The British Council Literature Seminar

Berlin, Germany
The British Council Literature Seminar has brought new literary voices from the UK to a specialist audience in Germany for more than 25 years.

The beginnings

It was founded by writer and critic Malcolm Bradbury in 1986. His aim was to establish a platform of debate for publishers, translators, journalists and other creative professionals in Germany. Originally named the Walberberg Seminar after the monastery in Nordrhein-Westfalen where it was held, the seminar soon established itself as a regular fixture in the German literary calendar. Since its beginnings the seminar has introduced more than 200 contemporary writers from the UK to an audience of several thousand participants.

The authors

Over the years, the list of writers has included Ian McEwan, Graham Swift, Angela Carter, Salman Rushdie and Jeanette Winterson. Following on from Malcolm Bradbury, chairs of the seminar have included Christopher Hope, Valentine Cunningham, Caryl Phillips, Marina Warner, A S Byatt, Michèle Roberts, Paul Muldoon, Andrew Motion, Ali Smith and Glenn Patterson, Patricia Duncker, Blake Morrison and professsor John Mullan.

The themes

In its early years the seminar addressed generic themes of contemporary literature such as translation and modern literature. Following this, the seminar concentrated on introducing new ideas to the teaching of Creative Writing in Germany.

Over the past few years the strategic themes of the British Council in Europe have been instrumental in defining the seminar’s way forward, e.g. with topics such as “Whose English?”, “Rooted Realities and Maps of Migration”, “Changing Literary Climates” and “Literature and Health”.


In January 2012 the seminar was devoted to the novelist, journalist and social critic Charles Dickens. The event, “What would Dickens write today?” for the first time included public readings and discussions for a wider audience alongside the seminar for an invited specialist audience.

2012 also marked a change in location, moving from its previous residential settings in Walberberg and the Akademie Schmöckwitz, to a central location at the heart of Berlin. These changes have helped to broaden the appeal of the seminar and made it accessible to a wider literary audience.

In 2013, the seminar was dedicated to the topic of “Writing in Public” - participating authors were Joe Dunthorne, Esther Freud, Sarah Hall as well as Alan Hollinghurst, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan.

Further information is available from the British Council in Germany:



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