bhav does bare lit 17
On 22-23 April, I went to Bare Lit, a literary festival that celebrates writers of colour at Toynbee Studios. I arrived armed with a notebook and an Americano from Pret (TF’s fave coffee shop), ready to engage, learn and furiously nod in agreement – all of those things happened. Never have I been more happy to be up early on a Saturday morning, bobbing along Commercial Street ready for a weekend of bare lit discussions exclusively by writers of colour.
Writers Inua Ellams, Ali Bader, Irfan Master discuss how they use fantastical elements in their writing to comment on their realities.
I tried to think back to the last time I attended a whole weekend festival of work lead by creatives of colour, and apart from a sick weekend at Afropunk last July (roll on 2017), I couldn’t think of any others. I have attended panel discussions where people of colour feature – but they’re often, if not always, addressing the ‘diversity’ issue and the audience is (almost completely) white and eager to learn about how they can be better. This wasn’t that at all – this was a weekend of celebration, discussion and provocation – how can we do better, be better and perhaps even more importantly: how can we support each other? I was moved by all of the calls to action, particularly Bibi Bakare Yusuf of Cassava Republic Press who quite rightly said ‘We’re in a historical moment where we can do things for ourselves…we need more of us.‘
Wei Ming Kam, Gautam Malkani, Annette Brook and Joelle Owusu-Sekyere discuss self-publishing.
I saw panelists over a span of generations, experiences and disciplines but nonetheless everyone was doing their work with self-agency and ownership, from fundraising to publish their own books (Riaz Phillips, Gautaum Malkani) to creating a magazine platform so they can see themselves reflected in the world (Burnt Roti, Skin Deep, gal-dem). Creatives of colour are done waiting for the platform – they’re making it for themselves. I left Bare Lit with a heavier bag of books, a lighter wallet and a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to be better. Thank you Bare Lit, it’s was a pleasure to skip from one room to the next, learning so much and knowing that there are not only platforms to be joined, but platforms to be made.
Here’s to a bigger Bare Lit 2018.
From Pasta to Pigfoot by Frances Mensah Williams
The Things I Would Tell You by Sabrina Mahfouz
Belly Full by Riaz Philips Hold Tight by Jeffrey Boakye
Dorset’s Hidden Histories by Louisa Adjoa Parker
Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman
This is Grime by Hattie Collins
Afterhours by Inua Ellams
Mama Can’t Raise No Man by Robyn Travis
When We Speak Of Nothing by Olumide Popoola
No More Heroes by Stephen Johnson
From the Lines of Dissent: Essays on Race, Religion, Identity by People of Colour by Media Diversified