As a community and a nation we can’t know where we are, where we’re going, or where we could be if our map is faulty, incomplete or badly drawn. We also miss out on great stories. In this episode authors Jacqueline Roy, SI Martin and Nicola Williams expertly guide us through Britain’s past and present. So come celebrate the UK’s diverse and brilliant Black British voices with us.
Good books withstand the test of time,
even if they are of their time.
— Bernardine Evaristo (author of Booker winning novel “Girl, Woman, Other”).
To truly trace the contours of this place, in all its complexity and beauty, we need to build a better map, and to do that we need to hear all voices, stories and experiences — from across the cities and beyond. This cultural journey, an international, inter-generational and centuries-long history of people criss-crossing the Atlantic, has led to the rise of what is now celebrated as Black Britain. The readings and interviews with Jackie, Steve and Nicola give us precious insights into the lives of people from African and Caribbean heritages. As our guides help us explore the preoccupations, voices and stories of this island nation, we learn about the part literature has played in forging that national identity, and how levelling the field in publishing can enrich our understanding of everything from Georgian London to legal thrillers.
Viewed as part of a continuum, this body of work provides a more accurate and detailed account of what it means to be British. From books published in the 1930s, when most of the Caribbean was considered British; to the music of 2-Tone, where black and white musicians blended blue beat and ska from the 1960s with reggae, soul and punk from the 1970s; to the 1990s, when black authors born in the UK were being published. National identity is constructed as much through the past as it is by the present.
“Black Britain: Writing Back” is a new series curated by Bernardine Evaristo with her publisher, Hamish Hamilton, at Penguin Random House. Their ambition is to correct historic bias in British publishing and bring a wealth of lost writing back into circulation. This project looks back to the past in order to resurrect texts that will help reconfigure black British literary history.
This episode was recorded in collaboration with
Speaking Volumes, Your Local Arena, Lucy Hannah and Bocas Lit Fest.
Featured “Black Britain: Writing Back” authors
The Fat Lady Sings
Bernard and the Cloth Monkey
The Dancing Face
How to Access Mental Health Services (NHS site)
Mental Health Australia
Only Human Radio Show
Bocas Lit Fest
Websites & Articles
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
George Padmore Institute
Black Cultural Archives
Guardian Article: ‘Politicians should not “weaponise” History’
Music & SFX
Opening & Closing Credits by Unregistered Master Builder
Background Music and Interludes: Zanzibar by Jones Meadow, Secret Love – Johannes Bornlof and Mountain Quail – Dust Follows: (Epidemic Sound)
SFX Connection: City Sounds
Contact details below