This week, the Tottenham Literature Festival (TLF) returns to North London, celebrating enriched and diverse stories by Black authors, poets, and artists from the local area and further afield.
The 2022 festival has a Healing Stories theme and features more than 50 Black authors. They’ll explore the healing power of words and how writing ourselves into history transforms everything.
To make sure the festival is as accessible and inclusive as possible, there’s a free event programme with the rest of the events bookable on a Pay What You Can basis. In addition, there are some events taking place virtually. So, those that can’t make it in person can still enjoy the festival. Audiences can access the Saturday programme with an affordable Day Pass, and the free events include a books and arts market as well as author interviews in the Mezzanine.
At this year’s festival there are workshops, panel discussions, and a whole day dedicated to family fun, headlined by poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay OBE FRSL. And don’t miss Tottenham’s very first Big Read, where 1,000 free books will be given away to children and adults.
Talks and performances at the festival
What else can you enjoy at Tottenham Literature Festival 2022? More Fiya is an evening talk featuring Black British poets, including Anthony Joseph (Paul Hamlyn Composers Award 2020 & Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship 2019), Bridget Minamore, Dean Atta and Dzifa Benson. Another evening talk sees Olivia Wenzel in conversation about the influences of feminism and German-Afro experiences in the award-winning novel 1000 Coils of Fear.
Paterson Joseph performs an extract from Sancho: An Act of Remembrance. This is followed by an evening talk and reading from his latest book The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho. And festival Artist in Residence, Travis Alabanza, is presenting this year’s keynote lecture.
There’ll also be a panel discussion celebrating Black love in all its essence from familial, community, friendship, romantic, nature and self with Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s When We Were Birds, Jendella Benson’s Hope and Glory, Lizzie Damilola Blackburn’s Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? and others. This is chaired by Maame Blue, author of Bad Love.
Another panel discussion explores Black character interiority and powerful worlds of imagination and escape within historical fiction (Nadifa Mohamed’s The Fortune Men), romance and magic realism (Leone Ross’s This One Sky Day), poetry (Victoria Adukwei-Bulley’s Quiet) and more. And a panel discussion hosted by A Quick Ting On series, explores Black British culture and history through the act of archiving, documentation and celebration, with Christian Adofo, Tippa Irie and Tobi Kyeremateng.
Talks in the BGAC Theatre are BSL interpreted and there’ll be a roaming BSL interpreter on hand. If you need this service, simply select it when booking your tickets.
Highlights of the digital programme
The digital programme is just as interesting and diverse. Morowa Yejidé is in conversation throughout festival week via YouTube. She’ll discuss her Women’s Prize for Fiction longlisted novel Creatures of Passage, and the influence of family and magic realism. Lisa Allen-Agostini and Yvonne Bailey-Smith (Zadie Smith’s mother) are also in conversation throughout festival week. They’ll discuss their writing careers and Caribbean influences in their work on YouTube.
Need some tips to start your own literary career? Then join Tottenham author Derek Owusu’s masterclass, Fiction: Kick-start Your Writing, via Zoom.
Workshops to enjoy
If you do fancy getting more hands-on, the festival has plenty of workshops to enjoy. There’s a chance for adults to Speed-pitch Your Book, while children can benefit from some Zine-making Time. The speed-pitch event is a fun and fast interactive workshop where you travel to ‘islands’ and pitch your book in under two minutes to a literary agent, publisher, editor and author to receive on the spot feedback.
For something less frenetic, there’s an intimate masterclass for Black LGBTQI+ identifying audience members with playwright and author Travis Alabanza. Plus, there’s a strand of interviews to discover. These feature Kris Manjapra on his latest book Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation, and Nels Abbey representing the Black Writers Guild in the Mezzanine.
Family Day events
Looking for some family-friendly fun? Join Lemn Sissay in the family picturebook fun adventure Don’t Ask The Dragon! It’s suitable for ages 3 years and up. And as part of #TLF22’s Big Read initiative, every child will receive a free copy of the book to enjoy at home too!
Or busy your hands in zine making with award-winning Cocoa Girl & Boy Magazine. This drop-in workshop is open to children aged 6 years and up, with accompanying adults. And join Tola Okogwu in the fantastical, super-powered hair adventures of Onyeka! This one’s for ages 7 years and up.
Plus, there’s an exciting theatre adaptation of Zukiswa Wanner’s Refilwe, a South African retelling of the Rapunzel tale. This is an early sharing, delivered in partnership with National Youth Theatre, Talawa and Spark Arts Festival, so it’s one not to miss.
What is the Bernie Grant Arts Centre?
Tottenham Literature Festival takes place at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre (BGAC), a unique, multi-art form venue. It’s inspired by the vision of the late Bernie Grant MP (hence the name) and the iconic building is designed by acclaimed architect David Adjaye, making it a Tottenham High Street landmark.
As London’s only Black-led combined arts venue that prioritises Black work, the centre exists to champion, develop and present new and cutting-edge multi-disciplinary work by Black artists. The arts centre has a strong mission and values, and wants a world where Black led work is given space, status and a chance to thrive: a world where Black artists, creatives and performers no longer have to fight to have their stories made. A world which should already exist.
When: 14th – 20th November 2022
Where: Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Town Hall Approach Road, Tottenham Green, London N15 4RX
£: Mix of free and pay what you can ticketed events
More info: www.berniegrantcentre.co.uk