City of Literature 2020

A series of conversations, reflections and connections across one week in May


Presented by the National Centre for Writing and Norfolk & Norwich Festival

Max Porter

A Delicate Sight

Featuring Max Porter

Place darkness at the centre of your perception and explore how your senses, thoughts and emotions are heightened with this guided creative activity.

A number of the UK’s leading writers – including Bernardine Evaristo, Max Porter, Raymond Antrobus and Don Paterson – were commissioned to spend time in a dark room installation as part of artist and producer Sam Winston’s interactive exhibition A Delicate Sight. Now it’s your turn!

Tune in to hear artist and producer Sam Winston in conversation with Booker Prize-longlisted writer Max Porter in a special edition of our podcast. Then check out our specially commissioned audio guide from writer Jarred McGinnis and explore your own creativity in the darkness.

With thanks to Arts Council England

Explore now

Ellah P Wakatama

Will we remember all of this in the After?

Tea-time read from Ellah P. Wakatama

‘Calling essential workers heroes does not make up for years of underfunding’. While exploring South London’s Sydenham Hill Wood, literary critic and Editor-at-large for Canongate fiction Ellah P. Wakatama remembers the past and imagines the unknowable near future.

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Sara BaumePortait of an Artist and Writer

Podcast with Sara Baume & Elizabeth Macneal

A fascinating glimpse into the daily process of making and writing from Sara Baume (Spill Simmer Falter Wither) and Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory), chaired by Jen McDerra. Through writing, sculpture and ceramics, they will offer reflections on isolation, motivation, nature and beauty.

Listen now


In the Company of Poems

Tea-time read from Fiona Bennett

Fiona is the founder and director of The Poetry Exchange. Here, she reflects on the power of poetry to provide companionship, beauty and escape in times of isolation.

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Re-forming reading habits during lockdown

Tea-time read from Holly Ainley

Holly Ainley’s normal working life is immersed in books – but now, physical restrictions have seen an emergence of new freedoms in what, where, how and why she reads.

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NCW Virtual Book Club

A Line Made By Walking

Thursday 21 May, 6.30pm, free to book

Our first virtual book club will discuss Sara Baume’s remarkable Goldsmiths Prize-shortlisted novel, A Line Made By Walking – the story of a young artist’s search for meaning and healing in rural Ireland.

Spaces are limited so we recommend booking your place in advance.

Book now


iPhone, headphones and a cup of coffeeThe Poetry Exchange

Friday 22 & Saturday 23 May

Do you have a poem that has been a friend to you? Book in for a friendly, one-to-one online chat about your chosen poem with The Poetry Exchange podcast team. In exchange, you’ll receive a gift: a special recording of your chosen poem, inspired by the conversation. You might even end up on their show!

Sessions last approximately 45 minutes. One person per session. Please book in advance.

Fully booked!

Book for Friday 22 May  Book for Saturday 23 May


Joe HedingerHaunted from a distance

Tea-time read from Joe Hedinger

Joe Hedinger is a bookseller for The Book Hive and co-founder of the not-for-profit literature magazine, Dog-Ear. He ruminates on the way that books have followed him throughout his life – and how this haunting has increased during the lockdown period.

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Owen SheersTen inspiring writers asking the questions that will shape our future

Owen Sheers and Chitra Ramaswamy

‘What is the role of a writer at times of transition and change? How might their work contribute at a hinge point in history when the choices we make today will so significantly affect the kinds of lives we live tomorrow?’

Author, poet and playwright and Professor in Creativity at Swansea University Owen Sheers reveals his selection of ten inspiring writers asking the questions that will shape our future, as part of the International Literature Showcase.

Discover the details of Owen’s list, including his introduction to each writer and the reasons why he finds their work to be so important – spanning topics including the environment, structural inequality and the role of a writer at times of transition and change. There will also be an analysis of Owen’s selection from award-winning journalist Chitra Ramaswamy, who began her career as a writer for The Big Issue.

Owen and Chitra will be on The Writing Life podcast to discuss Owen’s list and the issues that the current global crisis has brought to the fore. What role can writers play in shaping a more just world, and how do we ensure that we don’t go back to ‘business as usual’ after such a catastrophic event?

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The International Literature Showcase is a partnership between the National Centre for Writing and British Council, with support from Arts Council England and Creative Scotland.


Book and flowersPage Against the Machine

Join us for an at-home readathon!

Saturday 23 May, 3pm

Join us for a special virtual Page Against the Machine, in partnership with The Book Hive! Pick a book, grab a cool drink and turn off your phone for a well-deserved detox read in your favourite surroundings – perhaps a sunny dining room window, tucked up in bed or in a deck chair in the garden!

Don’t forget to share a photo of what you’re reading and where on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #CityofLit20, and you could win an exclusive City of Literature tote bag!

Find out more


Patrick BarkhamDiscovering the joys of neighbourhood nature

Tea-time read from Patrick Barkham

Celebrated nature writer and Guardian columnist Patrick Barkham pays tribute to one of the bright spots of life in lockdown: the spirit of the natural world, and the opportunity to forge newly intimate relationships with other species in our neighbourhood.

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Support us

As a UK registered charity, the National Centre for Writing relies on the generosity of our supporters to make our work possible. Please consider making a donation today to ensure that the writers of tomorrow get the support they need to thrive and tell their story, whatever their background.

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