More than 200 million print books were sold in the UK last year, the first time since 2012 according to an estimate from official book sales monitor Nielsen Bookscan. However, despite the book figures defying the pandemic reading is still not trending amongst younger generations especially diverse audiences in areas of deprivation, BAME communities and rural localities.
Sarah Smith, Libraries Development Manager, at Brent Culture Service is changing this by creating diverse and impactful programmes that are aimed to inspire people who are not regular readers to pick up a book and tempt existing readers to try something new.
“We curate these events so that both authors and participants get to discover, learn and more importantly be encouraged to take up a book. From adults who may not have the time, to young people who want to see people like them within their story books – literature is and should be accessible to everyone.”
In April there will be two events of these celebratory events: Step Into My Parlour: Celebrating Black British Female Authors on the 22nd, and Black British Novels: What lies Beneath on the 28th. These events feature award winning authors such as Malorie Blackman (author of Noughts and Cross), Alex Wheatle MBE, and industry titan Alex Pascall OBE (First black radio host at the BBC and former Notting Hill Chairman of the Carnival and Arts Committee).
Frances Mensah Williams
“Brent is a very diverse community and it’s our job to reflect that in our literature and events. Step into my parlour and Black British Novels are great examples of this” Sarah said.
When asked what should be expected from these events it was clear that the carefully selected authors were invited for more than just a panel, but to use this platform as a springboard of encouragement for upcoming creatives of all ages. She also emphasized the importance of sharing personal stories in addition to demonstrating how both good and bad events can influence and inform writing.
“There were some challenges trying to find Black authors within the industry, but with some networking – and authors such as Alex Wheatle and host Marcelle Mateki Akita promoting others within the field – we were then able to showcase a variety of writers who can connect with a range of ages, ethnic backgrounds and genres”.
“We also thought it was important for the authors to depict their stories of living in this country,” she continued, “as we all have stories to tell and have different experiences to share. We don’t derive from one place”.
This homogeneity is a narrative that Brent Cultures Services aims to debunk, refuting the misconception that people of colour are all the same. That diversity expands into what we create.
“We deserve to see various parts of the black narrative. It doesn't always have to be tragic – so from the lighthearted, romantic or psycho thriller that's what these events aim to show.”
It is refreshing to see diverse literature being championed by libraries and supported by the BBC, as it reaffirms its importance within society.