Bessie Smith: Jackie Kay in conversation with Bernardine Evaristo

This event will be available to watch again soon.

The British Library and Faber Social present a celebration of Bessie Smith, pioneering blues singer and one of the biggest stars of the 1920s and 30s.

As a young black girl growing up in Glasgow, writer and poet Jackie Kay found in Bessie someone with whom she could identify and who she could idolise. Kay talks to award winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo about her new book on Bessie's life, which mixes enthralling biography with fiction, poetry and prose.

Plus a selection of Bessie Smith’s songs performed by special guest singer Nona Hendryx, most famously of the group Labelle.

Bessie’s life was as tempestuous as it was extraordinary. Born in Tennessee in 1894 and orphaned by the age of nine, Smith sang on street corners before becoming a big name in travelling shows alongside the likes of Ma Rainey. In 1923 she made her first recording for a new start-up called Columbia Records. It sold 780,000 copies.

Smith’s life was notoriously difficult: she drank pints of ‘bathtub gin’, got into violent fist fights, spent huge sums of money and had passionate love affairs with men and women. She once single-handedly fought off a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Her gorgeous and powerful voice, unapologetic songs and bold personality have been an inspiration to many ever since.

Purchase your copy of Jackie Kay's Bessie Smith here

PEN Pinter Prize: Linton Kwesi Johnson

Watch again now.
This event took place on: 12 October 2020.

Linton Kwesi Johnson is presented with the 2020 PEN Pinter Prize.

The PEN Pinter Prize was established in 2009 by the charity English PEN, which defends freedom of expression and celebrates literature. In memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter, the prize is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit resident in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination... to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.

Linton Kwesi Johnson was chosen by this year’s judges; The Guardian’s Associate Editor for Culture Claire Armitstead; Dialogue Books Publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove, and author Max Porter. The judges said of Johnson: ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson is a poet, reggae icon, academic and campaigner, whose impact on the cultural landscape over the last half century has been colossal and multi-generational. His political ferocity and his tireless scrutiny of history are truly Pinteresque, as is the humour with which he pursues them.’

The prize will be shared with an International Writer of Courage: a writer who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty, selected by Linton Kwesi Johnson from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN. The co-winner will be announced at the event, where they will accept their prize alongside Linton Kwesi Johnson.

This event is available to the audiences and users of public libraries through the Living Knowledge Network.

Remembering the Holocaust: Anne Frank's step-sister Eva Schloss

Watch again now.
This event took place on: 25 January 2021.

To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, 91-year old Eva Schloss MBE tells her remarkable story. A childhood neighbour of Anne Frank in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, she was incarcerated in and then liberated from Auschwitz.

Before the Second World War, Eva and her family were neighbours of the Franks in Amsterdam. The two families went separately into hiding from the Nazis. Both were betrayed and deported to Auschwitz. Eva, her mother and Anne’s father were the only survivors. When Eva settled in London after the War, Eva’s mother and Anne’s father married. Eva has published three books and speaks about her experiences to thousands of people around the world.

In 1991, Eva co-founded the Anne Frank Trust UK, an anti-prejudice education charity, which is now in its 30th year. Using Anne Frank’s life and diary as a starting point, the trust aims to empower young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination.

Tim Robertson has been Chief Executive of the Anne Frank Trust UK since 2018. His previous roles include Director of the Royal Society of Literature, Chief Executive of the Koestler Trust for arts in prisons, and children’s social worker in the London Borough of Camden.

In association with the Anne Frank Trust.

Order your copy of Eva's book <i><b>After Auschwitz: A story of heartbreak and survival by the stepsister of Anne Frank</i></b> <a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Eva-Schloss/After-Auschwitz--A-story-of-heartbreak-and-survival-by-th/15126230" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>

Feedback