What we do
A world-class events programme
Organising over 25 events each year, we offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore literature’s rich past and engage with the authors shaping its future.
See our upcoming events.
Cultivate and celebrate literary excellence
The RSL invests in the authors of today and tomorrow, supporting them through a number of awards and grants.
Learn about our awards and prizes.
Inspire literacy and creativity
The RSL’s outreach programme works to secure young people’s access to literature. We produce resources to encourage and support young readers and writers, and send Fellows into state schools across the UK, providing students with the opportunity to meet some of the country’s greatest writers.
A word from our President
As I begin as President of the RSL, the country and the world are in tumult. Literature is always vital, but in such conditions it matters even more. The RSL is an independent body, founded in 1820, to bring writers together in fellowship, a fellowship of individuals who write in a whole array of genres and registers. We’re the fortunate inheritors of a tradition that allows writers to speak their/our minds, and not many societies around the globe enjoy that – many peoples are fighting for that freedom, to their bitter cost. We have in common a commitment to writing – and reading – and trying to do inspiring, enjoyable and exciting things with words, and we cultivate all that follows from that. The consequences of a work of literature, of a poem, a play, a novel, a biography, an essay, or any other form of literature, are always unpredictable, but the activity matters.
Can poetry be strong enough to help? asked the Greek poet George Seferis, and he was answered by Seamus Heaney that, Yes, it can be – though the effects aren’t always patent and certainly not deliberate. The hope can be applied to every branch of literature. Literature multiplies the places where inquiry, stories, chronicles, conversation, argument, dissent, passion, surprises, and fantasies can unfold. Books and other forms of writing can lead to recognition, understanding and knowledge, deepen knowledge of the past and illuminate the present, and build ideas and values across the common ground. Through literature we meet ourselves in the glass, and we can also tune into voices from cultures about which we know too little. It’s also vital that writing and reading are entertaining, witty, reinvigorating, mischievous and disruptive, that they stretch the horizons and add to the sum of pleasure even as they shine a torch into dark corners. The imagination, working hand in hand with reason, can produce brand new marvels as well as refresh traditional material. It’s not escapist to shiver at the violence of a tragedy, thrill to a thriller or laugh at a farce – it’s necessary to have the space and the freedom to do so.
The RSL is committed to furthering the making, reading, discussion, and enjoyment of literature in all its variety. Our culture has been formed by centuries of migrations and exchanges, the mingling of languages and ideas, and our Fellows include the most vivid voices of this vigorous, heterogeneous literary culture. As Chaucer wrote long ago: ‘Go, little book … for there is so great diversity/ In English and in writing of our tongue…’
Among its many activities, the RSL gives awards, organizes prizes, invites writers to speak from all over the world, and organizes public discussions; our Fellows visit libraries, schools, universities, and participate in other public forums, including festivals, broadcasting and social media. I am deeply honoured to be elected President. Books have been my life since before I began writing (my father was a bookseller), and I shall work with Lisa Appignanesi, the Chair of Council, with all the Members of Council, and with the Director Tim Robertson and the team to further the aims of the Society and the activities and interests of our Fellows and Members.