More than 600 people have paid to attend the book launch for debut black British novelist Robyn Travis, published by storytelling lifestyle brand OWN IT!
The event to mark the publication of Travis' Mama Can’t Raise No Man will take place at the Hackney Empire in London tomorrow (27th September), presented by award-winning comedian KoJo, and featuring a live reading from the novel along with comedy from Slim and Judi Love, poetry from Suli Breaks, and music from House Gospel Choir plus a "special guest", all exploring themes in the book.
According to OWN IT! founder Crystal Mahey-Morgan, Travis’ core audience are "young, BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic), working class non-graduates who in the past might not have seen books as entertainment". The novel is pitched as an "eye-opening exploration of black masculinity" which is "laugh-out-loud-funny" at times. The book's main protagonist, Duane, finds himself in prison on charges of intent to supply drugs and domestic violence, in spite of his best efforts to turn his life around, although things are not as clear-cut as they seem.
The novel follows Travis' 2013 memoir, Prisoner to the Streets (X Press), about "the real story of the postcode wars" and overcoming his past to become a community activist. Travis will sign copies of his debut novel after the event, priced £7.50 in advance and £10 on the door.
Mahey Morgan - who recently penned an article for The Bookseller on the parallels between publishing and the grime music scene - said of the event: "It felt only right that this book should be appropriately celebrated. Robyn is possibly the only black British male debut novelist published this year, which I feel is more a reflection of the publishing industry's flaws than it is of emerging black British writing talent (or indeed a demand from audiences for this content).
"So deciding to hold the book launch at the Hackney Empire was about celebrating Robyn's powerful and creative debut novel and emerging black British talent. It's also about engaging new audiences who love stories but might not necessarily read a lot, to appreciating books and doing it within an arts space with a rich history.
"Having an eclectic line up from comedy veterans such as Slim and Kojo, poetry from emerging talent such as George the Poet and Suli Breaks and music from The House Gospel Choir seemed the most natural thing in the world. OWN IT! is about telling stories in varied ways across platforms, art forms and mediums. Robyn's core audience is one who love live entertainment in varied forms. This book launch is very representative of what OWN IT! is about and our approach."