Margaret Busby has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the London Book Fair.
Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo presented Busby with the award at the Hurlingham Club in Fulham on 23rd September, in one of the first face to face industry events since the pandemic. Evaristo said it was “a great privilege” to pay tribute to Busby, who was Britain’s first Black female publisher when she co-founded Allison & Busby in the 1960s.
“Her ongoing contribution to our literary culture, often as a lone pilot in the early days has deep roots," said Evaristo. "Powerful, self-contained, pragmatic and visionary, she refused to let barriers stop her from pursuing a career in literature. As a pioneer, a trailblazer, and someone who has made history, she laid the ground for subsequent generations."
Evaristo praised Busby’s calls for change in the publishing industry, and her role as a founder member of Greater Access to Publishing in the 1980s. She listed a “trail of honours” Busby has received recently, including becoming an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2017 and receiving a CBE for services to publishing.
“For all the plaudits and her substantial, long-standing, consistent and hugely impressive career, Margaret remains one of the nicest people on the literary scene,” said Evaristo. “Sociable, personable, positive, down to earth and never one to blow her own trumpet, she’s always fun to be around and always ready to offer words of wisdom and encouragement. My only criticism of Margaret is that she won’t gossip.”
Evaristo added: “We have been so lucky to have her batting for us for so long and she is totally deserving of this lifetime achievement award from the London Book Fair. We thank you and we salute you”.
In her speech, Busby recalled her lifelong fascination with the world of books and her campaigning work to get more Black people into the publishing industry, paying tribute to those “who challenged the status quo”.
In a long list of acknowledgements she said: “Nothing I have achieved would have been possible without the support and encouragement of my friends and family”.
She concluded with a quote from an interview she did with Toni Morrison in 1987 on diversity in publishing: “It’s not patronage, not affirmative action we’re talking about here, we’re talking about the life of a country’s literature.”
Andy Ventris, director of The London Book Fair, confirmed that the programme will return to Olympia in April next year, promising that redevelopment work there will be take the fair "to a whole new level".
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