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Counting the ways

The temperature outside this May has been matched only by the heat inside Four Culture’s office, with launches, festivals, new books and a whole range of prizes to celebrate. It’s a challenge for me to count the ways in which all our various cultural campaigns interweave and work so successfully together. Amazingly they do.

The month started with a whistle-stop trip to New York to celebrate George Saunders, the winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize. George was the focus of a New York Public Library event, the first in what I hope will be an ongoing partnership for the prizes with the NYPL. The following night found him in conversation with New York Times journalist, Wyatt Mason, at a private party for the Man Group and the growing number of New Yorkers with links to the prize. It was terrific to celebrate the second American winner of the prize in the city – Miriam gives you the lowdown here.

Truda also reports on the awards ceremony for the Man Booker International Prize, which took place last week at the V&A. This is the third iteration of the prize in its new format and it’s fabulous to see the effect that its success is having in encouraging readers to look at fiction in translation. Flights was a brilliant win not only for its Polish author, Olga Tokarczuk, and translator Jennifer Croft – both of whom win £25,000 each – but also for small independent publisher, Fitzcarraldo. 10 days on from the win, they are reporting sales of over 10,000 books, having sold an initial 2,500 copies over the course of a whole year. Read more here.

Man Booker also featured heavily at the Hay Festival where we announced the shortlist last weekend for the Golden Man Booker. This is a one-off prize created to mark the 50th anniversary where five judges – Robert McCrum; Lemn Sissay; Kamila Shamsie; Simon Mayo; and Hollie McNish – have each read all the winners of a given decade to decide on their winner for those 10 years. The Golden Man Booker shortlist was announced with much pizzazz in Hay and was then hotly debated the following morning – with some interesting results. Hannah tells you more here – and then it is time for you to read the five and vote! I’m still reading and am currently on Moon Tiger, which I’m loving every bit as much second time around.

Hay was a real Man Booker fest over the Bank holiday with events featuring Olga and Jennifer; the 2000 Man Booker winner, Margaret Atwood; and 1998 winner Ian McEwan. At the end of the interview Ian thrilled the audience with a reading from a new short story and then introduced Deepa Anappara, the winner of the 2018 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award.

The Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award was the first initiative of the Deborah Rogers Foundation, set up in 2015 in memory of the much loved and respected literary agent, Deborah Rogers. In keeping with Deborah’s special talent for nurturing and supporting emerging writers, this £10,000 award is for a first-time unpublished author whose work demonstrates literary talent and who needs financial support to complete their first book.

As a trustee of the Foundation I am much heartened to see the difference that both the money and the recognition can make to an emerging writer. Sharlene Teo, the 2016 winner, was instantly taken on by an agent and her first novel Ponti was published earlier this year. Needless to say Sharlene was in the audience to congratulate Deepa.

Moving over to non-fiction, David France, who won the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction for his account of AIDS activism in New York, was in the UK from the US this month, visiting Edinburgh, the home of sponsor Baillie Gifford. David then appeared at the Charleston Literary Festival, another of our clients; the Bath Festival; and Hay, along with the 2017 winner, Philippe Sands. David’s back for an event at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 23 August and tickets go on sale next week. Learn more here.

May is awash with festivals but, if you’ve never been, Charleston is really worth a visit. A major centre for the Bloomsbury Set, the house and gardens are a joy, quite apart from the line-up of writers on offer. We had organised yet another Man Booker 50 event where two former judges – Erica Wagner (2002) and Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (2015) – were in discussion with the prize’s literary director Gaby Wood about their experiences. The judging process is of course confidential but they still managed to spill enough beans to keep the audience enthralled.

Also enthralling was national treasure Sir David Attenborough who, as the winner of the fourth Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize, was guest of honour at the festival.  The 92-year-old was completely undaunted by a lengthy Bryan Appleyard interview and photo shoot for The Sunday Times, followed by delivering a lecture – to be broadcast on BBC later this year. In fact, he seemed to be having the time of his life! Read more here.

Enough of festivals and prizes! May also saw Matt launch the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton’s Cultural Quarter with an inaugural headline exhibition of works by Gerhard Richter. As you will read, it’s running till mid-August and is definitely worth a visit. Find out more here.

We’ve been working for the last couple of months for HarperCollins Children’s division on a new YA title from the spoken word star, Steven Camden. Stephen is also known as Polar Bear and his parallel fame is a major plus in reaching young people. Read more here.

At the other end of the scale was the launch of On Courage, a profoundly moving book put together by the Sebastopol Project to celebrate the bravery of VC and GC recipients.  A highlight of the launch of the book – proceeds from which will go to two key charities – was the presentation to Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall of copies of the finished book. Hannah tells you more here.

Finally Matt urges you here to visit the Africa Centre in its new home in Southwark. As you will read, new director Kenneth Tharp has ambitious and hugely exciting plans for the centre. The recent launch has attracted a wave of media interest as a must-visit venue this summer.

And now, really last of all, I hope you’ve all booked your seats for the Man Booker Festival of Fiction at the Southbank Centre from 6 - 8 July. A friend who lives out of London told me that he has booked into a London hotel for the entire weekend and plans to come to everything. He reckons it’s an unmissable and irrepeatable event. I think he may be right.

More next month. Hope there’s enough here meantime to amuse and keep you busy!

All best

Dotti

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