Celebrating “Black Britain”

Eighty-five years after the UK publication of the ground-breaking Minty Alley, the only novel by CLR James, at a time when Caribbean literature is once again seizing the attention of British audiences, the Bocas Lit Fest has joined forces with British organisations to celebrate Black British culture. As mentioned below, the full program is available, free of charge, from March 8 to 13 on the Bocas Lit Fest website.

The Bocas Lit Fest, Your Local Arena and Penguin Books UK, will host a week-long programme (8-13 March), of literature, film and music, exploring the contributions of generations of people of African and Caribbean heritage to the rise of what is now called ‘Black Britain’. 

Linking current voices with their past influencers, the partnership will criss-cross the Atlantic to celebrate the re-publication of six previously out-of-print works by Black British authors, including James’s fictional masterpiece, and newly commissioned work by a younger generation of Black British poets and writers, including Malika Booker, Richard Georges, Keith Jarrett, Hannah Lowe, Maureen Roberts and Roger Robinson. A history of Black British publishing by Roxy Harris and Sarah White of the George Padmore Institute, and the “London by Lockdown” podcast by Craig Garret, exploring the emergence of Black Britain, are other new initiatives.

The music of 2-Tone, the blending of blue beat, ska, soul, reggae by white and black musicians was a signifier in the 60s and 70s cultural melee, and features in Celebrating Black Britain in the BBC Arena film Rudies Come Back, The Rise and Rise of 2-Tone, which captures the start of the music genre in its hometown of Coventry in 1980. 

Now, a newly commissioned film by Speaking Volumes responds to the early Arena film. It spotlights Judith Bryan, SI Martin, Mike Phillips, Jacqueline Roy and Nicola Williams, as well as CLR James (represented by Anthony Joseph) and his influence upon Black British writing. These authors have all been recently published in February 2021 in Penguin’s new ‘Black Britain – Writing Back’ series curated by Booker award-winner Bernardine Evaristo. 

The full programme can be seen and heard from Monday 8 to Saturday 13 March on the Bocas Lit Fest website: https://www.bocaslitfest.com/celebrating-black-britain/, and is entirely FREE.

The Bocas Lit Fest has previously partnered with Your Local Arena (YLA), an Arts Council England-funded project, produced by Lucy Hannah and Speaking Volumes.  “We are happy to be able to once again team up with YLA for this special online edition of ‘Celebrating Black Britain’, at such an important time, when Caribbean contributions to the UK have begun to be more deservedly recognised”, says Bocas Lit Fest founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown.

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