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 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.

That’s not all…we will review the biggest news stories of the year with our Times columnists and analyse the truth behind the headlines, and 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 round 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. Before she started writing fiction, she had a career in journalism with columns in the Daily Mail, Sunday Express, Guardian and Mirror and wrote 12 cookbooks, with Leith's Cookery Bible (co-written with Caroline Waldegrave). She’s a familiar face on British television (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, and won Businesswoman of the Year in 1990. In 1993 she sold her business to concentrate on writing fiction. Since then she has written eight novels, all stories of family life, love, ambition and business. After 25 years, Prue wrote a new cookery book called PRUE, which 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 and 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.

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.

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. She is an Honorary Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.

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.

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.

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 & fiction events. The second novel in The Burning Chambers series, The City of Tears will be published in May 2020.

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.