Literature Festival at Sea 2020.

Join Queen Mary 2’s second Literature Festival at Sea, in partnership with Cheltenham Literature Festival and The Times and The Sunday Times.

1 - 8 December 2020, Queen Mary 2.

With a seven-day programme of literary events, talks and workshops, the Literature Festival at Sea will celebrate the written word in all its wonderful variety. Returning for its second year, the festival is run in partnership with The Cheltenham Literature Festival and The Times and The Sunday Times.

We will be joined on board by some of the worlds’ best novelists, historians, poets, and critics including bestselling authors Ian Rankin, Kate Mosse, Alexander McCall Smith, Prue Leith, Rachel Joyce, Alan Johnson, Joanne Harris and Mark Billingham; poet and broadcaster Pam Ayres; editor and dramaturge Greg Mosse; and your favourite Times journalists will be coming along too.

Throughout the week we will hear some of our literary greats in conversation about their life and work and get the chance to meet them at intimate author signings. Sailing in December 2020, we'll get into the festive spirit with readings celebrating the best Christmas scenes in literature, from Rudyard Kipling's Christmas in India to P.G. Wodehouse's lament about Christmas on a diet.

We'll be reviewing the biggest news stories of the year with our Times columnists and analysing the truth behind the headlines; there will be a programme of workshops and master-classes for budding writers. Hear our literary editors and critics pick their best books of the year or have a reading list tailor-made for you by our resident bibliotherapists. There will be bookish delights around every corner so join us for what promises to be an incredible journey.

Special guests on board.

Ian Rankin.

Ian Rankin is the multi-million copy worldwide bestseller of over thirty novels and creator of John Rebus. His books have been translated into thirty-six languages and have been adapted for radio, stage and screen. Rankin is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards, including the Diamond Dagger, the UK’s most prestigious award for crime fiction. In the United States, he has won the celebrated Edgar Award and been shortlisted for the Anthony Award. In Europe, he has won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the German Deutscher Krimipreis. He is the recipient of honorary degrees from universities across the UK, is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature, and has received an OBE for his services to literature.

Prue Leith.

Prue has always been a writer and a cook. Her early career was in journalism with columns in the Daily Mail, Sunday Express, Guardian and Mirror. She has written 12 cookbooks, including Leith's Cookery Bible (co-written with Caroline Waldegrave). She is a familiar face on British television in The Great British Menu, My Kitchen Rules UK and The Great British Bake Off. But for 30 years her main career was in business, with a Michelin starred restaurant in Notting Hill Gate. Her honours include the Veuve Cliquot Business Woman of the Year in 1990, and thirteen honorary degrees or fellowships from UK universities. Since 1993 she has written eight novels, all stories of family life, love, ambition and business. After a 25 year hiatus, her new cookery book PRUE was published by Bluebird in 2018.

Alexander McCall Smith.

Alexander McCall Smith, often referred to as ‘Sandy’, is one of the world’s most prolific and best-loved authors. He has received numerous awards for his writing and holds honorary doctorates from universities in Europe and North America. In 2007 he received a CBE for services to literature and in 2011 was honoured by the President of Botswana for services through literature to the country. In 2015 he received the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction and in 2017, The National Arts Club (of America) Medal of Honor for Achievement in Literature.

Joanne Harris.

Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French writer, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories. Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. In 2000, her 1999 novel Chocolat was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. Chocolat has sold over a million copies in the UK alone and was a global bestseller. Joanne is an Honorary Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.

Marcus Brigstocke.

Marcus Brigstocke is a multi award-winning comedian, actor, writer, playwright, director and satirist. His TV credits include Have I Got News For You, QI, Live At The Apollo and Question Time. He has been playing to sold out houses all over the world for over 20 years. Marcus is a regular on BBC Radio 4, with credits including The Now Show, The News Quiz, and I’m sorry I haven’t a clue among others. On stage he’s played Arthur in Monty Python’s Spamalot and PT Barnum in Cy Coleman’s Barnum, which involved walking a tightrope every night for three months. He recently wrote and directed an award-winning play, The Red. Marcus’ satire covers politics, religion, international affairs, social satire and climate change. His book God Collar examined atheism and faith and was published by Transworld.

Mark Billingham.

Mark Billingham is one of the UK's most acclaimed and popular crime writers. His series of novels featuring DI Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel of the Year Award. His debut novel Sleepyhead was published in 2001 and was chosen by The Sunday Times as one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade. A television series based on the Thorne novels starred David Morrissey as Tom Thorne and a major new drama based on In the Dark and Time of Death was broadcast on the BBC in 2017.

Kate Mosse.

Kate Mosse is a number one international bestselling novelist, playwright and non-fiction writer. The author of six novels and short story collections – including the multimillion-selling Languedoc Trilogy (Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel) and Gothic fiction The Winter Ghosts and The Taxidermist’s Daughter, which she is adapting for the stage – her books have been translated into thirty-seven languages and published in more than forty countries. She is the Founder Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and a regular interviewer for theatre and fiction events. The second novel in The Burning Chambers series, The City of Tears will be published in May 2020.

Alan Johnson.

Alan’s childhood memoir This Boy was published by Bantam Press on 9th May 2013. It won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, and the Orwell Prize, Britain's top political writing award. His second volume of memoirs. Please Mr Postman, was published in September 2014 and won the National Book Club award for Best Biography. The final book in his memoir trilogy, The Long and Winding Road, was published in September 2016 and won the Parliamentary Book Award for Best Memoir. Alan retired as an MP before the 2017 general election after 20 years as an MP. On 20th September 2018 his latest book, In My Life – A Music Memoir was launched at Studio 2, Abbey Road where the Beatles made almost all of their records.

Rachel Joyce.

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her books have been translated into thirty-six languages and two are in development for film. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ 2014. Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl.

Greg Mosse.

Greg is a ‘writer and encourager of writers’. He has worked for many years as editor, dramaturge and script consultant in theatre, film and novels. As well as running writing workshops for Guardian Masterclasses, Southbank Centre and Chichester Festival Theatre, he is the founder of the Criterion New Writing script development programme at the Criterion Theatre, London, now in its fifth year. Graduates of the programme have gone on to have work produced at major theatres in London and elsewhere, and on BBC Radio.

Matt Chorley.

Matt Chorley is a Times columnist, and editor of the award-winning Red Box political newsletter and podcast, in which he tries to make sense of what is happening in politics. He joined The Times in 2016, having spent more than a decade covering politics for MailOnline, the Independent on Sunday, Western Morning News and Press Association.

Alex Clark.

Alex Clark is a journalist and broadcaster, often seen in the pages of the Guardian, the Observer and the Times Literary Supplement, and heard on BBC R4 programmes such as Front Row and Open Book. An experienced chair of live events, she has also worked as an artistic director at the Bath Festival and the Cambridge Literary Festival. The literary awards she has judged include the Man Booker Prize and the Orwell Prize. Alex lives in North London and Kilkenny.

Dharshini David.

A highly experienced broadcaster and economist, Dharshini is a familiar face to BBC News audiences. She started her career as a government economist before moving to HSBC Investment Bank. She subsequently joined the BBC to cover financial stories, going on to present for Panorama. There followed a successful period at Sky News, where she presented business, political and general news programmes, including the flagship Sky News Tonight. In January 2020, she was appointed the BBC’s first Global Trade Correspondent, covering all areas from Brexit to US/China relations. Dharshini is the author of The Almighty Dollar (Elliott & Thompson 2018), which explains globalisation and the foundations that underpin the world economy in accessible terms.

Rachel Parris.

Rachel Parris is a Bafta Award-nominated comedian, musician and improviser. She recently gained global attention for her satirical segments on BBC2's The Mash Report, garnering over 55 million views to date. She has performed on Live At The Apollo, Mock The Week, and QI, and has appeared in The IT Crowd, Murder In Successville and Revolting. She won the "Breakthrough Act" award at the 2018 Edinburgh Television Festival. Rachel has received much critical acclaim for her live comedy shows, winning a Chortle Award in 2018. As an improviser, she is a regular on There Will Be Cake alongside Marcus Brigstocke. She is co-founder of the Chortle award-winning show Austentatious, which has a West End residency and can be heard on BBC Radio 4.

Luigi Bonomi.

Luigi spent his early career as an editor, working in genres as diverse as children’s fiction, romance and non-fiction. He worked with some of the world’s most successful authors including Nora Roberts, Jack Higgins, Peter James, and Alan Titchmarsh. In 1994 he decided to become a literary agent and set up his own literary agency, LBA, in 2005. Over the years he has represented Sir Terry Wogan, Richard Hammond, James May, Kirstie Allsopp and Fern Britton as well as a long list of crime, thriller and non-fiction authors. He has launched the careers of many bestselling writers and in 2010, was awarded the accolade and Bookseller Industry Award of Literary Agent of the Year. He has worked as a consultant for the Oxford Literary Festival and is an honorary Professor of Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University.

Yvonne Battle-Felton.

Yvonne is a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction. Her novel Remembered was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and her writing has been published in literary journals and anthologies. Yvonne was shortlisted for the 2017 Words and Women Competition and the Sunderland University Waterstones SunStory Award in 2018. She won a Northern Writers Award in fiction in 2017, and was awarded a Society of Author’s Foundation Grant for Remembered in 2018. She was commended for children’s writing in the 2017 Faber Andlyn BAME (FAB) Prize and has three titles in Penguin Random House’s Ladybird Tales of Superheroes. Yvonne has a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and is Lecturer in Creative Writing and Creative Industries at Sheffield Hallam University.

* Photograph by Ian Robinson

Pam Ayres.

Pam Ayres has been a writer, broadcaster, and entertainer for over 40 years, and is one of the few authors who has had books in the Sunday Times bestseller charts in almost every decade since the 1970s. Pam has appeared three times for HM The Queen – at the Silver Jubilee Royal Variety Performance in 1977, at a Royal Gala Charity Reception at St. James Palace in 1996, when Pam, as the only entertainer, performed part of her solo stage show, and finally at Sandringham Women’s Institute in 2004, when the Queen attended in her capacity as President of the Sandringham WI. Subsequently, Pam was honoured to be awarded the MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2004.

Hugo Rifkind.

Hugo Rifkind is a leader writer for the Times where he also writes columns, features, reviews and satire. He is also a regular panellist on Radio 4's The News Quiz.

Robbie Millen.

Robbie Millen has been Literary Editor of The Times since 2013. He has also been deputy comment editor and a features editor for the Times. Earlier in his career, he worked a journalist for The Spectator and the Daily Express.

Janice Turner.

Janice Turner is an award-winning columnist and interviewer with The Times, which she joined in 2003. Over her career she has written for publications including the New Statesman, Marie Claire, Elle, the Mail on Sunday and The Guardian. Raised in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, she has written on many subjects but most notably politics, feminism and our ageing society.

Antony Beevor.

Antony Beevor’s books include Crete (Runciman Prize) Stalingrad (Samuel Johnson, Wolfson and Hawthornden Prizes); Berlin; The Battle for Spain (Premio La Vanguardia); D-Day (RUSI Westminster Medal); The Second World War; Ardennes 1944 (shortlist Prix Médicis); and now Arnhem, another international bestseller. His awards include Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in France, Cross of the Order of Terra Mariana in Estonia, and Commandeur de l’Ordre de la Couronne in Belgium. He was knighted in 2017. His work has been translated into 33 languages and sold more than eight million copies. A former chairman of the Society of Authors, he has received four honorary doctorates and a fellowship of King’s College London. He is a visiting professor at the University of Kent.

Artemis Cooper.

Artemis Cooper's books include Cairo in the War, 1939-1945; Writing at the Kitchen Table, the Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David; Patrick Leigh Fermor, an Adventure; Elizabeth Jane Howard: A Dangerous Innocence, and Paris After the Liberation 1944-1949, which she co-wrote with her husband Antony Beevor.

Simon Armitage.

Simon Armitage is the UK Poet Laureate and was Oxford Professor of Poetry from 2015-2019. He was appointed Professor of Poetry at Leeds University in 2017. His numerous accolades include an Ivor Novello Award for song-writing in the BAFTA-winning film Feltham Sings and the 2018 Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Simon has published 12 collections of poetry, including Paper Aeroplane - Selected Poems, and his acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He writes extensively for television and radio, and is the author of two novels and the non-fiction bestsellers All Points North, Walking Home and Walking Away. His theatre works include The Last Days of Troy, performed at Shakespeare's Globe, London, in 2014. In 2010 Simon was made CBE for services to poetry.

Daniel Finkelstein.

Daniel Finkelstein, OBE, is the Associate Editor of The Times. He also sits in the House of Lords as Lord Finkelstein. As well as his weekly political column in the comment section and his Saturday Notebook, he writes the “Fink Tank” for the Saturday paper, a statistical column on football. Between 1997 and 2001, he was chief policy adviser to the Leader of the Opposition Rt. Hon. William Hague MP, and Secretary to the Shadow Cabinet. In 2001, he was Conservative parliamentary candidate in Harrow West. Between 1995 and 1997, he was Director of the Conservative Research Department, in which capacity he advised Prime Minister John Major and attended meetings of the Cabinet when it sat in political session. Daniel is an honorary Doctor of Science at the City University.

Paul Mendez.

Paul Mendez was born and raised in the Black Country. He now lives in London and is studying for an MA in Black British Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been a performing member of two theatre companies and worked as a voice actor, appearing on audiobooks by Andrea Levy, Paul Theroux and Ben Okri. Most recently, he recorded Ian Wright's A Life in Football for Hachette Audio. As a writer, he has contributed to the Times Literary Supplement and the Brixton Review of Books. Rainbow Milk is his debut novel.