Black History

It is 10 years since Black History month was created by the London Strategic Policy Unit to raise the profile of black people in the arts. The Museum of London is organising a number of events to celebrate: Saturday will see the first conference to trace black writing in London from its early origins through to today's industry.

"There is a need to excavate the role which black writing has played in contemporary British writing as a whole," says author Mike Philips, the keynote speaker at the conference "Tracing Paper: Black Writing In London, 1770 - 1997". Philips is well-placed to talk about black British writing in the 21st century, having been Writer in Residence at the Royal Festival Hall and an acclaimed novelist. His first novel, Blood Rights, was serialised for BBC TV.

He will be joined by prize-winning authors and new writers to read from their works, among them Andrea Levy (Never Far From Nowhere), Bernardine Evaristo (Lara), Pauline Melville (The Ventriloquist's Tale), Q (Dead Meat), and Moniza Alvi (The Country at My Shoulder). Contemporary black writing will be discussed by a panel of academics, poets, playwrights, publishers and journalists.

Joining the panel is Tony Fairweather who has done much to raise the profile of black writers through his marketing and promotion company The Write Thing. "We are arrange marketing and promotions in the literary field - with a difference," says Tony. "We hand out flyers outside clubs, doctors' waiting rooms, even airports and we started doing this before the rave scene!

"Our events mix singers, dancers, comedians and authors. When words are so alive, why are literary readings so dead? We make each event like a performance."

The conference will highlight the history of black writing, the development of a black voice, publishing and establishing a critical context. Tony Fairweather is optimistic about the future for black writers. "It can't be marginalised when you have writers like Iyanla Zanzant selling 10 million books worldwide with 10 reprints."

Mike Philips' speech will illuminate the future is for black British writers. "There is a need for a body of criticism. Black authors tend to be labeled as a minority art that takes place in a corner."

Museum of London, London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN. Bookings: 0171-600 3699 Tickets for Saturday 11 October, 9.30am-5.00pm: Tracing Paper: Black Writing In London, 1770-1997, pounds 16 (pounds 10 concessions), inc. morning tea and coffee.

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