The Booker Prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo talks to Colin Grant about the changes to British publishing and culture following the Black Lives Matter protests, and how an initiative such as WritersMosaic is both timely and vital.
This interview marks the launch of new platform from The Royal Literary Fund called WritersMosaic dedicated to commissioning original writing from literary voices and cultures currently under represented in the UK mainstream. Over 100 writers both new and established, have already been commissioned across a range of genres including Derek Owusu, Salena Godden, Shamshad Khan, Zena Edwards, Jeffrey Boakye, Paul Mendez, Vaseem Khan, Alex Wheatle, Kiran Millwood-Hargrave, Patricia Cumper, Roger Robinson, Niven Govinden, Meena Kandasamy, Johny Pitts and many more.
“It is a really important initiative”, says Bernardine, “we need to have an organisation which has an overview of what is happening, an aesthetic overview, so it’s not just about numbers, it’s not just about who’s getting published and so on. It’s about what are these books communicating about who we are and can be in this society and we haven’t had that before. I am very interested in the fact, and I have written about it very recently, that because people don’t have a depth of understanding about Black British literature or rather a depth of knowledge about Black British literature, everything’s taken on face value. So writer’s come along and to a certain extent sometimes do reinvent the wheel and everybody buys the story that their spinning because nobody knows that 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago, there were writers, Black British writers, doing this but they have, as you know, I have brought some writers back through Black Britain writing back, but we need to know that we have a literary heritage, we need to acknowledge that heritage and we need to be able to contextualise the body of work that has been published and that is being published within a broader understanding of who we are in this society and that doesn’t happen. ….WritersMosaic can do that.”
Afua Hirsch says of WritersMosaic, “These are the voices I craved for decades of my life in Britain – the sheer talent, multiplicity of stories, identities and perspectives commissioned by WritersMosaic shows its potential to change our literary landscape. It could not have come soon enough.”