Literary Leicester took place from 17th March to the 19th March 2021 and was hosted online by Dr Harry Whitehead at the University of Leicester.
Marlon James in conversation with Dr Michael Bucknor streamed simultaneously from Leicester, New York and Jamaica. The author was the first Jamaican to win the Man Booker prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings. He stated the importance of reading in his childhood and how it can make one a better writer. He also reflected on how the lockdown has affected his writing practice, saying that he used it as an escape from reality.
When asked about the relevance of the literary canon, he said that it is important that it is actively and continually interrogated. In the genre of magical realism in which he writes, James says that there is room to explore queer perspectives.
Jeffrey Boakye in conversation with Dr Emma Parker
The University of Leicester graduate, author and teacher Jeffrey Boakye spoke about race in Britain within the context of grime music. He said that for young, marginalised people, grime music is a way to experience joy, creativity and their heritage. He also emphasized the role of the media in perpetuating negative stereotypes about black people and how this is a narrative spawned from colonialism. Boakye said that for change to happen, we need to challenge oppressive ideologies and he encourages young people to prepare to have these conversations.
The talks that I attended were very thought-provoking and I learnt a lot about the craft of writing. The conversations were relevant to current issues and I thoroughly enjoyed watching both events. This was a brilliant programme of diverse figures and I hope for more of the same in future festivals.
Tionee Joseph is completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. She has a blog where she writes about writing and gives lifestyle advice, which you can read here. Her poetry and articles on film, TV and adaptations have been published.