#RSL200: Royal Society of Literature celebrates 200th birthday

The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) celebrated its 200th birthday at the end of November with a series of 60 new appointments including a new Chair, nine new Vice-Presidents and 29 new Fellows.

Founded in 1820, the RSL acts as a voice for the value of literature, honouring and supporting emerging and established writers whilst creating a bridge between authors and audiences to engage as many people as possible with the breadth of UK literature. As part of its 200th birthday, the Society announced a series of appointments, as well as two new pens and several initiatives, to celebrate. ALCS is proud to support #RSL200, which strives to spotlight the great diversity of writing.

Daljit Sagra will succeed Lisa Appignanesi as Chair of the RSL and the following appointments will be made:

  • 29 Fellows
    Raymond Antrobus, Chloe Aridjis, Damian Barr, Cressida Connolly, Susan Cooper, Jill Dawson, April De Angelis, Jane Draycott, Sasha Dugdale, Yvvette Edwards, Diana Evans, Peter Frankopan, Salena Godden, Colin Grant, Kirsty Gunn, Daniel Hahn, Kerry Hudson, Andrew McMillan, James Meek, Kate Mosse, Michael Palin, Sandeep Parmar, Winsome Pinnock, Max Porter, Sigrid Rausing, Roger Robinson, Katherine Rundell, Philippe Sands and Jack Thorne.
  • 15 Honorary Fellows
    Melanie Abrahams, Linda Anderson, Mair Bosworth, Tony Brown, Kate Gavron, David Godwin, Lennie Goodings, Andrew Holgate, Shirley May, Ursula Owen, Marina Salandy-Brown, Sarah Sanders, Tom Sutcliffe, Boyd Tonkin, and Lola Young.
  • 9 Vice-Presidents
    Simon Armitage, Mary Beard, Bernardine Evaristo, Jackie Kay, Blake Morrison, Grace Nichols, Elif Shafak, Kamila Shamsie and Colm Tóibín.
  • 6 Companions of Literature
    Anita Desai, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel, Edna O’Brien, Philip Pullman and Colin Thubron.
  • 1 Benson Medallistand a new design for the Medal
    Boyd Tonkin.

In addition, the RSL revealed that Andrea Levy’s and Jean Rhys’ pens will join Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, George Eliot and T. S. Eliot, as pens that Fellows can use to sign the RSL Roll Book.

As part of the celebrations, RSL commissioned a series of videos from their new appointments, some of which addressed topics of interest to ALCS including writing in the digital age and the importance of Public Lending Right. You can find all of the #RSL200 celebration videos on the RSL’s YouTube channel.


In its 200th year, the Society has set out plans both to celebrate excellence in the great diversity of outstanding writers and writing in the UK, and to pay credit to the power of literature to bring us together with two new initiatives – RSL Open and RSL International Writers Programme.

Over the next two years RSL Open will elect 60 new Fellows from communities, backgrounds and experiences currently under-represented in UK literary culture to ensure the diversity of the UK’s literary culture is reflected in their Fellowship. Readers and writers from across the UK will be asked to recommend writers for nomination who will then be considered by a panel made up of some of the UK’s most prolific writers.

RSL International Writers programme will recognise the contribution of writers across the globe to literature in English, and the power of literature to transcend borders and cultures to bring people together. As with RSL Open, readers and writers will be asked to recommend writers outside the UK for nomination. A panel of RSL Fellows will nominate the RSL International Writers, who will then be elected by Council.

Read the full press release for #RSL200 here.