Tottenham Literature Festival 2019: The Highlights
Read about the events at our inaugural literature festival
From Friday 1 to Saturday 9 November 2019, the Bernie Grant Arts Centre presented the first-ever Tottenham Literature Festival, which highlighted the work of Black authors, past and present, and championed culturally diverse children’s literature.
Artists based in, or influenced by, Tottenham were at the forefront, as the festival presented a packed programme of talks, readings, theatre performances, film screenings, writing workshops and live music.
Read on to find out more about our fantastic week of literary events.
Lemn Sissay: Something Dark
For the festival’s opening event, celebrated author and poet Lemn Sissay performed a dramatic reading of his acclaimed one-man play, and answered the audience’s questions following the performance.
Bold Black Women
This panel discussion, chaired by journalist and arts and culture programmer for STANCE podcast, Chrystal Genesis, included acclaimed author of Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams, poet Zena Edwards, actor and writer Emma Dennis-Edwards, and author Desiree Reynolds. They delved into the joys and challenges of writing about race, gender and class as Black women.
Words, Rhyme & Power
In this conversation, our speakers explored how Black writers, poets and performers have been transforming the English language for hundreds of years, and looked at the role of words and rhyme in taking up space. The panel was chaired by LiFT Festival executive director, Stella Kanu, and included spoken word artist Koko Brown, and producer and theatre director Malakaï Sargeant.
Feelin’ Good: Joy, Pleasure & Writing
Writer and activist Ama Josephine Budge chaired this panel featuring writers, including Sulaiman Addonia, Okechukwu Nzelu, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim and Matilda Ibini, exploring why writing about joy, love and pleasure can be an act of activism.
Family Storytelling and Arts & Crafts
The creative folks at CultureTree led a fun, free interactive African Storytime and arts and crafts session.
Meet the Authors: Hannah Lee and JJ Bola
Authors JJ Bola (No Place to Call Home) and Hannah Lee (My Hair) joined interviewer Sarah Ozo-Irabor, creator of Books And Rhymes podcast, for an intimate discussion about their work.
Lets Write – Creative Writing Workshop for Black Women & Women of Colour
The team from REWRITE, a non-profit organisation formed to support and champion Black Women and Women of Colour writers, led a practical workshop to help participants gain tools and tips for developing their writing practice and gaining confidence.
Tottenham Literature Festival Schools Day
Storyteller Sandra Agard led a day of interactive workshops, performances and poetry sessions, alongside poets including Yomi Sode, Miss Jacqui and Victoria Adukwei-Bulley.
Film: Revival: Women and the Word
We had a special showing of this documentary film about a literary road trip lead by a sisterhood of queer Black women.
Man on the Moon by Keisha Thompson
Poet and storyteller Keisha Thompson performed Man on the Moon, using her unconventional relationship with her father, this piece explored the impact that mental health can have on the family dynamic, particularly within the context of the Black British experience.
Film: Devil in a Blue Dress
For our second film screening, we showed this literary noir adaptation of the Walter Mosley mystery novel, set in pre-civil rights LA and starring Denzel Washington.
Poetry of the Mandem
Debo Amon, literature programmer at Southbank Centre, chaired a panel of poets who are pushing boundaries to reclaim narratives best representing the diverse, lively and nuanced experiences of Black boys and men in London today, including Yomi Sode and Kieron Rennie.
This discussion, chaired by feminist activist, writer and poet Jessica Horn, explored how Black writers, musicians and artists are responding to London’s changing landscapes. Speakers included the RESOLVE collective’s Akil Scafe-Smith, founder of (In)Space Kwame Lowe, and rap artist and entrepreneur Mary Otuhanama.
Fros, Rows & Prose
Festival producer Marcelle Mateki Akita led a conversation about Black women’s hairstyling techniques, from pre-colonial Africa to modern day, featuring author and broadcaster Emma Dabiri, head of editorial at gal-dem Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff, and poet Ruth Sutoyé.
Family Creative Writing Workshop with Storymix
Parents and guardians created a stories with their children, in this family writing workshop.
Meet the Author: Irenosen Okojie
Author Irenosen Okojie joins interviewer Sarah Ozo-Irabor, host of the Books And Rhymes podcast, for an intimate discussion of her work.
The RecordShop Presents Tottenham Originals
The RecordShop founder Mary Otumahana, aka rap artist WondRWomN, curated a superb line-up of Tottenham original talent, including Loux, Shocka and Haylee Venus. Based in the heart of Tottenham, The RecordShop is a free recording studio and artist development hub that discovers and nurtures emerging artists.
For the festival’s final film screening, we showed the much-loved film adaption of the Toni Morrison novel, starring Oprah Winfrey as Sethe, an escaped slave haunted by her past and the actions of her escape.
We’ll be back with an even bigger and bolder Tottenham Literature Festival in autumn 2020 so sign up to our newsletter or follow us on social media to find out more.