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

Hay Festival: This Is How We Come Back Stronger

This event took place on: June 4, 8pm.

Everything changed in spring 2020, when life around the world retreated behind closed doors and gender inequalities and systemic racism were brought to new and shocking prominence. Women of all backgrounds and experiences were disproportionately affected by the crisis. Essential debate and action was, for a time, silenced. Then we re-emerged in protest and started to rethink our fight for equality. So, what happens now? This book is a unique collection of essays, interviews, and fiction by feminist writers.

In End State: 9 Ways in Which Society is Broken and how we fix it, James Plunkett argues that this can be a moment not of despair, but of historic opportunity – a chance to rethink, renew, and reform some of the most fundamental ways we organise society.

Contributor Jess Phillips MP, Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, is joined by comedian Francesca Martinez, activist and author Gina Miller, and James Plunkett, Executive Director of Citizens Advice.

This event celebrates Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women's Rights, a UK-wide exhibition by the British Library and public libraries.

BUY THE BOOK FOR THIS EVENT

<a href="https://www.hayfestival.com/p-17593-this-is-how-we-come-back-stronger-feminist-writers-on-turning-crisis-into-change.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">This Is How We Come Back Stronger</a>

<a href="https://www.hayfestival.com/p-17662-end-state-9-ways-society-is-broken-and-how-we-can-fix-it.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">End State: 9 Ways Society is Broken and How We Fix It</a>

Alice Through the Looking Glass with Chris Riddell and Friends

Join us here live: Sunday 4 July, 19:30 - 20:30.

Join illustrator Chris Riddell for a celebration of the classic book. This event is available to public library lovers and users through our partnership with the British Library.

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, appeared 150 years ago this year. Lewis Carroll’s fantastical book takes Alice off through the looking-glass on a second adventure, to a place even stranger than the Wonderland of her first.

Following on from his exquisite edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, one of our finest illustrators, Chris Riddell, has now brought Through the Looking Glass – and more of Lewis Carroll’s iconic characters – to vibrant, colourful life.

Join Chris and our actors for a celebration of this masterpiece of nonsense, with readings and live illustration.

Suitable for those aged 8 and above.

Buy a copy of Chris Riddell's Through the Looking Glass <a href="https://shop.bl.uk/collections/june-2021/products/through-the-looking-glass" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>

Watch our event celebrating the release of Chris Riddell's first edition - <a href="http://www.living-knowledge-network.co.uk/library/chris-riddells-alice-in-wonderland" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Chris Riddell's Alice in Wonderland</a>

You can browse the range of Alice in Wonderland products available on the British Library online shop <a href="https://shop.bl.uk/collections/alice-in-wonderland" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>

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