Feminist Loose Ends

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This event took place on: 19 July 2021.

Marking the closing weeks of the British Library's epic exhibition on women’s rights, curator Polly Russell and guests explore the preoccupations, hanging threads and lingering dreams that have emerged from Unfinished Business: the Fight for Women’s Rights. The exhibition closes in London on 1 August, and around the UK in public libraries on 21 August.

Speakers

Rafia Zakaria

Attorney and Activist

Alison Phipps

Activist and Academic

PEN Pinter Prize: Linton Kwesi Johnson

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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.

British Identity in 50 Documents with Dominic Selwood

Join us here live: Thursday 11 November, 19:30 - 20:30.

Join historian Dominic Selwood for a vivid exploration of how treasures from the British Library’s collection reveal the changing identities of Britain.

In this colourful talk — based on his new book Anatomy of a Nation: A History of British Identity in 50 Documents — Dominic Selwood delves into a kaleidoscope of documents from the British Library’s unique collection to assemble the story of how Britain evolved through the classical and medieval worlds to the modern day.

Some documents are familiar, like the mesmerizing musical rhythms of Beowulf, the jewel of Anglo-Saxon poetry that survives in just one slightly burned copy. Others are less so, including the irate bull of Pope Innocent III excommunicating anyone who obeyed Magna Carta for the sin of rising against an anointed king. Some are more personal and subtle, like the first Valentine’s letter, sent in 1477 by an amorous Norfolk woman anxious at her modest dowry. While others speak to the nation, like Vaughan Williams’s 1921 score of The Lark Ascending, a visceral reaction to his experiences in the trenches of World War One, and now a forlorn reminder of the carnage later generations have inflicted on the countryside’s once musical and colourful biodiversity.

Weaving these evocative documents together, Dominic uncovers a Britain we have never seen before. People are at the heart of the story: a female charioteer queen from Wetwang, a plague surviving graffiti artist, a drunken Bible translator, outlandish Restoration rakehells, canting criminals, the eccentric fathers of modern typography and the bankers who caused the finance crisis.

Bessie Smith: Jackie Kay in conversation with Bernardine Evaristo

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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.

<b>Purchase your copy of Jackie Kay's <i>Bessie Smith</i> <a href="https://pagesofhackney.co.uk/webshop/product/bessie-smith-jackie-kay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a></b>

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