London literary weekend aims to redress festivals imbalance for writers of colour
Malika Booker, Jane Yeh, RA Villanueva, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Anthony Anaxagorou and Raymond Antrobus are among the poets that will be taking part in a new literature festival in London next weekend that will be focused entirely on black, Asian and minority ethnic writers. Organisers of Bare Lit festival, taking place from 26-28 February, say: “Last year, the UK’s three largest literary festivals featured over 2,000 authors. Of those 2,000-plus authors, only 4% were from Black Caribbean, Black African, South Asian or East Asian backgrounds … We want to change that.”
Poetry events include a discussion panel on second generation poets in exile, chaired by Malika Booker, who will also be leading the Forward prize judges this year. Also on the panel will be Jane Yeh, London’s young poet laureate Selina Nwulu, plus spoken word artists and poets Khairani Barokka and Dean Atta.
There will also be readings from US poet RA Villanueva and Karen McCarthy Woolf, who will also reflect on their experiences of teaching poetry, while Anthony Anaxagorou and Raymond Antrobus will be in conversation exploring issues of identity, history, racism, white supremacy, love and loss as they relate to poetry.
In an article published in the Guardian in January, Samantha Asumadu, founder of festival organisers Media Diversified, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting writers of colour, said that Bare Lit’s ethos was “in part a reaction to the overwhelmingly homogenous view of contemporary writing presented by UK literary festivals. The creation of Bare Lit is a step toward empowering these voices that are so often silenced in the literary mainstream.”
The festival has been backed by a successful crowdfunding campaign and Asumadu said she hoped it would become an annual event. “Bare Lit will give a destination to hopefully hundreds of people who haven’t felt compelled to go to a literary festival before or felt uninspired when they did because either they didn’t see any, or very few, writers of colour they read or they could discover,” she said.
“We trust that London’s literary community will attend, as they really need to. If we don’t value writers of colour and they are not seen and heard as much as their white peers, they are even less likely to get published.”
Festival events will be held at the Free Word Centre and nearby Betsey Trotwood pub, in Farringdon Road, London. More details