African Writers' Evening

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The African Writers' Evening is the first regular evening held for African writers at the UK's Poetry Café. It was started in 2003 by Nii Ayikwei Parkes in consultation with the directors of the Poetry Society[1] after he completed a residency there. The solid reputation of African Writers' Evening is based on its ability to consistently identify and feature talented emerging writers.

Diana Evans and Hisham Matar, for example, were both featured prior to the official releases of their début publications, two of 2007′s features Ken Kamoche and Sade Adeniran were shortlisted for the 2008 Commonwealth Prize for their first books, and Inua Ellams won an Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award three years after his first featured appearance at African Writers' Evening in 2006. Recently, the event's founder Nii Ayikwei Parkes was himself shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize and the November 2009 featured reader, Nadifa Mohamed won the 2010 Betty Trask Award.

African Writers' Evening is held bi-monthly from March to November with occasional special events, such as the AWE Heritage Series launched at the Southbank Centre on 6 July 2009 and AWE/NYC, which was held at the Bowery Club in September 2009. While the event is still held mainly at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, a recent partnership with the Southbank Centre has seen the end-of-year reading in November held at the Royal Festival Hall since 2008.

Policy

African Writers' Evening features writers of all genres and defines "African" based on lived experience rather than simplistic notions of heritage. Featured writers have included white writers like Robyn Scott, Isobel Dixon and Gillian Slovo, as well as Africans of Indian origin such as Sharmila Chauhan.

First event

The first African Writers' Evening was held in July 2003 at the Poetry Café and featured Nii Ayikwei Parkes (who was writer-in-residence at the venue), Jessica Horn, a Ugandan poet, and Abby Ajayi, a Nigerian-British short story and script writer. The event in its current format started in July 2004. Its tagline is: Where Africa speaks and the world listens.

History and expansion

African Writers' Evening initially paid writers travel expenses and they read for free as a way of supporting the reading series. However, in September 2005, the series received funding from the Arts Council of England and began to pay the featured writers an appearance fee. This development allowed the series to begin flying writers in from abroad to share their work: Helon Habila's appearance at the Royal Festival Hall in 2009 was part of this trend.

Since the New York event held in September 2009, African Writers' Evening appears to be on a path of expansion and collaboration. In April 2010, they held an event in Birmingham in collaboration with The Drum Theatre, the British Council and London Book Festival and in July 2010 a book sale event, named the African Book Market was held at the Poetry Café in partnership with major publishers, such as Random House, as well as smaller outfits like Serpent's Tail. They also announced a book discussion initiative starting in September 2010.

Organisation

The event is run by a London-based collective called London Society, Literature, Arts and Music Central, abbreviated as London SLAM Central.

List of previous featured readers

Year Month Featured author(s) Host Venue
2004 July Open Mike Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
September Leeto Thale (South Africa) Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
November Open Mike Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
2005 March Valerie Mason-John (Sierra Leone)
Delia Jarrett-Macauley (Sierra Leone)
Diana Omo Evans (Nigeria)
Suzy Kester (Nigeria)
Kadija Sesay Poetry Café
May Hisham Matar (Libya)
Gamal Hassan (Egypt)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
July Sefi Atta (Nigeria) Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
September Jack Mapanje (Malawi)
Jesica Horn (Uganda)
Akin Oladimeji (Nigeria)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
November Atukwei Okai (Ghana) Reading cancelled
due to missed flight
Poetry Café
2006 March Nick Makoha (Uganda)
Inua Ellams (Nigeria)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
May Helen Oyeyemi (Nigeria)
Clara Bakosi (Nigeria)
Louis Antwi (Ghana)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
July Hisham Matar (Libya)
Jessica Horn (Uganda)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
September Wangui wa Goro (Kenya)
Togara Muzanenhamo (Zimbabwe)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
November Brian Chikwava (Zimbabwe)
Ghazi Gheblawi (Libya)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
2007 March Kadija Sesay (Sierra Leone)
Leeto Thale (South Africa)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
May Zoë Wicomb (South Africa)
Sharmila Chauhan (Kenya/Zambia)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
June Special Event with Africa Beyond
Casey Abaraonye (Nigeria)
Ken Kamoche (Kenya)
Sade Adeniran (Nigeria)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
July Biyi Bandele (Nigeria) Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
September Musa Okwonga (Uganda)
Jessica Horn (Uganda)
Chris Simpson (Rwanda)
Nick Makoha Poetry Café
November Isobel Dixon (South Africa)
Biram Mboob (Gambia)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
2008 March Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Ghana) Nick Makoha Poetry Café
May Robyn Scott (Botswana) Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
June Fifth Anniversary Event
Hisham Matar (Libya)
Jennifer Makumbi (Uganda)
Inua Ellams (Nigeria)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Royal Festival Hall
July Ghazi Gheblawi (Libya)
Saradha Soobrayen (Mauritius)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
September Monica Arac de Nyeko (Uganda) Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
November No Readers Reading cancelled
due to venue refurbishment
Poetry Café
2009 March Brian Chikwava (Zimbabwe)
Goretti Kyomuhendo (Uganda)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
May Yaba Badoe (Ghana)
Uchenna Izundu (Nigeria)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
July Laila Lalami (Morocco)
Sulaiman Addonia (Eritrea/Ethiopia)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
July AWE Heritage Series
Helon Habila (Nigeria)
Cameron Duodu (Ghana)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Royal Festival Hall
September AWE New York
Mohammed Naseehu Ali (Ghana)
Patrice Nganang (Cameroon)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Bowery Poetry Club
September (themed reading: New Work)
Hisham Matar (Libya)
Leeto Thale(South Africa)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
November Nadifa Mohamed (Somalia) Nii Ayikwei Parkes Royal Festival Hall
2010 March Lola Jaye (Nigeria)
Peter Kalu (Nigeria)
Kadija Sesay Poetry Café
April Special Event: Personal or Political
with British Council & London Book Fair
Achmat Dangor (South Africa)
Gillian Slovo (South Africa)
Brian Chikwava (Zimbabwe)
Leeto Thale The Drum
(Birmingham)
July African Book Market N/A Poetry Café
September Book Discussion
Bitter Leaf by Chioma Okereke
Minna Salami
Samuel Sabo
Poetry Café
2011 March Nadifa Mohamed (Somalia)
with Kayo Chingonyi and Luul Hussein
Nii Ayikwei Parkes Royal Festival Hall
May Sefi Atta (Nigeria) Nii Ayikwei Parkes Poetry Café
July Special Event: The Bar in Fiction
readings & discussion with audience Q&A

Ben Okri (Nigeria)
Sarah Ladipo Manyika (Nigeria)

Nii Ayikwei Parkes Royal Festival Hall
September TBA TBC Poetry Café
November TBC TBC Royal Festival Hall

References

  1. ^ "African Writers Evening » About". Archived from the original on 26 September 2010. Retrieved 28 August 2010. 

External links

  • African Writers' Evening
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