Watch again now
This event took place on Wednesday 8th December 2021 (19:30 - 20:45)
Join the British Library for an evening of readings, stories and conversation celebrating the life and work of the Jamaican poet, writer, broadcaster and activist, Andrew Salkey (1928–1995). Andrew Salkey was a co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement, a writer, a poet, and a teacher. He embodied the Black Radical Tradition in his writing, his politics, and in his support for other creative individuals.
This event reflects on the depth and breadth of Salkey’s work and his myriad of interests with contributions and reflections from his son Jason Salkey, the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and the writer, Gwen Strauss, who both regarded Salkey as a friend and mentor. The poet, Raymond Antrobus, talks about Salkey’s poetry and how it influenced his own work and Eric Huntley, an early publisher of Salkey’s works, looks back at their friendship.
Watch again now
This event took place on Thursday 21 July 2021
Poetry and women’s stories from Newcastle. Meet Newcastle based poets, Degna Stone, Ellen Moran and Sky Hawkins and hear their new poetry inspired by the British Library exhibition Unfinished Business. From bodily autonomy and the right to education, to self-expression and protest, the exhibition explores how feminist activism in the UK has its roots in the complex history of women’s rights.
Dive in to the poets’ explorations in to the intersection of class and feminism, body image in mainstream media and creating a manifesto for the seventh generation.
Despite the disruption of pandemic, the three brilliant poets have been working across Fenham, East and West End with branch libraries and organisations such as Children’s Society Women’s Group and Tyneside Women and Girls to capture stories that inspire their newly commissioned poetry.
Leading poetry producers Poet in the City and the British Library present this special event as part of their Collections in Verse collaboration.
You can explore more Unfinished Business events here
Watch again now
This event took place on Thursday 1st 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.
Watch again now.
A celebration of one of the most important British poets of the last fifty years, by contemporary poets and artists.
Simon Barraclough, Dzifa Benson, Nancy Campbell, João Concha, Kirsten Irving, Ricardo Marques, Peter McCarey and Richard Price read Morgan's poems and each responds with a work of their own.
Taking its name from one of his collections, this evening is a 'divan' in the Persian sense of a gathering of people sitting on a virtual sofa sharing their poems and news, not unlike the concept of the 'ceilidh' in Scotland, where Morgan grew up and lived.
Join us on the poetry couch for an unrivalled insight into this remarkable poet and a glimpse of the wealth of contemporary poetry which has grown up in a creative landscape partly created by him.
With thanks to:
The Edwin Morgan Trust
The Poetry Archive
Click here to read the poem’s featured in this event.
Watch again now
This event took place on Monday 11th Oct 2021 (19:30 - 20:30)
Zimbabwean novelist, playwright, and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga receives the prestigious 2021 PEN Pinter Prize and delivers her keynote address at a ceremony hosted by British Library and English PEN.
This event is available to the audiences and users of public libraries through the Living Knowledge Network. Watch last year's PEN Pinter Prize ceremony awarding Linton Kwesi Johnson here.
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, the Commonwealth or former 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’.
Tsitsi Dangarembga was chosen by this year’s judges: The Guardian’s Associate Editor for Culture Claire Armitstead; literary critic and Editor-at-large for Canongate, Ellah P Wakatama, and poet Andrew McMillan.
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. The co-winner, selected by Tsitsi Dangarembga from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN, is announced at the event.
This year's award ceremony is part of Common Currency, a year-long celebration of freedom of expression, creative campaigning, and the best literature the world has to offer to mark English PEN's centenary year. For more information visit: englishpen.org/commoncurrency
The PEN Pinter Prize is supported by the generosity of Ruth Maxted and The Blavatnik Family Foundation.
Watch again now
This event took place on 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.