Sailing into summer with the British Library: Event Highlights for July - September 2018

Pauline Enriques (C) Sam Sevlon
  • Coinciding with the launch of our new free Entrance Hall exhibition, Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land, are a variety of events from contemporary dance performances to Caribbean culture mini-festivals
  • Michael Palin, accompanied by Sanjeev Bhaskar and David Schneider discuss their respective experiences with their craft and career
  • As part of the Library’s marking of Women’s Suffrage, Jess Phillips MP discusses young women’s opportunities to become involved in politics
  • Discussions of life at sea during James Cook’s time, poetic responses to indigenous and oceanic artwork, and celebrations of Mãori culture in London accompany the Library’s major exhibition James Cook: The Voyages

The British Library is announcing a new events season, with film screenings, talks and lectures inspired by exhibitions Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land and James Cook: The Voyages, between July and September.

Events will also accompany a temporary Michael Palin display in the Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery (7 August to 11 November 2018) as well as continuing to mark 100 years since women’s suffrage, South Asian culture and collections, and a second Season of Sound.

A range of events inspired by the Windrush exhibition will see discussions around the Race Relations Act of 1965, a performance of Derek Walcott’s Drums and Colours, one of the Nobel laureate’s first plays, which has never before been performed in the UK, and a look back to BBC World Service’s radio show, Caribbean Voices (1943-1958), to celebrate the vibrancy of voices introduced to the UK with the Windrush generation.

The Library’s continuing James Cook: The Voyages events include Andrew Lambert, Professor of Naval History at King’s College, discussing the logistical problems of 18th-century naval journeys, and the London Mãori Club sharing their rich 60-year history with the city.

Other high-profile events include an open discussion of careers and experiences in entertainment between Michael Palin along with Sanjeev Bhaskar (Goodness Gracious Me) and David Schneider (The Death of Stalin), Jess Phillips MP discussing political opportunities for young women, an exploration into the lack of immortalisations of female achievements with Emily Gee of Historic England, and a reflection on Nelson Mandela’s 1963 trial with his Rivonia defence counsel George Bizos and writer Mandla Langa, including chances to hear Mandela’s voice from one of his most remarkable speeches.

The Africa Writes festival will also be returning to the Library to bridge our spring and summer seasons with a series of readings, panel conversations, book launches, and workshops focusing on contemporary literature and thought from Africa and the diaspora. The festival will welcome Warsan Shire, the Somali-British writer and poet who was appointed the first Young Poet Laureate for London and a performance of COAT, the emotional story of Junior, who was born in Nigeria but moved to London at the age of 9 leaving behind his life.

And finally, following the donation of the Ruth Prawer Jhabvala archive, comes a celebration of her life and work. With director, producer and screenwriter James Ivory, producer and life-long friend Catherine Freeman, and award-winning author Anita Desai along with live readings from Simon Callow and Felicity Kendal, the evening promises an exploration into culture, place and diaspora.

All events, further information and full listings are available on the British Library’s What’s On pages.

Event highlights include:

Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land

Race Relations: An Act?

Friday 6 July, 19.00-20.30

£10 / £8 / £7, Knowledge Centre Theatre

The Race Relations Act of 1965, 1968, 1975 and 2000 all aimed to tackle discrimination in the UK. These acts will be discussed by our panel to try and gain insight as to how these acts impacted British society as well as immigration legislation, as well as how the wider policy and legislative response to the Windrush and other post-war migrants.

Drums and Colours: The Early Works of Walcott

Friday 13 July, 19.00-21.00

£12 / £10 / £8, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Drums and Colours was one of the first plays by Nobel laureate, Derek Walcott. Commissioned by the University College of the West Indies in 1957 in honour of the West Indian Federation inaugurated in 1958. Spanning 600 years of Caribbean and European history, the play was originally written for a cast of 58 and included characters like Christopher Columbus and Sir Walter Raleigh. This staged reading will include 10 actors, one musician and is directed by actor, director and broadcast, Burt Caesar.

A Far Cry from London: The Sound of the Caribbean Voice

Monday 3 September, 19.00-20.30

£10 / £8 / £7, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Explore the weekly BBC World Service radio show Caribbean Voices (1943-1958) that kick-started the careers of some of the Windrush generation’s most acclaimed writers, establishing a new West Indian literary tradition. Poets, playwrights, and prose writers, both amateur and professional, joined an international writing community linking the UK to the Caribbean, and in that same spirit the British Library showcases an evening of UK and Caribbean poetry along with audio recordings from the Library’s sound archives.

London is the Place for Me

Saturday 15 September – Sunday 16 September, 09.00-21.00

Prices TBC, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Join us for this weekend festival of Caribbean Literature and Liming: two days of vibrant performance, panels and events celebrating Caribbean people and culture and their rich contributions to Britain

Pop Story Gi Wi: A Celebration of Miss Lou

Sunday 23 September, 14.30-16.00

£10 / £8 / £7, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Join storyteller Jan Blake and Amina Blackwood Meeks together with poet Val Bloom as they share stories and poems inspired by the late Jamaican folklorist Louise Bennett Coverley (Miss Lou).

James Cook: The Voyages

Sea Life in Cook’s Time

Thursday 5 July, 19.00-20.30

£10 / £8 / £7, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Using original research and direct experience Andrew Lambert, Professor of Naval History at King’s College, London, uncovers the huge logistical challenges of 18th-century journeys of exploration, journeys he learned about first hand from a voyage in a replica of Cook’s Endeavour.

Tupaia’s Endeavour

Tuesday 17 July, 19.00-20.45

Free (limited tickets available), Knowledge Centre Theatre

Lala Rolls’ highly anticipated documentary film Tupaia’s Endeavour has been six years in the making. Artist Michel Tuffery, actor Kirk Torrance and anthropologist Paoro Tapsell slowly uncover the story of Tupaia, the Tahitian who accompanied James Cook on his first Pacific voyage.

Ngãti Rãnana: Celebrating 60 Years of Mãori Culture in London

Friday 20 July, 19.00-20.30

£12 / £10 / £8, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Discover the rich 60-year history of the London Mãori Club. With waiata and haka performed in full traditional garb, Whaea Esther Jessop, QSM, takes the audience on a fascinating journey.

Women’s Suffrage

Jess Phillips: Women, Class, Politics

Wednesday 5 September, 19.45-21.00

£12 / £10 / £8, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Jess Phillips discusses the factors which restrict young women’s life chances and opportunities to become involved in politics, and how these can be overcome, with Sarah Childs.

Immortalised: Remembering Women’s Achievements

Tuesday 11 September, 19.15-20.30

£10 / £8 / £7, Knowledge Centre Eliot Room

Taking a look at who gets immortalised in the UK and why, Emily Gee of Historical England lead a discussion asking why female achievement haven’t been told in bricks, mortar, bronze and marble until very recently.

Literature at the Library

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala: A Celebration

Tuesday 3 July, 18.30-20.00

£15 / £12 / £10, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Celebrating Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, short story writer, two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter and Booker prize-winning novelist, this will be an evening of readings and discussions with those who knew her. Featuring Oscar and BAFTA-winning director, producer and screenwriter James Ivory, Catherine Freeman, producer and lifelong friend, and Anita Desai, award-winning author. There will also be live readings from Simon Callow and Felicity Kendal, with BBC journalist and presenter Razia Iqbal chairing.

Olivia Laing: Writing Everything Down

Wednesday 11 July, 19.15-20.30

£8 / £6 / £5, Knowledge Centre  Eliot Room

Discussing identity, freedom, art, and bearing witness to the end of the world, Olivia Laing aims to answer the question, what does it take for a woman to live a life with value and meaning?

Literature Matters: The Stories that Shape Us

Friday 7 September, 19.00-20.30

£12 / £10 / £8, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the Man Booker Prize 2018 judges, will here examine identity, the weaving of personal anecdote and literary example, and the tangled contradictions within the stories that define us. In conversation with Razia Iqbal, BBC journalist and presenter, they will discuss how the stories we read and tell, shape who we are.

Other summer highlights include:

Africa Writes

Saturday 30 June – Sunday 1 July

Weekend Pass £18 / £15 / £12 – Day Pass £12 / £10 / £8, British Library

Africa Writes, the exciting summer festival of contemporary literature and thought from Africa and the diaspora, returns to the British Library. Expect an exciting programme of book launches, panel conversation, readings, performance and workshops which showcases the best in new writing from the continent and the diaspora. This event will welcome Somali-British writer and poet Warsan Shire and will see a performance of COAT.

Mandela at Rivonia: The Cause, the Words, the Man

Wednesday 18 July, 19.00-20.30

£15 / £12 / £10, Knowledge Centre Theatre

Nelson Mandela was born 100 years ago on this day. With guest speakers including his Rivonia defence counsel George Bizos and writer Mandla Langa, this event reflects on his 1963 trial which saw him fight for justice and his life with one of the most remarkable speeches of all. There will also be chances to hear Mandela’s voice through recordings made audible by the British library years later.

On the Funny Stuff: Michael Palin with Sanjeev Bhaskar and David Schneider

Thursday 13 September, 19.00-20.30

£15 / £12 / £10, Knowledge Centre Theatre

An Englishman, an Indian and a Jew walk into the British Library…Michael Palin brings together two of his favourite comedy actor-writers, Sanjeev Bhaskar (Goodness Gracious Me) and David Schneider (The Death of Stalin) to share experience of their careers and craft.

Save Our Sounds! How the British Library is Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

Monday 17 September, 19.00-20.30

Free (limited tickets available), Knowledge Centre Theatre

Curators and sound archivists explore Britain’s amazing sound heritage, and show how it is being saved for posterity before being lost for ever.

Late at the Library: Shhh! Silent Disco with Time Out

Saturday 22 September, 19.00-23.00

£21 / £18 / £16, Entrance Hall

Shhh! Think of the books! Pick your channel and choose your side as three DJs battle it out over separate wireless channels, taking inspiration from the British Library exhibitions Windrush, Songs in a Strange Land.

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Alexander Killeen

+44 (0)20 7412 7110


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