Letters Live

Events | 10-12-13 |

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Inspired by our recent publication of Simon Garfield’s To the Letter and Shaun Usher's Letters of Note (co-published in partnership with Unbound), LETTERS LIVE involves high profile performers reading out “correspondence deserving of a wider audience.” Each unique event will also feature a host of notable actors, writers and musicians performing a diverse selection of memorable letters that celebrate the enduring power of literary correspondence across the centuries.

LettersLive – 10 December 2013

This star-studded event hosted by Canongate Books at the Tabernacle in London, raised over eleven thousand pounds for literacy charity The Reading Agency. The evening showcased a host of high profile actors, musicians and authors reading aloud extracts from To the Letter by Simon Garfield and Letters of Note by Shaun Usher. Performers included Gillian Anderson, Neil Gaiman, Matt Berry, Lisa Dwan, DBC Pierre, James Rhodes, Nick Cave, Bruce Robinson, Peter Serafinowicz and Juliet Stevenson.


"At the end of the evening, Anderson chaired an auction of books, with Cumberbatch gamely holding up a signed volume. Gaiman joked that the book's value would be increased by it containing DNA from Cumberbatch's sweaty hands; Anderson then licked it in an attempt to boost the bids even further. "Imagine the cloning possibilities!" said Gaiman." From The Guardian

Sandy Mahal, partnerships programmes manager at The Reading Agency, said the money will "make a huge difference in helping thousands of people to love reading and to continue our hugely important work with libraries to reach readers in every kind of community". From The Bookseller

Simon Garfield talks about To The Letter

From To The Letter – 'Hurry up mail, I want to hear your voice again'


'In 2004, three years before he died at the age of 93, Chris Barker asked his son Bernard what to do with his war letters. 'Should I throw these away, or will you take them?'

They reached an agreement: the letters would be saved, but his father insisted on an injunction that they wouldn't be read until he and Bessie were both dead. 'I asked why,' Bernard remembers, and he said: "I say what I'd like to do with her".'


From Letters of Note – Queen Elizabeth's Drop Scone recipe, from a letter to President Eisenhower

Queen Elizabeth's letter to President Eisenhower

Dear Mr President,

Seeing a picture of you in today’s newspaper standing in front of a barbecue grilling quail, reminded me that I had never sent you the recipe of the drop scones which I promised you at Balmoral.

I now hasten to do so, and I do hope you will find them successful.

Though the quantities are for 16 people, when there are fewer, I generally put in less flour and milk, but use the other ingredients as stated.

I have also tried using golden syrup or treacle instead of only sugar and that can be very good too.

I think the mixture needs a great deal of beating while making, and shouldn’t stand about too long before cooking.



Gillian Anderson

Gillian AndersonGillian Anderson gained worldwide recognition in “The X-Files,” garnering awards and critical praise over the show’s nine-year run.  Other notable credits include The House of Mirth, The Last King of Scotland, Johnny English Reborn, BBC's Great Expectations and the acclaimed miniseries Bleak House.  Her stage credits include What the Night is For, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, and an Olivier-nominated performance as “Nora” in A Doll’s House at the Donmar Warehouse. Her most recent film credits include: James Marsh’s Shadowdancer, Ursula Meier’s L’Enfant D’en Haut, Sandra Nettleback’s Mr Morgan’s Last Love ,as well as Richie Mehta's I'll Follow You Down and Jon Wright’s Our Robot Overlords both of which open in theaters next year. 2014 will also see her continue as Hannibal’s psychiatrist in NBC’s Hannibal, reprise Stella Gibson for the second season of BBC2’s The Fall, and fulfill a lifelong dream of playing Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, at The Young Vic.

Nick Cave

Nick CaveNick Cave has been performing music for more than thirty years as the lead singer of The Birthday Party, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. He is  also an acclaimed film score composer, novelist and occasional actor. His first novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, was published in 1989, The Death of Bunny Munro was published in 2009. Cave has also published collections of lyrics & prose -  King Ink & The Complete Lyrics.

Born in Australia, Cave now lives in England. He continues to record and tour with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and is involved in an ever-increasing variety of music, literary, film and theatre projects.

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman © Kimberly Butler

Gaiman is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama, whose work crosses genres and reaches audiences of all ages. He is the first author ever to win both the Newbery Medal and the Carnegie Medal with the same book, his latest adult novel, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a #1 NYT Bestseller, and his most recent book, FORTUNATELY, THE MILK has been on bestseller lists since publication and a recent reading and performance of the entire book sold out Central Hall in Westminster. His other works include ANANSI BOYS, GOOD OMENS (with Terry Pratchett), the award winning SANDMAN series of graphic novels, short story collections SMOKE AND MIRRORS and FRAGILE THINGS, and the multi-award-winning GRAVEYARD BOOK. The film adaptation for “STARDUST” (2007) was directed by Matthew Vaughan, and “CORALINE” (2009) secured a BAFTA nomination for Best Animated Film and was nominated for an Oscar in the same category. The BBC Radio production of NEVERWHERE featured a star-studded cast, including James McAvoy, David Harewood, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Romola Garai. Gaiman’s 2011 episode of Doctor Who, “THE DOCTOR’S WIFE,” won the Hugo, Ray Bradbury, and SFX awards. His speeches on making good art and in support of libraries and reading have been included in various volumes. Born in Hampshire, he currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, the rock star Amanda Palmer, with whom he sometimes performs.

DBC Pierre

DBC PIerreNovelist and allegorist DBC Pierre was born in Australia, raised in Mexico and now lives and works between the UK and Ireland. Known as much for his dark, kaleidoscopic past as for his work, he has published 3 novels and the collection of stories and aphorisms ‘Petit Mal.’ Recipient of the Man Booker Prize for fiction, the Whitbread First Novel Award, the James Joyce Award and the Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman award for comic literature, he is currently at work on the novella ‘Breakfast With The Borgias’, due for publication in June 2014.


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