Press Release: James Baldwin to be celebrated in new arts festival, CONVERSATIONS WITH BALDWIN, September-October 2023
Conversations with Baldwin is a new festival by Words of Colour exploring the legacy, impact, and activism of acclaimed 20th century author and activist James Baldwin this September – October. The festival is announced on what would have been his 99th birthday, in preparation for his centenary year in 2024.
The Conversations with Baldwin festival, curated by immersive change agency Words of Colour, will celebrate and examine the legacy of American author and intellectual James Baldwin (1924 – 1987) – one of the 20th century’s greatest authors – with book clubs, live literature events, virtual salons, film screenings and workshops. The festival is curated in anticipation of 2024, which will commemorate the centenary of Baldwin’s birth with the return of a larger Conversations with Baldwin festival.
Hosted in Bristol and London from September to October 2023, 50% of the programme will be virtual for increased accessibility. Festival goers can look forward to a hybrid Book Club, which Baldwin lovers can attend virtually or in-person to discuss two of Baldwin’s most popular works: Giovanni’s Room (1956) and Notes of a Native Son (1955).
A Conversations with Baldwin Film Club will showcase films and documentaries on his life and work in London and at The Cube in Bristol. The Salon series will platform virtual panel discussions on Baldwin’s literature while The Creators Space will host virtual and in-person workshops for writers and aspiring change agents.
Festival partners include Penguin Classics, Baldwin’s UK publisher, international contemporary gallery Arnolfini, live poetry producers Raise the Bar, independent bookstores Libreria and Bookhaus, and Hackney Libraries and Bristol Libraries.
Josephine Greywoode, James Baldwin’s editor and Publishing Director of Penguin Press, said: “James Baldwin is one of the most important voices of the 20th century, resonating as strongly today as ever. We are so pleased to be celebrating his centenary year – and the immense contribution his writing continues to bring to the world – through this programme, which will bring a new generation of readers to Baldwin’s timeless works.”
Heather Marks, Words of Colour’s Creative Producer and Conversations with Baldwin Festival Curator, said: “James Baldwin is one of those writers whose words change your life forever. With the centenary of his birth in 2024, Conversations with Baldwin is an opportunity to share and create that moment between us – whether you’re reading him for the first time, or revisiting an old favourite. It’s a chance to come together and reflect on why his writing – his orature and his activism – still hold so much sway for us today.”
Danny Pandolfi, Director of Raise the Bar, said: “We’re so excited to work with Words on Colour to deliver an eclectic poetry event celebrating James Baldwin ahead of the centenary year of his birth. Baldwin’s ambitious themes and searching language still reverberate years later, and echo Raise the Bar’s aim today of using poetry as a tool for radical change and self-expression.”
Born in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, James Baldwin’s contemplations on American race relations in both prose and poetry made him one of the most respected and sought-after writers and public intellectuals of his time. His literature transformed the landscape of racial politics in the 1960s, and since then his influence has been felt by writers all over the world. His most notable works include Giovanni’s Room (1953), Notes of a Native Son (1955), The Fire Next Time (1963), and If Beale Street Could Talk (1974).
Baldwin and his literature were recently the subject of two award-winning films: I Am Not Your Negro (2016) by Raoul Peck, and If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) by Barry Jenkins.
Artists already confirmed for the programme include internationally renowned poet Muneera Pilgrim, drag performer Ernest the Drag King, poetry and dance duo Saili Katebe and Deepraj Singh, and BlkOut UK founder Dr Rob Berkeley. The full festival lineup will be announced throughout August 2023.
Conversations with Baldwin culminates in a live literature cabaret at Arnolfini, Bristol, in collaboration with live poetry producers Raise the Bar on Saturday 21 October 2023.
Conversations with Baldwin is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.