An Island Full of Voices: Writing Britain Now

Composite of speakers for Wasafiri 2019

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Celebrate 35 years of Wasafiri the magazine of international contemporary writing

Since 1984, Wasafiri magazine has championed diversity, platforming what have become some of the world’s most distinguished literary talents. Join Fred D’Aguiar, Imtiaz Dharker, Louise Doughty, Bernardine Evaristo, Rachel Long, Ben Okri, Caryl Phillips, Nikesh Shukla and many more for a festival of readings, workshops and discussion, exploring the politics of writing now and celebrating 35 years of publishing.

Find out more about our speakers [PDF]

11.30 – 12.30

Wasafiri Writers Workshops (book separately)
Life Writing Workshop with Anthony Joseph
Fiction Writing Workshop with Maggie Gee
Poetry Writing Workshop with Nick Makoha

13.20 – 13.30

Introductions: Rachel Foss (BL) and Susheila Nasta (Wasafiri)

13.30 – 14.40

Brave New Words: The Politics of Writing Now

International award-winning writer Caryl Phillips will deliver a keynote, followed by a discussion, on the power of words, the voice of the writer and the increasingly vital role of literature in today’s troubled times. Chaired by award-winning journalist Maya Jaggi.

15:15 – 15:30

Reading: Ben Okri: Freedom Readings

Ben Okri reads from his novels The Freedom Artist and Prayer for the Living.

15:30 – 16:30 

Authorial Activism: Literary Collectives from ATCAL to Octavia

Collaboration is a radical tool in the writer’s repertoire. Through cooperation across boundaries and locations, writers can work to reframe, reinvent and transform their communities.

Join Susheila Nasta, Nikesh Shukla and Rachel Long, three key players in leading literary collectives of the past three decades, in a unique conversation on how groups of writers can act as powerful forces for radical change. Chaired by 2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo.

17.00 – 18.30

Fred D’Aguiar, Romesh Gunesekera, and Imtiaz Dharker read and discuss Writing, Britain and the World.

What does our fraught political moment mean for British writers of all colours? Is the type of empathy that literature promotes still possible in increasingly divided times? How does the current climate impact on writers from marginalised communities? Can their voices still be heard? Join the debate which also marks the theme of Wasafiri’s anniversary issue.

Bringing together four distinguished contributors to Wasafiri 100, this session of readings will be followed by a discussion exploring the issue’s central theme Writing Britain Now. Chaired by writer and presenter Bidisha.

The day concludes with the announcement of the winners of the Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize by judges, Louise Doughty and Nikesh Shukla with Wasafiri Editor and Publishing Director Malachi McIntosh. The announcement marks 10 years of the prize.

Wasafiri encourages readers and writers to travel the world via the word. For over three decades, the magazine has created a dynamic platform for mapping new landscapes in contemporary international writing featuring a diverse range of voices from across the UK and beyond. Committed to profiling the ‘best of tomorrow’s writers today’ it aims to simultaneously celebrate those who have become established literary voices.

This event is supported by British Council, ACE, Routledge and QMUL.

Wasafiri 35th Anniversary logo

Arts Council England logo Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group logo

Queen Mary University of London logo


Name: An Island Full of Voices: Writing Britain Now
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546