James Berry Memorial Conference to Be Held at The British Library

Life and works of Windrush poet and former Chiswick resident to be celebrated



Discovering James Berry

Windrush Poet And Former Chiswick Resident James Berry Has Died

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A day celebrating the life and works of Jamaican poet and long-term Chiswick resident James Berry OBE is to be held at the British library on 5 October.

The conference will explores the work of the writer who died last year aged 93, considering his writing for adults and children, his cultural activism, and his writing through dementia.


He grew up in rural Jamaica before coming to Britain in 1948. He was one of the last survivors of the Windrush generation, the first wave of immigrants to the UK from the Caribbean in that year. Initially working as a telecommunications officer, James took early retirement in 1977 to concentrate on his literary career. He has become one of the best loved and most widely taught poets in Britain, works in both standard English and Jamaican creole.

A champion of Caribbean culture, much of his work demonstrates his ability to write in voice, developing new forms of speech to suit the ’new cross-cultural aesthetic’ of West Indian British poetry.

In 1976 he compiled the anthology Bluefoot Traveller and in 1979 his first poetry collection, Fractured Circles, was published. In 1981 he won the Poetry Society's National Poetry Competition, the first poet of West Indian origin to do so. He edited the landmark anthology News for Babylon (1984), considered "a ground-breaking publication".

Speakers at the conference will include John Agard, Raymond Antrobus, Malorie Blackman, Errol Lloyd, Hannah Lowe and Grace Nichols. The full programme is online.

After the conference in the evening there will also be readings of his poetry ‘Only One Of Me: Remembering James Berry’ held in the knowledge centre of the British Library.

Join John Agard, Grace Nichols, Hannah Lowe, Raymond Antrobus, Denise Saul and Isobel Armstrong will read Berry’s work and their own. There will be a musical interlude from Errol Lloyd and archive recordings of James Berry.

Tickets for this event are £12 or £8 for concessions and can be ordered online or by contacting the box office on 01937 546546 or on boxoffice@bl.uk

Tickets for the conference can also be bought online and you can save £5 by ordering for both the conference and the poetry reading.

September 18, 2018

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