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A Literary Extravaganza: Reviewing The Black British Book Festival

Reflecting on the BBBF23 during Black History Month; a cultured celebration of books, talent & creativity. On a tranquil autumn weekend in October, I attended the Black British Book Festival founded by Selina Brown at the Southbank Centre, London. The perfect bookish event for someone who adores books, loves learning and yearns for a place to share that passion with others, especially other Black people. Events of this nature help to illustrate and capture the countless feelings reading can evoke. Ultimately, an amazing weekend to amplify Black voices, inspire creativity and encourage others to both read and diversify their reading selection. The magical festival blessed London for the first time with a wealth of stalls, workshops, interactive panels and entertainment including Oti Mabuse, a musical performance from BrokenPen, poetry from Yomi Sode and much more. Upon arriving, there was a lively atmosphere within the Black Book Marketplace . There were stalls for publishers, booksellers and an absolute feast of free book giveaways. A diverse range of emerging talent was present, including self-published authors. It was heart-warming to see young talent such as Lauryn, author of 'Lauryn That's Me', serving as a great source of inspiration for her peers and motivating many others to put their stories out there. On Fats Timbo's #BlackBookTok panel, an insightful discussion regarding content creation was had alongside keen audience participation. Fats also discussed her book 'Main Character Energy'. Emphasis was placed on embracing uniqueness within oneself and transparency which fosters authentic audience connection. The intersectionality of her different identities as a Black disabled woman were discussed, its impact and how she has been able to delightfully empower others through humour. Key takeaways revolved around enjoying the content creation process and remembering that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. As the day closed there was a live 'Good Vibes Only' showcase of poetry and performances, touching on aspects of community, identity and trauma. A performance that resonated with me was performed by Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa, who told an intricate story through movement, emphasising its importance in both preserving and symbolising language. It depicted the idea that movement translates to us speaking and carries messages. In essence, if 'we've always been moving, we've always been speaking' and thus we carry a historical story through movements from our ancestors from slavery to present Black communities. To elevate the festival experience, I would have liked to have seen a social mixer activity on the line-up to help spark conversations between strangers, especially for more introverted readers like myself who attended alone and wanted to connect with others but don't know where to start. Overall, the festival was thoroughly enjoyable. It was empowering to feel seen and included in a wholesome book-loving space with people who mirror similar identities. I felt a boost of confidence to read more, create and likely tell my own stories in future. The book signings added a personal touch to savour the experience, like a literary tattoo that will live on with me, embedded in my bookshelf forever.

Literature writer, Tasnim Tayo reports on attending the Black British Book Festival in October 2023.

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