Bocas Lit Fest

Judith Bryan, Anthony Joseph, SI Martin, Mike Phillips, Jacqueline Roy and Nicola Williams respond to the Arena film through their own experiences of and novels about building Black Britain.

Judith Bryan is a writer, playwright and academic. Her first novel Bernard and the Cloth Monkey won the 1997 Saga Prize. Her short fiction and non-fiction have been published in various anthologies and her play, Keeping Mum was produced at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, London, in 2011 for the WriteNow2 Festival of New Writing. Judith is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Hawthornden Fellow. She has taught creative writing at City Lit, Arvon, Spread the Word and to community groups. She is working on her second novel.

CLR James was born in Trinidad in 1901 and was one of the prominent figures in the West Indian diaspora. He was a writer, socialist and pioneering voice in literature who wrote extensively on Caribbean history, Marxist theory, literary criticism, Western civilisation, African politics, cricket and popular culture. His works include World Revolution, The Black Jacobins, Beyond a Boundary and his only novel, Minty Alley, now republished in ‘Black Britain – Writing Back’. He died in 1989. Speaking about his legacy is Anthony Joseph, a Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician. As a musician and spoken word artist he has released seven critically acclaimed albums which blend Afro-Caribbean music, free jazz and funk. The most recent, People of the Sun, was recorded in Trinidad and released in 2018. Joseph’s novel, Kitch, a biography of calypso icon Lord Kitchener, was shortlisted for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize, the OCM Bocas Fiction Prize for Caribbean Literature, and the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award. In 2019 he was awarded a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship. His latest novel, The Frequency of Magic, is just out.

SI Martin is a museums consultant and author, specialising in Black British history and literature. He is the author of several books of historical fiction and non-fiction for teenage and adult readers, including Britain’s Slave Trade (written for Channel 4 to tie in with its documentary of the same name), Jupiter Amidshops, Jupiter Williams and Incomparable World.

Mike Phillips was born in Guyana, but grew up in London. He worked for the BBC as a journalist and broadcaster on television programmes including The Late Show and Omnibus. He has written many critically acclaimed crime novels, including Blood Rights, which was adapted for BBC television; The Late Candidate, winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction; Point of Darkness; An Image to Die For; A Shadow of Myself; and Kind of Union. He co-wrote Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain to accompany the BBC series, and an essay collection, London Crossings: A Biography of Black Britain (2001). Appointed the first Cross Cultural Curator for the Tate Galleries in 2005, Mike also wrote for the Guardian, and his public service includes trusteeships of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Most recently, he served as an independent adviser to Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams’ Windrush; Lessons Learned Review for the Home Office.

Jacqueline Roy is a dual-heritage author, born in London to a black Jamaican father and white British mother. After a love of art and stories was passed down to her by her family, she became increasingly aware of the absence of black figures in the books she devoured, and this fuelled her desire to write. In her teenage years she spent time in a psychiatric hospital, where she wrote as much as possible to retain a sense of identity; her novel The Fat Lady Sings is inspired by this experience of institutionalisation and the treatment of black people with regards to mental illness. She rediscovered a love of learning in her thirties after undertaking a BA in English and a MA in Postcolonial Literatures. She then became a lecturer in English, specialising in Black Literature and Culture and Creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she worked full time for many years, and was a tutor on The Manchester Writing School’s MA programme.

Nicola Williams started her career as a barrister in private practice, specialising in Criminal Law, including three successful Commonwealth death penalty appeals before the House of Lords sitting as the Privy Council. She was a legal expert on BBC World for the OJ Simpson trial verdict in 1995 and a member of the first Independent Advisory Group to the Metropolitan Police Service (following recommendations arising from the Stephen Lawrence Report [1999]). She has been a part-time Crown Court Judge since 2010. A former winner of Cosmopolitan magazine Woman of Achievement Award, she is an active volunteer for the Speakers for Schools programme, a charity which encourages young people from disadvantaged and under-represented communities to enter the professions.

Your Local Arena is a Lucy Hannah & Speaking Volumes co-production.

featuring BBC Arena’s film archive.

This event is funded by Arts Council England and Hamish Hamilton, part of Penguin Random House.

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