What We Do
The Royal Society of Literature, founded by George IV in 1820, celebrates and nurtures all that is best in British literature, past and present. We organise roughly twenty-four events a year; make awards and grants to established and emerging writers; run regular Masterclasses with the Booker Prize Foundation; and campaign on issues affecting writers, such as the closure of local libraries or reductions in PLR payments.
At the heart of the RSL is its Fellowship, which encompasses the most distinguished authors working in the English language. One of our aims is to build bridges between our Fellows and those who enjoy their work, so that their unique talents are shared as widely as possible.
Word from our Chair
When I took over the Chair in the spring of 2008, I had been a Fellow for coming up to twenty years, a member of Council for five and deputy Chair for one. For most of my writing life, then, I have been lucky enough to be part of the Royal Society of Literature: I am now lucky to find myself Chair at a promising moment of expansion and change. Under my predecessors, Michael Holroyd (President Emeritus) and Maggie Gee (the first woman to hold the office), the RSL moved to the inspiring surroundings of Somerset House and set out to extend its range and activities. We now work in partnership with the European Cultural Commission and Poet in the City amongst other organisations. It is often supposed that writers, who require solitude to achieve anything, are not natural joiners; but many of us enjoy the solidarity and sense of shared values and purposes that association with the RSL can bring. As Chair of Council (the dozen or so Fellows who nobly agree to sacrifice writing time to meet once a month to help the Secretary and staff run things), I have two aspirations: to encourage Fellows and members to enjoy each others’ company, and to find new ways to deploy Fellows’ outstanding gifts to enhance our programmes. In the last year, we have revived the agreeable tradition of holding Fellows’ lunches, hosted by Council members, and we are starting a series of masterclasses, led by Fellows at Somerset House. Fellowship is an honour, will always be limited in numbers and has no strings attached; but the RSL can, and should, share a passion for literature with as many writers and readers as possible.
Fellows are elected to the Royal Society of Literature. The Society aims to support its Fellows, organising Fellows lunches so that writers may meet each other, and campaigns for their rights.
For more information about how Fellows are elected, visit Fellowship Election.
For more information about our work to protect the rights of authors, visit Campaigns.
Membership of the Royal Society of Literature is open to all and includes an array of benefits, including free entry to our events and a complimentary subscription to the RSL Review, our annual magazine.
For more information about the different levels of membership, visit Membership.
The RSL holds around 20 events every year, offering members, Fellows and the public an unparalleled opportunity to engage with the latest developments and debates in the world of books, and to meet the writers behind them.
The Society’s lectures and discussions are recorded by the National Sound Archive. Recordings of all our meetings from the past decade are gradually being uploaded onto the site, among them Claire Tomalin and Philip Pullman discussing Milton, Tom Stoppard and Ronald Harwood on screenwriting, and Beryl Bainbridge and Hilary Mantel on historical novels.
As well as working for writers, the RSL, led by its Council, campaigns to keep public libraries open.
For more information about current and past campaigning activity, visit Campaigns.
The RSL has recently completed a pilot of its new Schools Outreach Programme, in collaboration with First Story.
For more details about the full programme, visit Education.