Bessie Smith: Jackie Kay in conversation with Bernardine Evaristo

Join us here live: Wednesday 31 March. 19.30.
This event will be live-captioned.

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

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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>

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