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Leica View from St Jamess Square Garden 2The London Library at 175

May 2016 promises to be a special time to celebrate the world of words, ideas and literary invention as The London Library – one of the world’s great literary institutions - gears up for its 175th anniversary.

On Tuesday 3rd May 2016, the Library will be marking 175 years since its foundation in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle and by founder members including Charles Dickens, Harriet Martineau, William Gladstone and John Stuart Mill.

The Library has been at the heart of literary life ever since and its miles of atmospheric bookshelves have provided a unique resource for thousands of members - including an extraordinary roll-call of the world’s leading writers and thinkers.


Words In The Square literary celebration

To celebrate its unique impact on the literary and cultural fabric of Britain the Library will be hosting a special three-day literary celebration in May, curated by leading writer and director James Runcie and celebrated social historian David Kynaston.

The Words In The Square celebration will run between 6th-8th May in St James’s Square - one of London’s most picturesque squares and the Library’s home since 1845. For three days a luxury marquee, capable of seating up to 350 people at a time, will play host to debates and discussions involving some of the most familiar names on the contemporary literary scene.

Some 50 high profile contributors – the majority of whom are Library members – will participate in sixteen separate events offering personal insights on literature, history, art, comedy, science and the creative process. Featured names include Antony Beevor, Eleanor Bron, Craig Brown, Andrew Graham Dixon, Sebastian Faulks, Philippa Gregory, Susan Greenfield, Max Hastings, Ian Hislop, Victoria Hislop, Tom Holland, Nick Hornby, Bettany Hughes, Alan Johnson, Tim Rice, Simon Schama, Elif Shafak, Claire Tomalin and Joanna Trollope, among many others.

The current programme outline is contained below and the final programme will be published in early February. Tickets for Words In The Square events will go on sale in early February with proceeds going towards supporting the Library, its extraordinary building and its amazing collection of over one million books.

Throughout the Words In The Square celebration, ticketed tours of the Library will give visitors an additional opportunity to find out about the Library’s fascinating history and the unique resources that can be found on its 17 miles of shelves. London Library members can also enjoy a special evening reception in the St James’s Square marquee on the 5th May.

Tom Stoppard, President of The London Library concluded, “Words In The Square is a three-day celebration of wit, wisdom and ideas, bringing together an exciting range of contemporary writers and thinkers. For 175 years The London Library has played a unique role in supporting literature, learning and creativity, and I am delighted that we - and the thousands of visitors we wish to welcome to St. James’s Square in May - will be able to mark this anniversary in such splendid company”.

Words In The Square - Programme Outline

The following outline reflects the programme that has been created to date and some events and speakers may be subject to change. The final programme will be published in early February.

Friday 6th May

  • 1841 – Diane Atkinson, Ian Hislop, David Kynaston, Lucy Lethbridge, Claire Tomalin and Jerry White come together to discuss different aspects of Britain and London 175 years ago
  • Who needs the classics? – Charlotte Higgins, Tom Holland and Bettany Hughes look at how the classical world can help us make sense of the present
  • Science and Serendipity – Susan Greenfield, Roger Kneebone and Jenny Uglow on how research sometimes depends on unexpected discovery as much as planned application
  • World War II to Daesh – Antony Beevor on how war has changed
  • Why I Write – Victoria Hislop, Nick Hornby, Elif Safak and Joanna Trollope reflect on their personal motivations for writing
  • The day concludes with a special evening feature by London Library President, Sir Tom Stoppard

Saturday 7th May

  • To Be Continued… - Sebastian Faulks and Sophie Hannah look at Series and Continuity Novels
  • The Golden Age of Murder – Simon Brett, James Runcie and Kate Summerscale on great crime writers
  • The Art of Turner – Andrew Graham Dixon explores the work of JMW Turner
  • Cricket & Literature – Ramachandra Guha, Emma John and Tim Rice look at the enduring literary appeal of cricket
  • Memoir – Alan Johnson, Candia McWilliam and William Waldegrave provide their personal perspective on the craft of memoir writing
  • An Evening of Satire – Craig Brown is joined by special guests including Eleanor Bron for an evening celebrating the noble art of satire

Sunday 8th May

  • London & The Blitz – Lara Feigel, Juliet Gardiner and Max Hastings explore how London was affected by the Blitz
  • Desert Island Books - Ned Beauman, Philippa Gregory, Deborah Levy and Sara Wheeler discuss their favourite reads
  • Building a Character - Simon Callow, Lee Hall and Harriet Walter on bringing characters to life
  • The day concludes with a special feature by historian Simon Schama


Simon Schama


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