**This event has been postponed due to unforseen circumstances.**
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 new her 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.
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is a classic example of defied convention. It presented a new voice, fully convinced of her defiance and standing up against adult tyranny. Acclaimed author Sara Collins, producer of the 2011 film adaptation Alison Owen, Victorian Literature expert Professor Sally Shuttleworth and critic Alex Clark discuss the spirit of rebellion found in its pages and what it is to be a child. This event was livestreamed from the British Library on 14 January 2020 to public libraries across the UK. This event contains discussion of sexual harassment within the novel so parental discretion is advised.
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This event took place on: 26 October 2020.
Emeritus nursing professor Elizabeth Anionwu grew up in care and went on to be named one of the most influential nurses in the history of the NHS. Her career was distinguished by her pioneering work in the understanding of sickle cell disease. Following her retirement she spent nine years fundraising and campaigning for a statue to Mary Seacole.
Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881) was a British-Jamaican entrepreneur and nurse whose adventures are related in one of the earliest autobiographies by a mixed-heritage woman. The statue, unveiled in 2016, was the UK’s first statue to represent a named black woman. Elizabeth will be discussing her and Seacole’s lives in this conversation with journalist and broadcaster Shyama Perera.
This event celebrates Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women's Rights, a UK-wide exhibition by the British Library and public libraries.
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This event took place on: 30 September 2020.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the resultant global Black Lives Matter protests, it has been clearer than ever before that the voices of some are prioritised to the exclusion of others.
As part of Banned Books Week 2020 – an annual celebration of the freedom to read – the RSL, in partnership with British Library, Index on Censorship and English PEN, brings together a panel of writers who have committed to sharing their stories, to creating without compromise, and to inspiring others to do the same. Rachel Long, Elif Shafak, and Jacqueline Woodson explore what ‘freedom’ means in the culture of traditional publishing, and how writers today can change the future of literature. Chaired by Urvashi Butalia.
This event is available to the audiences and users of public libraries through the Living Knowledge Network.
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This event took place on: 1 October 2020.
Live from the Union Chapel, London.
In this special event in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Royal Society for Literature, actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry talks to comedian and author Shappi Khorsandi about writing across forms – from sketch comedy to poetry, independently and in collaboration, written and performed – that has elevated him to the status of national treasure.
Stephen grew up in a house with colossal bookcases filled with classic works of literature, and would use them as medicine cabinets to treat his childhood. He has remarked that writing is a ‘newer technology – only five or six thousand years old’ by which ‘we can change utterance into permanence’, and when once asked for writing advice, he responded: ‘the important thing to do for those who want to liberate their writing is to be able to let go of their self-consciousness, to allow the words to write for them.’
Presented in Partnership with the Royal Society of Literature and the British Library. This event is available to the audiences and users of public libraries through the Living Knowledge Network.
Polarbear is joined by two of the UK's most exciting and talented graphic novelists, Joff Winterhart (Days of Bagnold Summers, Driving Short Distances) and Katriona Chapman (Follow Me In). Together they discuss their inspiration, and how they are breaking new ground in their use of graphics and storytelling to create dynamic work for this ever popular medium. This event is part of Storytalks, a series of talks from the UK’s storytelling experts programmed as part of Evolve, an imaginative programme of events and artworks within Devon’s Libraries. This event was livestreamed from Exeter Library on 10 October 2019.
We bring world-class speakers, emerging voices and inspirational debate to public libraries and the people who use them. We livestream compelling cultural events with libraries across the UK, so you can get a front-row seat for free no matter where you live.
As libraries have had to pause public events for now we’ve launched this website to keep bringing you captivating live events for free and showcase the highlights from our events archive. Here we can keep sharing knowledge and encouraging creativity, until we can get together again in person.
More information about the Living Knowledge Network and the British Library can be found here