Tottenham Literature Festival 2021 – What’s On

29 November - 5 December

A bold festival of words right here in Tottenham.

The Bernie Grant Arts Centre’s Tottenham Literature Festival returns from Monday 29th November until Sunday 5th December. Our joyous festival of words is bolder and bigger than ever – and this year welcomes the Booker Prize-winning Bernardine Evaristo, the first Black woman ever to win literature’s most prestigious prize. 

This year’s festival, which has both in-person and online events, focuses on the theme of Black ‘revolutionary love’ – love of self, love of community, and romantic love – and the power of that love to heal, inspire and transform. Because in a hostile world, the act of loving one another and ourselves can be radical and transformative.

Featuring Bernardine Evaristo, Yomi Sode, Malika Booker, Kareem Parkins-Brown, Janett Plummer, A Quick Ting On authors, Julianknxx, Lola Olufemi, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, Sheba Montserrat, Jessica Horn, Laurence Sessou, Alexandrina Hemsley, Veronica Mckenzie, Miss Jacqui, Theresa Lola, Nick Makoha and others. 

Smokey Okey will be bringing delicious food to the Bernies Cafe/Bar bursting with flavours and tastes from Africa & the Caribbean, combining low-and-slow cooking techniques from America, to create what we call African Soul Food. With meat, vegetarian & vegan options available, there will be something sumptuous for everyone throughout the festival.


Monday 29 November 


Yewande 103 Presents…

6.30pm- 7.15pm 

BGAC, The Hub,

Tickets: £7 / £5

Films from the acclaimed artist and activist for compassionate, embodied advocacy.

After last year’s workshop that centred power and joy in social advocacy work through letter writing, choreographer, performer, writer, mentor and educator Alexandrina Hemsley returns to TLF with three thought-provoking films. Maelstrom Under Glass, My Heart Is Mine As It Is Yours, and Ours and An Anatomy of a Phoenix embody Hemsley’s belief, after Audre Lorde, that “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive”.

Contains nudity

Tickets available here


Malika’s Poetry Kitchen


BGAC Theatre

Tickets: £12 / £10 

A celebration of the 20th anniversary of the unique writers’ collective.

With a line-up including Kareem Parkins-Brown and Janett Plummer, Malika Booker brings the brilliance and zest of her Brixton-founded writers’ collective to Bernie’s. After 20 years of championing, nurturing and ushering in some of the most exciting voices in British poetry – and a new anthology Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different out now – the emphasis is on love and community in this celebratory evening that also features some of Tottenham’s finest poets Jesse Bernard and Sarah Lasoye, along with music videos created and produced by young people from Mouth That Roars with support of Hear Me Out.

 In partnership with Speaking Volumes and Arts Council England.

Tickets available here


Wednesday 1 December 

Yomi Ṣode’s First Five with special guest

7pm – 8.15pm 

BGAC Theatre 

Tickets: £12 / £10

Remember the book that changed your life? The inspirational figure that opened your eyes? The song you’ll never forget? Now pick two books, two tracks and one person that define you and you’ve got your first five.

Join award winning poet, playwright and author of Manorism, Yomi Ṣode in conversation with multi-award-winning producer and writer from South London, Tobi Kyeremateng, to discover the art that makes and influences her.

Tickets available here


Thursday 2 December 


Bernardine Evaristo 

7.30PM – 9PM 

BGAC Theatre 

Tickets: £12 / £10

The Booker Prize winner in conversation with Hannah-Azieb Pool + Q&A.

Having won literature’s most prestigious prize in 2019 with her incredible novel, Girl, Woman, Other, literary trailblazer Evaristo will be reading from her new memoir Manifesto, as well as discussing Black Britain Writing Back. Her new project with Penguin to republish lost, neglected and overlooked books by Black Black writers.  Evaristo and BGAC Artistic Director Hannah-Azieb Pool are joined by Black Britain Writing Back authors, Judith Bryan (Bernard and the Cloth Monkey) and Nicola Williams (Without Prejudice), chosen by Evaristo for readings from their work.  

This event will be BSL interpreted.  

Tickets available here


Friday 3 December 


.the temple of her skin 

BGAC, The Hub

Opens from 7pm, and available all day Saturday 4 December

Part of Festival Saturday Pass

A stunning look at African women’s tattoo and scarification stories.

Inspired by each other’s tattoo and scarification journeys, Jessica Horn and Laurence Sessou created their visual documentary project to explore the stories and aesthetics of other African women and examine how tattoo and scarification practices connect to histories of ritual, spiritual practice and emotion. TLF is proud to present the first curated look at Horn and Sessou’s ongoing initiative. 

Contains nudity

Tickets available here


Black Corporeal by JulianKnxx

7.30pm – 9pm

BGAC Theatre

Tickets: £12 / £10

The poet and filmmaker discusses his lush, spiritual, powerful work.

Invoking the essence of two of his most arresting poems This Air and Can’t Breathe, Black Corporeal is an exploration of breathing in a world in which Black people are being suffocated at the hands of the police. Julianknxx, who is from Sierra Leone, also describes the work as “an examination of the fullness of our lives through our bodies”. Filmed during the 2020 lockdown, Black Corporeal features British actress Sophia Brown (Giri/Haji) and contemporary dancer FUBUNATION. 

Following the screening of Black Corporeal, Julianknxx will be in conversation with Ellah Wakatama, OBE, Hon. FRSL, who is Editor-at-Large at Canongate Books and also featured in the film.

Tickets available here


Saturday 4 December 


Festival Saturday Pass

Noon – 6.30pm

BGAC Theatre, Mezzanine, Paul Square  

Day pass: £18 


Join us for a day of fun, thought-provoking talks, performances and photography.

Festival Saturday promises a vibrant and jampacked day including entry to in-person talks and performances in the BGAC Theatre on the day. Also included is the digital talk, The Sex Lives of African Women, available to watch on-demand during the festival week. You will have access to the general festival offer, family activities, workshops, the book fair, and access to the exciting new exhibition .the temple of her skin

Talks in the theatre include:

1pm – 2.15pm: A Quick Ting On

A panel discussion on the groundbreaking new Black British imprint series by Jacaranda Books exploring history and evolution of Black culture in Britain chaired by series editor Magdalene Abraha.

3pm – 4.15pm: Power & Love of Self

A panel drawing on radical self-affirming practices in literature and photography in subverting oppressive systems and spaces, featuring Lola Olufemi (author of Feminism, Interrupted and Experiments in Imagining Otherwise), Irenosen Okojie (award winning author of Nudibranch and Butterfly Fish) and Marc Thompson (artist and LGBT activist).

5pm – 6.15pm: Who’s Loving You?

A panel centred on the anthology of stories edited by novelist Sareeta Domingo, featuring Varaidzo and chaired by Lisa Bent (author of Symone’s Still Single).

Each talk will open with a performance from Tottenham collective Village 101, curated by Muti Musafiri.


Talks in the BGAC Theatre will be BSL interpreted.  

Tickets available here




EU Studio

Tickets: £7 / £5

“Refilwe, Refilwe let down your locks . . . So I can climb the scraggy rocks!”

Choreographer, performance poet and stand-up comedian Sheba Montserrat reads Refilwe, Zukiswa Wanner’s retelling of the classic fairy tale Rapunzel, for children aged 5 and upwards. In Wanner’s version, which relocates the story to southern Africa, Refilwe is a dreadlocked young woman stuck in a cave atop a mountain awaiting her handsome prince. But with adversity and obstacles in their way, will they live happy ever after?

Tickets available here


Speed Writing Hang Out 

5pm – 7pm

BGAC, Rehearsal Space

Tickets: £10 / £8

Seven experts. Six tables. Ten minute sessions. Do you have what it takes to join our speed-writing session?

Join writer and director Veronica Mckenzie and her team of six local writers as she leads a speed-writing masterclass for people who identify as Black* on the theme of ‘revolutionary love’.  Exploring areas such as family, race and environment, your writing will contribute to a genuinely collaborative creative endeavour which will be read out at the end of the session.

*people who identify as Black Caribbean, Black African, South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern or Latinx.

Tickets available here




The Sex Lives of African Women


On-demand viewing during festival week

Tickets: Included in Festival Saturday Pass

Candid discussion by African women about their diverse experiences of sex, sexuality and relationships. 

Talking on her debut book of essays and interviews The Sex Lives of African Women, Ghanaian feminist writer and activist Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah shares how, over six years, she spoke to more than 30 Black and Afro-descendant contributors from across Africa and around the world to produce a book described by The Guardian as “a book like none you will have read before”. From confronting the trauma of sexual abuse to challenging religious edicts and societal norms, Sekyiamah’s work is sensitive, honest and moving. Listen to Sekyiamah in-conversation with TLF Lead Programmer and Producer, Marcelle Mateki Akita.