New festival sets out to challenge ‘overwhelmingly homogenous’ literary scene

A new literature festival has been set up to challenge the lack of diverse representation of BME authors in publishing and on festival panels.

Organised by Media Diversified, Bare Lit Festival seeks to celebrate the work and achievements of BAME literary voices in the UK and set out to change the UK literary landscape.

The two-day festival, which takes place on 27 and 28 February 2016 in London, offers a lineup of established and new international authors, including novelists Xiaolu Guo, poet Jane Yeh, London’s Young Poet Laureate Selina Nwulu, journalist and fiction author Robin Yassin-Kassab. Events focus on addressing the question of what it means to be a writer of colour in the 21st century, with performances, panels and conversations such as “Second-Generation Poets in Exile”, “What Does Liberation in Literature Look Like?” and “Sci-Fi vs. Afrofuturism”. The festival will be streamed across social media platforms in a bid to engage those unable to attend.

Bare Lit’s racially and globally conscious ethos is in part a reaction to the ‘overwhelmingly homogenous view of contemporary writing’ presented by UK literary festivals. In 2014, only 4% of the 2000-plus authors featured at the UK’s three largest literary festivals came from Black Caribbean, Black African, South Asian or East Asian backgrounds; the other 96% were white.

The creation of Bare Lit is a step toward empowering these voices that are so often silenced in the literary mainstream. As an organiser from Media Diversified Mend Mariwany states, ‘We can focus on making mainstream festivals more ‘diverse’ or we can create something magical of our own.’

Festival guests have spoken out emphasising the importance of a festival that celebrates authors of colour. Novelist Leila Aboulela said: ‘It’s about stories coming from traditions, dynamics and history which the gatekeepers ignore.’

SFF and speculative fiction author Zen Cho agrees: ‘As a writer who’s neither white nor British I’m used to sticking out at conventions and publishing events. The stories that fill our heads should reflect the richness and diversity of the world around us. I’m excited to be part of a festival that’s trying to encourage that.’

The full programme will be available on the Bare Lit Festival website in due course.