Books / festival

Great lineup announced for Africa Writes Bristol 2019

By joe melia, Wednesday Jun 19, 2019

Africa Writes, Bristol have announced an exciting line up of writers, performers, publishers and speakers for their week-long celebration of contemporary literature from Africa and the African diaspora.

The seven days will feature a series of performances, book launches, discussions and workshops which will take place across the city at six venues – Malcolm X Community Centre, Arnolfini, Waterstones and Foyles, The Cube and the Wickham Theatre.

Much of the festival has been inspired by New Daughters of Africa, an anthology edited by Margaret Busby (following on from her landmark Daughters of Africa published in 1992), which features the work of over 200 women writers of African descent. The Times Literary Supplement says of the anthology, “This remarkable book constitutes a powerful affirmation of literary achievement, demonstrating that contemporary black women writers are part of a vital and extensive tradition.” The festival features several of the contributors to the anthology including Ros Martin, Jay Bernard and Nadifa Mohamed. There will also be a particular emphasis on showcasing the literary achievements of black women writers, from Bristol-based Liz Mytton’s new play, Back Home to Namwali Serpell’s debut novel, The Old Drift.

A headline New Daughters of Africa event is being held in partnership with St Paul’s Carnival, where Bristol-based head of Dialogue Books, Sharmaine Lovegrove, will be in conversation with Margaret Busby and contributors to the anthology at Malcolm X Community Centre.

Other highlights across the week include a rare appearance by legendary Somali musician Hudeidi, a poetry night featuring award-winning South African poet Koleka Putuma, followed by the Africa Writes, Bristol festival party with a DJ set from Miss Divine. Plus, Bristol writer and editor, Nikesh Shukla will be in conversation with shortlisted writers from the very prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing, Lesley Arimah and Cherrie Kandie.

Organisers Dr Kate Wallis, lecturer in world literatures at Exeter University and award-winning poet, Tjawangwa Dema say: “We’ve worked hard to draw together an exciting programme which showcases and celebrates some of the most exciting contemporary literature from Africa, the diaspora and the South West. We hope that audiences will come out in numbers to engage with these writers and literary texts – to listen, to start new conversations.

“We want the festival to feel like it is a space that over time can represent and connect Bristol’s creative community across spaces and generations. And that through this, it can contribute to a larger project of working against some of the problematic ways in which a London-centric literary culture structures publishing and ideas of literary value in the UK, reinforcing unhelpful and unnatural distinction between say what is a ‘local’ or an ‘international’ writer or an ‘emerging’ and ‘established’ voice.”

The festival is collaborating with other Bristol organisations, notably St Paul’s Carnival and the Festival of Ideas, to produce the programme. Kate Wallis says: “The whole Festival of Ideas team, and particularly Andrew Kelly and Zoe Steadman-Milne, have been amazingly supportive collaborators through the whole process of bringing together this year’s festival.  And it was through them that we began talking to Marti Burgess, the Chair of St Paul’s Carnival. Festival of Ideas had already been talking to St Paul’s Carnival about possibilities for shared programming, and so it made sense for Africa Writes, Bristol to also become part of those conversations and for us all to work together.

“Rooting Africa Writes, Bristol in the city is part of a longer term project and there are lots more people we want to bring into these conversations, but Festival of Ideas and St Paul’s Carnival as partners will remain core to this and we’ve already been talking about what’s next!”

There are opportunities for Bristol-based creatives to register for the fiction, poetry and literary producers’ workshops, many of which are free, in the programme. Those interested should email with the title ‘poetry’ or ‘fiction’ or ‘book-making’ to indicate interest. There are also opportunities to volunteer to help during the festival. Those interested should send their CV to before June 26.

Africa Writes, Bristol 2019 runs from Friday, June 28 to Thursday, July 4. For full information on venues, timings, events and to book tickets, visit

Read more: Bristol is a great city to be living in as a poet

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