2023 is a special year. For it was a whole decade ago, towards the back-end of 2013, after prolonged periods of intense stress and multiple self-inflicted delays, that the original volume of Letters of Note was finally published. My first ever book, and what a stunner it was. Holding a finished copy with all of its unexpected heft, smelling that hardcover, running my finger down the cloth spine on which my name had been printed, flicking through the pages we’d planned so meticulously on computer screens—it instantly washed away the pain. And there were two editions, as some of you will no doubt remember, and actually, come to think of it, it will be thanks to some of you that the book became a book in the first place, because I decided to crowdfund it through Unbound. Which meant that literally thousands of people parted with their cash up-front, trusting that it would be worth a punt on the strength of the little Letters of Note blog I’d been running since 2009. To this day it boggles my mind. Then there was the edition that hit the shops, published jointly by Unbound and Canongate, with a different skin but the same soul, and on the front, to my astonishment, there sat a quote from Stephen Fry in which he declared it to be his “book of the year.” At times it genuinely felt like a dream.
As I floated around in a daze, my publisher at Canongate, Jamie Byng, decided we should put on a live show to launch both Letters of Note and To the Letter by Simon Garfield. We’ll get a few people on stage at the Tabernacle in London, he explained, and they can read out some of these letters to the audience, and then we can auction off copies of the book and give the proceeds to charity. It’ll be amazing, he said. And I believed him, and he was absolutely right. That evening, Letters Live was born, and since then our little team have put on something like seventy shows in front of thousands of people in various venues. No two events have been the same, and very rarely have we announced any of the cast before the moment they take to the stage. Letters have been brought to life by Gillian Anderson, Miriam Margolyes, Laurence Fishburne, Noel Fielding, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Claire Foy, Keegan-Michael Key, Daisy Ridley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jake Gyllenhaal, Brian Cox, Taika Waititi, Toby Jones, Michael Palin, Nicola Sturgeon, Louise Brealey, Jude Law, Kae Tempest, Thom Yorke, Jennifer Saunders, Olivia Colman… the list is long and talented.
Most importantly of all, these shows have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for various incredible charities in the process.
I hadn’t planned to wang on so much about how amazing everything has been, and it does feel a bit eurgh, but a decade is a long time and the pride I feel when looking back far outweighs any discomfort. And there’s another reason I started writing this. It’s to let you know that on 16th November of this year, we’re taking Letters Live back to the Royal Albert Hall for one night. Our 10th Anniversary show. I can’t reveal much more, as is tradition, but I can guarantee an evening to remember, and I can confirm that it will be for a good cause, and I can reveal that the real star of the show, as always, will be the humble letter.
Tickets go on general sale tomorrow morning and they’ll go quickly. To be clear, that’s Friday, 12th May, 2023 at 10am GMT. Here’s the link.
I’ll hopefully see you there.
P. S. On the off-chance you don’t realise, there are now fourteen books in the Letters of Note series and you can buy them directly from me over here. And in all respectable shops, obvs.
To the Letter is another book by Canongate on the subject of correspondence, and it’s fantastic, and it was published at the same time. It’s like waiting for a bus, or something.
Our little team, for the record, currently consists of Jamie, me, Adam Ackland, and Aimie Sullivan.
Congratulations!!!!! What a wonderful accomplishment!!!!! 🥳🥳🥳
It was a brilliant idea and I’m grateful for it as I have a personal understanding of so many great writers that I’d never have were it not for your work. A million thanks!