Diana Evans (pictured), Alex Wheatle and Hafsa Zayyan are among the authors appearing on a new podcast celebrating Black British writers, which launched today (4th October).
Kicking off Black History Month, "The Amplify Project" will see a range of Black British writers across stage, page and screen interviewed by playwright, author and director Patricia Cumper and writer Pauline Walker.
Launched across fortnightly episodes, the series will explore the backgrounds, ideas and inspirations of the guest writers. Each will discuss their own experience of growing up in Britain, being an author, and dive deep into the topics that impacted their lives and their writing, including what it means to be a Black and British writer.
Wheatle, author of Brixton Rock (Arcadia Books), is joined as a guest by We Are All Birds of Uganda (#Merky Books) author and inaugural #MerkyBooks New Writers Prize winner Zayyan, bestselling author, journalist and critic Evans, and historian, author and producer Colin Grant.
Juliet Gilkes Romero, stage and screen writer and recipient of the 2020 Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play, will also feature, alongside author Nick Makoha, founder of the Obsidian Foundation, and playwright Oladipo Agboluaje, winner of the 2009 Alfred Fagon Award and recipient of the Peggy Ramsay Award.
Cumper's plays have been produced throughout the Caribbean and in Canada and the US. In the UK, she has won awards for her work in audio drama, most recently the BBC Outstanding Contribution to Audio Drama award in 2020 for her adaptation of the autobiographies of Maya Angelou. She was artistic director of Talawa Theatre company, then the UK’s leading Black-led theatre company, for six years and was awarded an MBE for services to Black British theatre.
Commenting on the new podcast, she said: "There is no one Black British identity. More than anything else, that is what I’ve learned from making these podcasts. The range of life stories and the many routes that Black writers have found into making work and viable careers for themselves is astonishing. What comes through in all of the interviews is the power of storytelling—to entertain, to educate, to heal, to reveal hidden worlds and new stories—and the sheer bloodymindedness and determination to speak out that it takes to be a successful storyteller whatever your genre. And it was was fun: challenging, surprising, riveting but most of all fun. I am deeply grateful to the writers for these conversations."
Walker won the Creative Future Literary Awards platinum prize with her short story "The Wait", which was published in the winner’s anthology Important Nothings, alongside the work of Kit de Waal and Dean Atta, and later online by Wasafiri. She is currently working on a novel.
"We started talking about this project in May 2020, wanting to find a way to profile the careers and work of Black British writers, something we felt was lacking," she said. "When you read something like 'publishers claim that they would like to reach more diverse audiences but do not know how to, or are reluctant to expend resources on doing so' [in the Re:Thinking 'Diversity' in Publishing report], it’s quite disheartening because Black British writers and their work is no less valuable or vital than non-Black writers. We wanted to change that and I’m so thrilled that we’ve been able to bring the project to life with the support of Arts Council England.
"One of my favourite things about the podcast is listening to our guests’ stories of how they found their way to writing and what it means to them to be a writer."
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