Stephen Fry in conversation with Shappi Khorsandi

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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.

Speakers

Stephen Fry

Writer, Actor and Broadcaster

Shappi Khorsandi

Comedian and Author

PEN Pinter Prize 2021: Tsitsi Dangarembga

Join us here live: Mon 11 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 <a href="http://living-knowledge-network.co.uk/library/pen-pinter-prize-linton-kwesi-johnson" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.

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.

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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