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Find out about Sunday's exciting programme...


11.30am – 12.30pm

The Blitz was the most significant and frightening episode in London’s history since the Plague and the Great Fire almost three centuries earlier. Inevitably there grew up a whole subsequent mythology, culminating in Lionel Bart’s 1962 musical Blitz! – memorably described by Noël Coward as “as long as the real thing, and twice as noisy”. Our three speakers give us the rounded reality. Lara Feigel (The Love-charm of Bombs; The Bitter Taste of Victory) evokes the literary and romantic dimensions; Juliet Gardiner (The Blitz; Wartime; The Thirties) takes us to the heart of the action, including at The London Library itself, and to how Londoners responded; while Max Hastings (The Secret War; All Hell Let Loose; Armageddon) authoritatively puts the Blitz in the larger context of the war. All nations have their collective myths: this event, chaired by David Kynaston, examines one of our most resonant.

Lara FeigelJuliet GardinerMax Hastings

Supported by

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1pm – 2pm

How do actors, writers and directors develop their understanding of character to avoid cliché and create believable and compelling drama? In this revelatory look behind the scenes Simon Russell Beale, Simon Callow (Being an Actor), Natascha McElhone (After You) and Harriet Walter (Other People’s Shoes: Thoughts on Acting) discuss the process of research and rehearsal, revealing how they have developed specific techniques to help them find their own particular truths about human behaviour and performance.  Nicholas Hytner, former Artistic Director of the National Theatre, chairs. 

* As those taking part are all involved in the world of theatre and film, individual availability may be subject to developing work commitments.

Simon Russell Beale HeadshotSimon CallowNicholas HytnerNatasha McElhoneHarriet Walter


2.30pm - 3.30pm

A select group of very different writers are asked to make five decisions each about the books they might take – not excluding the Bible and Shakespeare – to a desert island. What was their favourite childhood read?  Which book has had the greatest influence on their life? What is their guiltiest pleasure? Which former favourite might they leave behind? And which book from the last few years would they most recommend? In five quickfire rounds, broadcaster and journalist Tom Sutcliffe asks Ned Beauman (Glow), Philippa Gregory (The White Queen), Deborah Levy (Hot Milk), John O’Farrell (An Utterly Impartial History of Britain), Nikesh Shukla (Meatspace) and Sara Wheeler (The Magnetic North: Notes from the Arctic Circle) for their suggestions and reasons, before asking the audience to vote on each category choice.

Ned BeaumanPhilippa GregoryDeborah Levy (Photo: Sheila Burnett)John O'FarrellNikesh ShuklaTom SutcliffeSara Wheeler


4pm – 5pm

Simon Schama (The Story of the Jews; The Power of Art; A History of Britain; Landscape and Memory; The Embarrassment of Riches; Citizens) is one of the world’s great historians, appreciated not only for his range of subject matter and depth of knowledge but for the originality, intelligence and immediacy of his prose. In this intimate public conversation to close the London Library celebration, Simon talks to James Runcie about the books that have shaped his style, his storytelling and his life: from Shakespeare’s History Plays to Tolstoy’s War and Peace; from Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Leopard to Italo Svevo’s The Confessions of Zeno and Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky March; from Damon Runyon and Raymond Chandler to the non-fiction of Richard Cobb, M.F.K. Fisher and the essays of David Foster Wallace.

The greatest writers are often the closest and finest readers. Simon Schama reveals why.

Simon Schama Headshot

Supported by:


DianeAtkinsonT LaraFeigelT JulietGardinerT IanHislopT EmmaJohnT DavidKynastonT HermioneLeeT LucyLethbridgeT DeborahLevyT JohnOFarrellT JamesRuncieT ElifShafakT KateSummerscaleT JoannaTrollopeT JennyUglowT WilliamWaldegraveT HarrietWalterT JerryWhiteT



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