again?, reflecting on his early years and sudden rise to fame (RFH, 30 Sep); award-winning comedian Sara Pascoe explores what really matters to humans as she discusses her new book, Sex Power Money (QEH, 8 Sep)and following the success of Nanette, Tasmanian comedian Hannah Gadsby presents her new stand-up show Douglas for three performances in Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall (RFH, 25 Oct & two performances on 27 Oct).


Award-winning writers present new works of fiction in exclusive London events. Beloved Young Adult writer Malorie Blackman presents her long-awaited new novel in her Noughts and Crosses series, Crossfire (QEH, 8 Sep); renowned short-story writer Etgar Keret presents his new collection, Fly Already, in conversation with Associate Professor in English Literature at the University of Southampton, Devorah Baum (PUR, 3 Sep); and bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng makes her first London appearance following the publication of her acclaimed novels to discuss her work, in conversation with Southbank Centre Chief Executive Elaine Bedell (QEH, 6 Oct).


Out-Spoken, one of London’s premier poetry and live music nights, continues its year-long residency at Southbank Centre. Hosted by poet and founder of SLAMbassadors national youth slamJoelle Taylor and featuring the beats of DJ Sam ‘Junior’ Bromfield, the first of three live events sees poet and founder of Out-Spoken Anthony Anaxagorou take the stage alongside writer and visual artist Bobby Parker and legendary spoken-word artist Salena Godden and features music from Nigerian Afro Fusion musician Villy and singer-songwriter Azekel (PUR, 26 Sep).

The second edition kicks off Poetry International with a stellar line up of poets to be announced (PUR, 17 Oct) and the third features Forward Prize winning poet Liz Berry, acclaimed Faber poet Zaffar Kunial and Ted Hughes Award winner Hollie McNish (PUR, 28 Nov). Three corresponding masterclasses open to anyone with an interest in poetry, are hosted by leading poets including internationally touring poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams (SUN, 21 Sep; FOY, 12 Oct; FOY, 23 Nov).

Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library presents a number of events and exhibitions across the season. National Poetry Library LatesSouthbank Centre’s series of poetry salons in the Hayward Gallery Cafe returns, showcasing performances and readings from today’s leading poets and emerging talent (HGC, 20 Nov).

The National Poetry library also presents regular free exhibitions: Guernica Remakings displays new audio-visual responses to Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece and includes commissions from poets So Mayer and Richard Price embedded within the work (NPL, until 22 Sept); and the library marks the 30th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s death with Library of the Unword, a new 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).

Further events at the library include A Homage to Raaz, an evening of readings and tribute to poet and founder of Survivors’ Poetry, Razz (NPL, 4 Sep); A Bargain with the Light which sees poet Jacqueline Saphra reflect on photos of and by photographer and war journalist Lee Miller (NPL, 2 Oct); and Beyond Imitation, a discussion examining poetry’s relationship with art featuring special guest speakers and poets Tammy Yoseloff, Claire Collison, Abegail Morley and Kathryn Maris who read from their work (NPL, 4 Dec).

To celebrate National Poetry Day on 3 October, Southbank Centre and The Poetry Society jointly present a range of poetry workshops and free performances, open to school pupils aged 7-11. Featured poets include Raymond Antrobus, Jade Cuttle, Dzifa Benson, Daljit Nagra, Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola and winners of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award (CBR, 3 Oct).


The Booker Prize Readings are a major highlight of the literary calendar, and once again return to Southbank Centre, showcasing the authors shortlisted for the 2019 prize reading from their work, on the evening before the winner is announced (RFH, 13 Oct).

London’s leading LGBTQ+ literary salon, Polari, returns for three events this Autumn Season hosted by Polari founder and writer Paul Burston. The first takes place during London Literature Festival with line-up to be announced. The second marks its twelfth birthday and features BAFTA-winning screenwriter and TV producer Russell T Davies in conversation about his work including Queer as Folk and Years and Years (L5FR, 25 Nov) whilst the third is headlined by writer Lisa Jewell who reads from and discusses her new book The Family Upstairs (L5FR, 9 Dec).

As part of its 40th anniversary celebrations, the London Review of Books brings the acclaimed New York literary-music series Against the Grain to the UK for the first time in an exclusive event. The evening of readings, conversation, contemporary music and one-night-only collaboration features Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, Canadian poet and translator Anne Carson, American composer Nico Muhly and guests (QEH, 30 Oct).

The season additionally features discussions with contributors to new anthologies. Editor and activist Mariam Khan is in conversation with Salma El-Wardany, fellow contributor to a new collection It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race exploring contemporary Muslim female experiences, alongside additional panellists to be announced (PUR, 7 Nov); artists and contributors to a new collection Smashing It: Working Class Artists on Life, Art and Making It Happen including poet and editor of the collection Sabrina Mahfouz and Southbank Centre Creative Director Madani Younis, who chairs the session, showcase and perform their work, offering tips and personal insights on how to make it into the arts (PUR, 23 Sep); and Brazilian British novelists Yara Rodrigues Fowler and Luzia Sauma as well as award-winning Argentine British poet Leo Boix, contributors to the first ever anthology of British Latinx writers, Un Nuevo Sol: British Latinx Writers, read from their work in an evening hosted by writer and publisher Nii Ayikwei Parkes, the founder of flipped eye publishing (L5FR, 19 Nov).


Continuing its education offer, alongside the monthly Out-Spoken poetry masterclasses, Southbank Centre presents a six-week poetry writing course How to Be a Person, led by poet Will Harris (25 Sep – 4 Dec) and acclaimed writer Courttia Newland leads a six-week creative writing course City Lights exploring the theme of urban metropolis (30 Oct – 11 Dec).


Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival returns for its thirteenth year this October (17th – 27th), bringing together today’s leading writers, thinkers and cultural observers for 11 days of talks, readings, poetry and performance.

This year’s edition once again opens with Poetry International (17th – 20th), Southbank Centre’s longest running festival, founded by former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes in 1967, with four days of poetry and performance from today’s leading poets and spoken word artists from across the world.

Previous London Literature Festival participants include Salman Rushdie, Akala, Margaret Atwood, Philip Pullman, Claudia Rankine, Carol Ann Duffy, Louis Theroux, Roger Daltrey, Chibundu Onuzo, Lauren Child, Juno Dawson, Nikesh Shukla, Joy Harjo, Terrance Hayes, Tom Hanks, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sally Field. The programme for London Literature Festival and Poetry International 2019 will be announced in July.

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