Past event

Letters Live at Royal Albert Hall 2021

30 October 2021

Following a sell-out success in 2019, Letters Live returned to the Royal Albert Hall in October 2021.


Letters Live is a celebration of the enduring power of literary correspondence. Each show always features a completely different array of great performers, reading remarkable letters written over the centuries and from around the world.


One of the joys of Letters Live is that you never know who is going to take to the stage or what letter they are going to bring alive. The result is a glorious event like no other and a truly unforgettable journey through time.


Read on for the programme of phenomenal readers and letters we brought to the Royal Albert Hall:


Saturday 30th October 2021


Brian Cox


You ignorant freak

Hunter S. Thompson to Dave Allen


I would like to give you your own history

Juan Gelman to his grandchild



Daisy Ridley


I am an ocean flyer

Beryl Markham to the Press


Love, Nina

Nina Stibbe to Victoria Stibbe


Sanjeev Bhaskar


Honestly, why aren’t you writing to me?

Vladimir Nabakov to Vera Nabokov


Not everything can be explained logically

Oscar Brittle to The Irrigator


Cynthia Erivo


Never has any woman been so well and truly loved as I

Valentine Ackland to Sylvia Townsend Warner


Brother, you got a fan now!

Nina Simone to Langston Hughes



Louise Brealey


Never has any woman been so well and truly loved as I

Valentine Ackland to Sylvia Townsend Warner


Dear Mother

Eve Ensler to Mother Earth



Benedict Cumberbatch


How can you live like this?

Oliver Beale to Richard Branson


Hello it’s me

Cyrus Thatcher to his family



Gillian Anderson


Follow your dreams, not your boyfriends

Gillian Anderson to herself


She was more than a saint

Martha Gellhorn to Adlai Stevenson



Armistead Maupin


Letter to Mama

Michael Toliver His Mother



Meera Syal


Don’t shake my tree

Shirley Jackson to a disgruntled reader


Mother’s name: Homeira

Homeira Qaderi to her son


You Babylonian scullion

Mehmed IV to Zaporozhian Cossacks



Matt Lucas


I wonder which is the sickest

George Sanders to Brian Aherne


You Babylonian scullion

Mehmed IV to Zaporozhian Cossacks


Toby Jones


This evening the letter came to grief

Daniil Kharms to Lipavskys


Portentous, derisive, dull, dismal, damnable

Charles Dickens to Wilkie Collins



Emma Corrin


May your work be condemned to the pastry–cook’s shop

Jane Austen to her brothers


Does everyone really have something good in them?

Margaret Veglahn to Harper Lee


Keegan Michael Key


Yours in science

Harvey Rowe to Scott Williams


The life and the work are equally important

Andre Gregory to Richard Avedon



Ione Wells

You did not just attack me that night

Ione Wells to her assaulter



Thom Yorke


It’s a virus

Tom Waits to The Nation





Thom Yorke

Safe in the Knowledge


Tom Odell


Laura Mvula

Strange Fruit


The Gabriels

Love and Hate in a Different Time


Gillian Anderson to her 16-year-old self, ‘Follow your dreams, not your boyfriends’, 2011, © Gillian Anderson; Oliver Beal to Richard Branson, ‘How can you live like this?’, December 2008. © Olly Beale; Oscar Brittle to The Irrigator, ‘Not everything can be explained logically’, 12 May 2006. © Glenn Fowler, Christopher Smyth and Gareth Malone 2006; Martha Gellhorn to Adlai Stevenson, ‘She was more than a saint’, 8 Nov 1962. © the Estate of Martha Gellhorn; Juan Gelman to his grandchild, ‘I would like to give you your own history’, 1995. ‘Carta abierta a mi nieto’, © Juan Gelman 1998, y Herederos de Juan Gelman; André Gregory to Richard Avedon, ‘The life and the work are equally important’. © André Gregory; Shirley Jackson to a disgruntled reader, ‘Don’t shake my tree’, 24 July 1953. © Shirley Jackson Papers, Library of Congress, 2021 by Laurence Jackson Hyman, J.S. Holly, Sarah Hyman DeWitt, and Barry Hyman; used by permission.; Daniil Kharms to the Lipavskys, ‘This evening the letter came to grief’, 28 June 1932. © Serpents Tail, 1993; Beryl Markham to the Press, ‘I am an ocean flyer’, September 1936, © The Estate of Beryl Markham; Letter to Vera Nabokov dated 14th January 1924 by Vladimir Nabokov. Copyright © 2014 by The Estate of Vladimir Nabokov, used by permission of The Wylie Agency (UK) Limited; Homeira Qaderi to her son, Siawash, ‘Mother’s name: Homeira’. © Homeira Qaderi; Harvey Rowe to Scott Williams, ‘Smithsonian Barbie’, 1994. © Harvey Rowe; George Sanders to Brian Aherne, ‘I wonder which is the sickest’, 31 Dec 1937. © The estate of George Sanders; Nina Simone Charitable Trust, courtesy of Steven Ames Brown; Nina Stibbe to Victoria Stibbe, ‘Love, Nina’, 1980s. © Nina Stibbe; Cyrus Thatcher to his family, ‘Hello it’s me’, 2009. © The Estate of Cyrus Thatcher; Letter to Dave Allen dated 10th July 1969 by Hunter S. Thompson. Copyright © 1969, Hunter S. Thompson, used by permission of TheWylie Agency (UK) Limited.; Michael Toliver to his mother, ‘Letter to Mama’, from Armistead Maupin, ‘Tales of The City’. © Armisted Maupin; Eve Ensler to Mother Earth, 2018. Used with the permission of The Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency as agent for the author. Copyright © V (Formerly Eve Ensler); argaret Veglahn to Harper Lee, ‘Does everyone really have something good in them?’, 2015. © Margaret Veglahn; Tom Waits to The Nation, ‘It’s a virus’, July 2002 © Tom Waits; Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland, ‘Never has any woman been so well and truly loved as I’, 1968. © The Estate of Sylvia Townsend Warner; Ione Wells to her assaulter, ‘You did not just attack me that night’, April 2015. © Ione Wells;