AN unabridged recital of the classic novel Moby Dick is one of the highlights of this year's London Literature Festival.
The reading, which is completely free for audiences, will take place over four days between Thursday October 1 and Sunday, October 4 at the Southbank Centre.
Herman Melville's epic book about Captain Ahab's quest for revenge on the white whale Moby Dick, will be performed in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall by writers, actors, comedians and his great-great-great-granddaughter.
It also includes musical accompaniment from a choir and newly commissioned work from illustrators, artists and musicians.
For curator Ted Hodgkinson, it is one of the most exciting parts of the Southbank Centre's 15-day festival, now in its ninth year.
"Moby Dick is one of the great classics in literature," he says. "It is a totally extraordinary book, a real masterpiece and we had so many people who came to us and said they wanted to read it.
"We've got 160 reading it over the four days so it's very exciting. It’s the kind of thing Southbank Centre does so well - a large scale public event that celebrates great art. For it to be free is a gift!
"What's great is that it can be enjoyed as both an adventure story but also one that has a lot to say about the current moment we are in with all that's going on in the Mediterranean.
"It will give so much to anyone who comes to hear it - whether you've read it before or not.
"For those who have read it, coming back to a book like this, they will find something new - that's the mark of great literature.
"And also to hear a story read aloud is amazing but also very different to reading it oneself. People will certainly get different things out of it."
As well as Moby Dick, the 15-day festival, entitled Tell Me Something I Don't Know, features a fantastic line up of 60 events, many of them free, alongside a celebration of the experimentalists of the literature world with discussions on literature, science, digital culture and gaming, literary cocktail hours, edge-of-your-seat read-offs and comedy.
It features leading authors, poets, artists, musicians and thinkers in a varied programme of talks, readings, poetry, films, comedy, music and free events which Ted says will include something for everyone.
For Ted it has been a labour of love putting the whole festival together and he is excited to be bringing it to audiences when it opens on Monday, September 28.
"My litmus test when planning the programme was asking myself if I would go to any of the events we put on," he says.
"For me it's all a massive highlight and has been incredibly exciting to bring all these elements together.
"Southbank Centre audiences always expect something unexpected, they want to be challenged and grapple with something new and different and with this festival line up I think we achieve this."
To illustrate his point he cites the Literature, Gaming and Digital Culture section of the festival which will explore these different worlds and how they relate to language each other.
"Gaming has had a bad reputation in a way as people tend to think of games such as Grand Theft Auto and themes of violence," he says.
"But actually it's an increasingly sophisticated world and the games are quite novelistic in their depth.
"Young people may not have read a book but will have played a game and in some cases its basis is narrative. As technology improves that narrative grows and diversifies so it's incredibly interesting.
"We wanted to create a space for debate and have included panel discussions on how games designers draw on literature to create immersive worlds and compelling characters. I think it will be fascinating."
As well as gaming there are also events for young people and families, something Ted says is a very important element of the festival.
"We want to reach out to young audiences as that's at the heart of what the Southbank Centre does and we wanted it to be a welcoming thread running through the festival," he says.
"We all grew up with stories and poems so we keep that in mind in our programming."
Included in the line up is the Young Adult Literature Weekender, featuring talks, workshops and performances programmed by young writers and readers aged between 13 and 25.
There is also National Poetry Day Live and for those under 10, Curious Cats, a day of cat-inspired poetry readings and workshops celebrating TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats.
Elsewhere comedian Terry Gilliam will discuss his life and career following the launch of his latest memoir, there will be an evening of poetry readings and new songs performed by Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey and images and a short film presented by Seamus Murphy, and pop legend Sir Tom Jones will be in conversation to launch his first ever autobiography, Over The Top And Back.
Accompanying the discussion, which takes place on October 11, will be a special performance of songs including a number of tracks from the accompanying soundtrack album to the book, Long Lost Suitcase.
"Sir Tom obviously needs no introduction but the funny thing is that although he's as famous as can be and an extraordinary talent, he's never written about his life," says Ted.
"So this is a real opportunity to hear the voice behind the voice and I think it will be a fun event."
There will also be a section on Literature and Science exploring the relationship between the two with an appearance by theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli who discusses how scientists have borrowed from poets to explain their discoveries.
"Language is an integral part of explaining science and we wanted to embrace that," says Ted.
"I really hope that people will come along and be inspired," he adds.
"There are very few art forms that truly put you in another person's shoes and this is what literature does. It does it with great power and in a way that can change lives.
"Although the way we are reading is changing, with e-books and on computers, I do still think that books have an important place.
"They are a companion, you can take them with you and they have a life which is hard to replace.
"But however people read, they want something that is really going to immerse them into a subject or another world and I think novels are as popular as ever, and peoples' appetite for stories remains and that is something to be celebrated."
Southbank Centre's London Literature Festival is on across the site from Monday, September 28 until Monday, October 12. Visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk/londonlitfest for full listings.