The first Primadonna was held at Laffitts Hall, Pettaugh, Suffolk over the final weekend in August 2019 .
Almost 1,500 attendees took part in three days of programming, with the lineup including Elif Shafak, Bernardine Evaristo, Guy Gunaratne, Diana Evans, Katy Brand and Konnie Huq. We also showcased an incredible range of emerging and/or marginalised authors and created genuine opportunities for the discovery of fresh talent: two festival-goers from 2019 have since negotiated contracts with major publishers.
Adjoa Andoh is a celebrated actor whose star turn as Lady Danbury in Netflix’s smash-hit Bridgerton was a global hit in 82 million households worldwide. Andoh’s acting career spans an array of media, including TV, radio, film & theatre, and she has long been acquainted with historical drama, known for her leading roles on the British stage at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Court Theatre, the National, and of course, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where in 2019 she conceived, co-directed and played Richard II, in the UK's first all-women-of-colour production.
Alex Von Tunzelmann
Anita Sethi was born in Manchester, UK. Her new book, I Belong Here: a Journey Along the Backbone of Britain is the first in her nature writing trilogy, published by Bloomsbury. I Belong Here has been described as "a thing of beauty" by the Sunday Times, "a memoir of rare power" by the Guardian, and as ‘a magnificent and redemptive achievement’ by The Bookseller. Her writing has also appeared in anthologies including Common People, The Wild Isles and Women on Nature. She has written for the Guardian, Observer, i, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Vogue, BBC Wildlife and appeared on various BBC radio programmes. Twitter: @anitasethi @ibelong_here.
Dr Amanda Hodgkinson is an award-winning novelist, senior lecturer, and teacher of fiction writing. She is Course Leader for the MA Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Suffolk and runs the UoS Critical and Creative Writing Centre Talking Shop. Amanda's books have been on international bestseller lists and translated into seventeen languages. Amanda teaches creative writing in Europe and the UK and specializes in mentoring writers at all stages of their writing from initial ideas to publication.
Diane grew up in Liverpool in the 1960s and 70s and now lives in London. Her play Kindertransport won the Verity Bargate and Meyer-Whitworth Awards, and has been performed all over the world. Recent work includes The A-Z of Mrs P, with composer Gwyneth Herbert, Southwark Playhouse, 2014; Poppy and George, Palace Theatre, Watford, 2016; This is Me, snapshots of girlhood, interactive memoir as monologue, Chickenshed, 2018. Plays for BBC radio, include Hen Party, Psyche, and Woman’s Hour serial, Tiger Wings. In 2019 she mounted 3 concerts of new opera Song of Dina, with composer Maurice Chernick, giving voice to Dina, silenced sister of the Bible’s Joseph of multi-coloured coat fame. Her plays and book, Diane Samuels: Kindertransport are published by Nick Hern Books. For thirty years, she has been facilitating writing workshops for all ages, encouraging regular creative practice for a vibrant, productive life. She invites child-like playfulness in all her workshops and a spirit of “stop making sense, let go of thinking and give it a go”. Her daily writing prompts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are widely enjoyed @WritingBright. https://www.writingbright.org
Chardine Taylor Stone
Chardine Taylor Stone is an award winning Black feminist activist, writer and public speaker. She was featured in The Voice newspaper as one of the Women Who Rocked the World in 2015, Diva Magazine’s LGBT Power List 2016 and Buzzfeed’s ‘The Most Inspiring British LGBT People Of 2016‘. A regular on the Pride Power List, in May 2017 Chardine won the British LGBT Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to LGBT+ life’. In 2018 she was nominated by Diva Awards for LGBT Activist/Campaigner of the Year and has again been nominated by Diva Awards in 2020 for Unsung Hero. Chardine previously founded Black Girl’s Picnic, a movement in collective self care for Black women and girls, and Stop Rainbow Racism which worked to stop racist performances in LGBTQI venues. As a writer, educator and anti-racist activist Chardine often uses music, art and fashion history to instigate socio-political analysis. She lectures and facilitates workshops on topics such as Black feminist histories, Black Queer identities, Afrofuturism, music subculture histories and Black involvement in the esoteric, weird and downright bizarre! She is regularly asked to speak and consult on these topics for media such as Channel 4 news, BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, London Live and TedXTottenham as well as film/culture festivals, conferences, museums and art institutions such as the BFI, Tate Modern, ICA and British Library. Chardine has also been an invited speaker at universities in the UK including Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester and many more. Chardine is currently working on her first book Sold Out: How Black Feminism Lost its Soul, a critical analysis of the neoliberalisation of Black Feminism, to be published by Cassava Republic press in 2022.
Deb Googe is an English musician, best known as bassist for the band My Bloody Valentine, and cited as the fourth most famous person to come from Yeovil. Deb currently plays with the Thurston Moore Band as well as MBV, and has also played with Snowpony, Primal Scream and Joybabe.
Eleanor Mills is the Founder and Editor in chief of Noon, a new platform for women in midlife www.noon.org.uk. An award-winning editor, she was Editorial Director of The Sunday Times where she worked for 23 years and ex Chair of Women in Journalism (2014-2021). She is passionate about creating new maps for the latter stages of women's lives and changing the narrative we tell about older women.
Elle McNicoll is an award-winning children's author whose debut A Kind of Spark won the Blue Peter Book Award for Best Story, Blackwell's Overall Book of the Year and was nominated for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. Her books are published by inclusive indy press, Knights Of, and she is passionate about neurodivergent representation in fiction.
Emma Shercliff is a literary agent with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. In 2020, she founded Laxfield Literary Associates as a response to the lack of literary agents outside London. She provides representation for authors in Suffolk and Norfolk, and writers from under-represented backgrounds. Her clients include Kalaf Epalanga, Tom Shakespeare, Olumide Popoola and Victoria Panton Bacon. Emma has worked for publishing companies in Paris, Melbourne, Abuja and London, and as a consultant for the British Council in Nigeria, Iran and Ukraine. She was formerly Managing Director of Macmillan English Campus, a global digital publishing division of Macmillan Publishers, and Sales & Rights Director of Cassava Republic Press UK, an award-winning independent African publishing company. Emma holds an MA in Modern Languages from Cambridge University and an MA in International Development & Education from the UCL Institute of Education. She is a doctoral candidate at the UCL Institute of Education; her PhD research focuses on the role and contribution of women within the African publishing industry. She lives in Suffolk.
Emma Dabiri is an Irish-Nigerian academic, activist, broadcaster and teaching fellow in the Africa department at SOAS and a Visual Sociology PhD researcher at Goldsmiths. She is the Sunday Times and Irish Times bestselling author of What White People Can Do Next and 2019 debut Don't Touch My Hair, (both Penguin). A regular broadcaster on the BBC, Emma presented 'Back in Time Brixton' (BBC2), 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' (BBC4), as well as the sociological experiment 'Is Love Racist?' (Ch4). Most recently, she hosted Radio 4's critically-acclaimed documentary 'Journeys into Afro-futurism'. Emma Dabiri lives in London.
Erin Kelly is one of the most well respected and critically acclaimed voices in the crime writing community. She is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Poison Tree, The Sick Rose, The Burning Air, The Ties That Bind, He Said/She Said, Stone Mothers and Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the mega-hit TV series. In 2013 The Poison Tree became a major ITV drama and was a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2011. He Said/She Said spent six weeks in the top ten in both hardback and paperback, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier crime novel of the year award, and selected for both the Simon Mayo Radio 2 and Richard & Judy Book Clubs. She has worked as a freelance journalist since 1998 and written for publications including the Guardian, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail, New Statesman, Red, Elle and Cosmopolitan. She teaches creative writing for Curtis Brown Creative and Guardian Masterclasses. Born in London in 1976, she lives in north London with her husband and daughters.
Eva Verde is a writer from Forest Gate, East London. She is of dual heritage. Identity and class are recurring themes throughout her work as she studies towards an MA in Prose Fiction. Her love song to libraries, I Am Not Your Tituba forms part of Kit De Waal’s Common People: An Anthology of Working-Class Writers with Unbound. Eva’s debut novel Lives Like Mine, is published by Simon and Schuster. Eva lives in Essex with her husband, three daughters and Labrador dogs.
Florence is an educator and writer. Born in London, she spent her early childhood in a white foster family. At the age of six, she moved with her birth family to Lagos, Nigeria where she grew up surrounded by a large extended family. Florence graduated from the University of Lagos, Nigeria, with a honours degree in Education. She returned to the UK where she worked as a teacher, before gaining an MA in Further and Higher Education from the Institute of Education, University of London. Florence became the headteacher of a large London Primary school and was later appointed as one of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools in England. Florence now runs her own consultancy providing school improvement guidance and support to a range of educational establishments. She lives in Kent and is married with three adult children and two grandchildren. Her memoir, Coconut, detailing her early childhood in England, growing up in Africa and her subsequent return to the UK will be published in July 2021 by Thread Books.
Francesca Specter is a London-based journalist, podcaster and the founder of Alonement – a platform dedicated to the time we spend alone, and why it matters. Formerly deputy lifestyle editor at Yahoo, Francesca has worked for the Daily Express, Healthy magazine and British Vogue, while she has written on a freelance basis for The Telegraph, The Guardian and Grazia. She has a Master of Arts degree in Magazine Journalism from City University. She started the Alonement blog in 2019, and launched her podcast of the same name in early 2020 – interviewing guests including Alain de Botton, Poorna Bell and Daisy Buchanan. Her first book Alonement (Quercus, 2021) empowers you to value your own company and dedicate quality time to yourself, whoever you are and whatever your relationship status.
Girls Rock London
Girls Rock London is an award-winning charity based in Hackney. We provide high-quality music programming for young and adult women, trans, and non-binary people, with a specific focus on increasing access for people who face barriers to participation.
Grace Dent began her career working as a journalist on women’s magazines including Marie Claire, Cosmo and Glamour, before moving to the Guardian as first a TV and then a food critic. She spent seven years as a restaurant critic for the Evening Standard, and became a regular judge on Masterchef before returning to The Guardian as a regular columnist for its Feast magazine. She has written 11 YA novels and the non-fi ction title How to Leave Twitter. Her
recent memoir Hungry traces her story from growing up in the northeast eating beige food to becoming one of our most loved foodies.
Helen Lederer started her writing and acting career as part of the alternative comedy scene of the early 1980s. She became a familiar face through TV roles in the sketch series Naked Video and sitcom Absolutely Fabulous French/ Saunders, Bottom Miss Marple etc. She wrote and stared in her own BBC Radio series ‘ Life with Lederer’ and ‘All Change’. Other books include ‘Coping’, ‘Single Minding’ and ‘Finger Food’. She published a comedy novel 'Losing It' (Pan Mac) in 2015 which was nominated for the PG Wodehouse Comedy literary award, before setting up her own literary prize: the Comedy Women in Print prize. This offers a publishing deal to the unpublished winner from Harper Collins and a cash prize to the published winner.
Hafsa Zayyan is a writer and dispute resolution lawyer based in London. She won the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers' Prize in 2019. We Are All Birds of Uganda is her debut novel, inspired by the mixed background from which she hails. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and holds a masters' degree from the University of Oxford.
Hannah worked publishing for over twenty years – as an agent at Curtis Brown and most recently as an editor at Faber & Faber. Her authors included Eimear McBride, Miriam Toews, Rachel Cusk & Max Porter. Her job now is in TV. I/She work/s as a book scout for super-indie All3Media, finding books and writers for the many producers in the group. All3Media produces a huge range of TV shows including Call the Midwife, Gogglebox, Fleabag, Race Across the World, Hollyoaks and many more.
Holly Webb lives in Reading with her husband, three children, and three demanding cats. She started writing eighteen years ago while working as a children's books editor. She now writes full-time, and has written over a hundred books, which have been translated into thirty languages. Her most recent titles are Nadia and the Forever Kitten, Earth Friends and the Museum Kittens books.
Jen is known for her often sideways look at what it means to be a trans woman today, as well as mischievous takes on her family, gay rights, self image and whatever else is on her mind. She has recently written for BBC Radio 4 Extra, Dave, Pulped, as well as writing & performing in the multi-award nominated SeanceCast for HatTrick Productions. She has also written and starred in a sketch for Channel 4.
Jenny Sealey has been Graeae’s Artistic Director since 1997. She has pioneered a new theatrical language and coined the ‘aesthetics access’ as an artistic expression, experimenting with bilingual BSL and English, pre-recorded BSL, creative captioning, in ear/ live audio description methods. Credits for Graeae include: Blood Wedding (co-produced with Dundee Rep, Derby Theatre), The Threepenny Opera (co-directed with Peter Rowe, co-produced with New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, Nottingham and Leeds Playhouses, Birmingham Rep); Reasons To Be Cheerful (2010 co-produced with The New Wolsey, and Theatre Royal Stratford East) The House of Bernarda Alba with Manchester Royal Exchange. Radio: Little Dorrit, Midwich Cuckoos, Bartholomew Abominations, writing and directing Three Sisters Rewired for BBC Radio 4. Outdoor productions: Against the Tide; The Iron Man; The Garden, The Limb-less Knight – A Tale of Rights Reignited – and contemporary opera for 14-18Now WW1 Centenary This Is Not For You with disabled veterans. She is currently rehearsing a Tokyo production of The Tempest with artists from Japan, Bangladesh and UK. Jenny co-directed the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony alongside Bradley Hemmings (GDIF). She also won the Liberty Human Rights Arts Award. Jenny is also the founder member of ‘Where’s My Vagina? women’s collective www.wmv.org.uk.
Jini Reddy is the author of Wanderland, shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Award for Travel Book of the Year ’21 and for the Wainwright Prize ’20. She has contributed to anthologies and, penned a guidebook, and her texts and poems have been displayed in exhibitions at London’s Royal Festival Hall and at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. As a journalist and travel writer, she has written widely for national press and in 2019 was named a National Geographic Woman of Impact. Jini holds an MA in English Literature from Avignon University, France and a BA in Geography from Mcgill University, Montreal. In her work, she occupies a cross-cultural, cross-genre space where place, spirituality and culture meet. Jini was born in Britain to Indian parents from South Africa, and was raised in Quebec, Canada. She now lives in south west London.
Joelle Taylor is an award-winning poet, playwright, author and editor who toured the world with her latest collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me. She is widely anthologised, the author of 4 full poetry collections and 3 plays and is currently completing her debut book of short stories The Night Alphabet, with support from the Arts Council. Her new poetry collection C+NTO & Othered Poems was published in June 2021 by Westbourne Press. She founded SLAMbassadors, the UK’s national youth slam championships, for the Poetry Society in 2001 and was its Artistic Director and National Coach until 2018. She has recently been commissioned to develop her spoken word theatre show based in C+NTO to tour throughout 2021/2022. Joelle is the host and co-curator of Out-Spoken, the UK’s Centre’s premier poetry and music club, currently resident at the Southbank Centre Purcell Room. A Radio 4 documentary featuring poems from C+NTO and presented by Joelle, Butch, was broadcast in May 2020.
Josephine Hall is a writer and creator who enjoys experimenting and adventuring. Born in West Cornwall to Jamaican and English parents, Josephine feels a connection to coastal landscapes and is now based in Brighton. She endeavours to make work that is honest, accessible and amplifies marginalised voices, particularly those from the global majority. Her creative work tends to explore themes such as identity, nature, adventure and healing. She has had a few homes, and her identity and sense of what it means to belong is constantly shifting and redefining. Supported by Arts Council England, Josephine is currently working on multidisciplinary collaborative projects and planning her first novel. She recently created new work as part of a soundscape installation for Brighton Festival. Josephine is a member of Black Girls Hike UK - an organisation that provides a safe space for Black women to explore the outdoors. BGH host nationwide group hikes, activity days and training events and encourage Black women to reconnect with nature. In 2020, Josephine was one of the winners of a writing competition run by Black Girls Hike and The Great Outdoors magazine, with a piece titled ‘A Place To Belong’.
The bestselling author of Clean and This Book Is Gay, Juno is also screenwriter, journalist and occasion actress; most recently seen in the BBC's Holby City and I May Destroy You.
Jyoti Patel is the 2020/21 #Merky Books New Writers' Prize Winner. She is a graduate of the Creative Writing Prose Fiction MA from the University of East Anglia (2019-20) and is working on her first novel, which will be published by #Merky Books.
Born to Jamaican parents who came to Manchester in the sixties, Karline was raised in Longsight, Manchester. She is the author of the dark and compelling crime novels, Moss Side Massive and Full Crew. Both books received excellent reviews from, the Times Literary Supplement, and City Life Magazine. Her third novel, Goosebumps and Butterflies Are Fairy Tales a quirky, contemporary romance novel was published recently. She currently works as a full time Training Coordinator while writing a fourth novel, and a collection of commissioned short stories. She is also the author of four published short stories. Karline loves all things literature related and loves to share this passion with everyone.
Kate Davies is a novelist, screenwriter and author of children's books. Her debut novel In at the Deep End won the 2020 Polari Prize and was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic fiction. The Guardian described it as 'without doubt, the afterparty book for anyone looking to continue their Fleabag fun'. She lives in London with her wife.
Kate Williams is a professor of history, author and broadcaster. She writes historical biographies and historical fiction and her ninth book was on Mary Queen of Scots. She has presented various programmes on television, including The Stuarts and Inside Versailles.
Katherine Angel is the author of Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again (Verso), Daddy Issues (Peninsula), and Unmastered (Penguin). She directs the MA in Creative and Critical Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Granta, The White Review, Aeon, and Los Angeles Review of Books amongst others.
Kay Stonham is a comedy writer/performer with many credits on Radio and TV. She has taught scriptwriting at Bournemouth University and works as a freelance screenwriting tutor and script coach. In 2019, with Abigail Burdess, she founded Female Pilot Club to address, in a positive way, the low numbers of female written sit-coms on British TV by producing readings of comedy pilot scripts. The sell-out readings have been an enormous success with top comedy talent like Sarah Hadland, Amelia Bulmore, Amanda Wilkin, Jordan Stephens, Greg McHugh and Sindhu Vee taking part. Grounded by the pandemic the pilots ran the Test Flight Mentorship Scheme Plus, supported by ScreenSkills and Comedy50:50. You can find out more about FPC on femalepilotclub.co.uk.
Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named a thriller of the year by The Guardian and Telegraph and was selected for an industry-first audio serialisation by HarperCollins and The Pigeonhole. Kia has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, the BBC and The Times, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a non-profit that advocates for diversity in publishing. Her new novel, Truth Be Told, is out now.
Kieran Yates is a journalist and author who writes about culture, politics and the immigrant imagination. She writes regularly for The Guardian, BBC and contributed to the award-winning book of essays The Good Immigrant in 2015.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an award-winning poet, playwright, and novelist. Her bestselling works for children include The Girl of Ink & Stars, and have won numerous awards including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, and the Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Year, and been shortlisted for prizes such as the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Blue Peter Best Story Award. The Mercies is her first novel for adults. Kiran lives by the river in Oxford, with her husband, artist Tom de Freston, and their rescue cat, Luna.
Kirsty Cape works in publishing and, as a care leaver, is an advocate for better representation for care-experienced people in the media. She recently completed her PhD which investigates female-centric care narratives in contemporary fiction, under the supervision of 2019 Booker prize-winner, Bernardine Evaristo. Careless is her first novel.
Kit De Wall
Kit de Waal is an award-winning writer whose novels place ordinary people at the centre of the story. Her debut novel, My Name is Leon (2016), was the winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2017 and shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize, among others. Kit’s second novel, The Trick to Time, was published in March 2018 and longlisted for The Women’s Prize. Her first YA novel, Becoming Dinah will be be published in July 2019 for Hachette. She has also crowdfunded Common People an anthology of working class memoir by new and established writers published in May 2019. See her website here or find her on Twitter @KitdeWaal
Laura Dockrill is an award winning author and illustrator. What Have I Done? is Laura's first book for adults. She has written thirteen books for children and young adults. She has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of The Year Prize, long listed for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018. She has earned plaudits like ‘Top 10 literary Talent’ from The Times. Laura has appeared on a host of TV programmes; CBeebies, Blue Peter, Newsnight and BBC Breakfast to name a few. Her radio prowess spans across the entire BBC network, having performed works on Radio 1 through 6 including Woman’s Hour and Open Book. She has written for the BFI, BBC Radio, Channel 4, The British Council, The Young Vic and the National Theatre. Laura is on the advisory panel at The Ministry Of Stories, and has judged many literary prizes including the John Betjeman Poetry Prize, BBC National Short Story Prize and the BAFTA Children’s Prize.
Lennie Goodings is Chair of Virago Press. Her authors include, amongst many others, Sarah Waters, Maya Angelou, Eileen Atkins, Natasha Walter, Linda Gran, Susie Boyt and Marilynne Robinson. Her book, A Bite of the Apple: A Life with Books, Writers and Virago was published in 2020 by OUP. She won A Lifetime's Achievement at WOW, London's Southbank Women of the World festival in 2018.
Louise Mumford was born and lives in South Wales. From a young age she loved books and dancing, but hated having to go to sleep, convinced that she might miss out on something interesting happening in the world whilst she dozed – much to her mother’s frustration! Insomnia has been a part of her life ever since. She studied English Literature at university and graduated with first class honours. As a teacher she tried to pass on her love of reading to her students (and discovered that the secret to successful teaching is… stickers! She is aware that that is, essentially, bribery.) In the summer of 2019 Louise experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment: she was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival. Everything has been a bit of a whirlwind since then. Louise lives in Cardiff with her husband and spends her time trying to get down on paper all the marvellous and frightening things that happen in her head. Her debut book, Sleepless, a “frighteningly inventive” speculative thriller inspired by her own experience of insomnia, was published by HQ Digital in December 2020. It has recently been optioned for television.
In April 2019, Mandu became the first person of colour to lead a national political party in British history when she took the helm at the Women’s Equality Party. Prior to that she spent 12 years working at City Hall for all three Mayors of London. In 2015 she founded The Cup Effect – a charitable social enterprise, advocacy, and campaigning organisation that tackles period poverty in the UK and globally. In 2019 she was recognised by Apolitical as one of the top 100 most influential people in global gender policy alongside Michelle Obama, Melinda Gates, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg amongst others. Following a successful general election campaign later that year which pushed ending violence against women up the political agenda, Mandu is currently leading the Party’s campaigns in response to the Coronavirus crisis to make lasting change for women’s equality.
Melody Razak is a British Iranian fiction writer from London, with an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck. She has had short stories published in the Mechanics Institute Review, the Bath Short Story Anthology and the Brick Lane Short Story Prize. Before she started writing, she owned treacle&co, a cafe in Brighton and more recently worked in the kitchens of Honey and Co in London as a pastry chef. She is currently living in Brighton. Moth is her debut novel.
Monique Roffey is an award winning Trinidadian born British writer of novels, essays, literary journalism and a memoir. Her most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch, (Peepal Tree Press) won the Costa Book of the Year Award, 2020, and was nominated for seven major awards. The film rights were sold to Dorothy Street Pictures and will be developed by Film Four. Her other Caribbean novels, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle and House of Ashes have been nominated for major awards too (Costa, Orange, Encore etc). Archipelago won the OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in 2013. Her work has been translated into several languages. She is a co-founder of Writers Rebel within Extinction Rebellion. She is a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and a tutor for the National Writers Centre.
Former news journalist, Nadia Gilani is a writer with a nose for a good story. Inequality and social justice which are issues close to her heart are themes that often find their way into her writing. After several years working in campaigns and communications jobs, Nadia left news desks to teach yoga and discovered quite quickly how the so-called wellness industry isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She later started writing about what she sees as the darker side of wellness - from cultural appropriation and colonialism to class and capitalism - on Instagram as @theyogadissident a moniker which forms the title of her first book of non-fiction due to be published in 2022.
4 Brown Girls Who Write
Natalie is an author and journalist focusing on race, identity and belonging. She has worked in TV news and print journalism, covering stories from marginalised communities. Her debut book Mixed/Other is an exploration of mixed identity in modern Britain.
Nikesh Shukla is a novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of Coconut Unlimited (shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award), Meatspace and the critically acclaimed The One Who Wrote Destiny. Nikesh is a contributing editor to the Observer Magazine and was previously their columnist. Nikesh is the editor of the bestselling essay collection, The Good Immigrant, which won the reader's choice at the Books Are My Bag Awards. He co-edited The Good Immigrant USA with Chimene Suleyman. He is the author of two YA novels, Run, Riot (shortlisted for a National Book Award) and The Boxer (longlisted for the Carnegie Medal). Nikesh was one of Time Magazine’s cultural leaders, Foreign Policy magazine's 100 Global Thinkers and The Bookseller's 100 most influential people in publishing in 2016 and in 2017. He is the co-founder of the literary journal, The Good Journal and The Good Literary Agency. Nikesh is a fellow of the Royal Society Of Literature and a member of the Folio Academy. Nikesh’s new book, Brown Baby: A Memoir Of Race, Family And Home was released on Bluebird in February 2021.
Dr Nina Burrowes is a psychologist, activist, author and founder of The Consent Collective an organisation that blends an expert lens with a creative vision in order to help communities respond to sexual violence and relationship abuse. Nina's work ranges from her illustrated book 'The courage to be me', to her many Cooking Shows on consent and The Consent Collective's podcast gameshow 'How to be good in bed'. Nina's latest work is a pre-recorded online learning retreat called 'How do people heal from trauma?'.
Neema Shah's debut novel Kololo Hill was chosen as a 2021 Pick for Foyles, The Daily Mail and The Irish Times. It's also been featured in The Independent, Stylist and Marie Claire. Her grandparents left India for East Africa in the 1940s. Kololo Hill is inspired by their lives, as well as those who were expelled from Uganda by brutal ruler Idi Amin. Before publication, Kololo Hill won The Literary Consultancy Pen Factor Live, was shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award and First Novel Prize among others. After studying law at university, Neema built a career in marketing working for companies including the BBC. She lives in London and continues to work in marketing alongside her author work.
Pragya Agarwal is a behavioural and data scientist. She is the author of Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias that was one of best science books of 2020 and Guardian Book of the Week, and Wish We Knew What To Say: Talking with children about race. Her latest book is (M)otherhood: On the choices of being a woman published on 3 June. Pragya is regularly invited to speak on bias, racism, belonging and gender equality for global corporate organisations, charities and academic institutions around the world. She is also the founder of a research think-tank called The 50 Percent Project.
Radhika Sanghani is an award-winning journalist and author. She is the author of two novels – Virgin and Not That Easy – and her third novel 30 Things I Love About Myself will be published in January 2022. She regularly writes features for The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Guardian, Grazia, Glamour and Elle magazine. She is also an influential body positive campaigner and founded #SideProfileSelfie, a movement to celebrate big noses, which has reached millions. She has given a TEDx talk on self-love, and regularly appears as a commentator on TV and radio news shows.
Rosanna Amaka is the author of the debut novel The Book of Echoes, published Feb 2020. She began writing the novel over twenty years ago to give voice to the community in which she grew up in. Its depiction of unimaginable pain redeemed by love and hope was also inspired by a wish to understand the impact of history on present-day lives. It has been short listed for the Author’s Club First Novel Award, The RSL Christopher Bland Prize and the HWA Debut Crown. She is currently working on her second novel.
Rosie Wilby is an award-winning comedian, podcaster, speaker and journalist. She regularly appears on BBC Radio 4, who dubbed her the ‘queen of breakups’ following the success of her podcast The Breakup Monologues (British Podcast Award nominee 2020). She also writes on sexuality and dating for publications including Stylist, Cosmo and New Statesman and performs at major festivals. Her first book Is Monogamy Dead? was longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize, shortlisted for the Diva Literary Awards and followed a trilogy of internationally-acclaimed solo shows investigating the psychology of love and relationships. The Breakup Monologues is also the title of her brand new book, recently published by Bloomsbury. Viv Groskop describes it as 'funny, sweet, entertaining, insightful and life-affirming'.
Sairish Hussain was born and brought up in Bradford, West Yorkshire. She studied English Language and Literature at the University of Huddersfield and progressed onto an MA in Creative Writing. Sairish completed her PhD in 2019 after being awarded the university's Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship. Her debut novel, The Family Tree, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, and longlisted for the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award. She is now writing her second book.
Sam Hoyle is currently an Executive Producer for Netflix. She was recently Co-Executive Producer on Doctor Who, on the series that introduced Jodie Whitaker as The Doctor. Before that, she was the Script Executive and Associate Producer all three series of the hit ITV, BAFTA winning show, Broadchurch. Other credits include: A Robber’s Tale and A Copper’s Tale for World Productions/BBC1, The Life and Adventures of Nick Nickleby for BBC1 and Camelot, a 10 part series for US cable network, Starz. She was also the Head of Development for Kindle Entertainment, making Drama and Comedy for kids and family audiences. She is also an experienced Audio Drama Producer and made numerous plays, series and comedies for the BBC, including the relaunch of the Agatha Christie brand for Radio 4.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Sandi Toksvig was brought up around the world in Europe, Africa and the United States. She began her comedy career at Girton College, Cambridge where she found time to write and perform in the first all-woman show at the Footlights as well as achieve a first-class degree. Sandi is well known to UK audiences as a broadcaster having begun her career in children’s television playing Ethel in the long-running Saturday-morning show Number 73. Since then her television career has included celebrated series such as Call My Bluff (as regular team captain) and Whose Line Is It Anyway? She was also host of Antiques Master for BBC2 and 1001 Things You Should Know for Channel 4. In 2016, Sandi took over from Stephen Fry as host of ‘QI’, BBC2’s fiendishly difficult and hugely popular quiz. She also replaced William G. Stewart as the host of the popular teatime quiz Fifteen to One which made its comeback after 11 years in April 2014. In 2017 she and Noel Fielding became the new co-hosts of ‘The Great British Bake Off’. For a decade Sandi was a familiar voice for BBC Radio 4 listeners as the chair of The News Quiz which led to her induction into the Radio Hall of Fame. Sandi is passionate about live performance. She performed at the very first night of The Comedy Store in London and for many years was a member of The Comedy Store Players, an improvisational comedy team. See her website here or find her on Twitter @sanditoksvig
Podcaster, activist & speaker Sangeeta Pillai is the founder of the South Asian feminist network Soul Sutras which is all about tackling taboos within the culture. She’s the creator of Masala Podcast, silver winner at the British Podcast awards & also a winner at Spotify SoundUp 2018. This podcast for South Asian womxn deals with sex, sexuality, periods, menopause & other taboos. Sangeeta is also the creator of the Masala Monologues series of writing workshops & theatre shows in the UK & the US. She has been featured on BBC Radio London, Evening Standard, Eastern Eye, Huffington Post, BBC Asian Radio, Brown Girl Magazine and has been a writer for over 20 years.
Sareeta Domingo is the author of If I Don't Have You, The Nearness of You and creator, editor and contributing writer of romantic fiction anthology Who's Loving You. Her books for young adults are published under S.A. Domingo, including Love, Secret Santa. She has contributed to publications including gal-dem, Black Ballad, Stylist and Token Magazine, and has taken part in events for Hachette Books, Winchester Writers’ Festival, Black Girls Book Club and Bare Lit Festival among others.
Dr Stacie CC Graham, certified mindfulness teacher and E-RYT 500, is the founder of OYA: Body-Mind-Spirit Retreats, the first holistic wellness brand serving Black women and women of colour communities in the UK. She is also the co-founder of Radical Darshan, a Yoga Alliance accredited 300-hour advanced yoga teacher training school committed to racial and intersectional equity in yoga. She has an MS in economics and a doctorate in psychology, where she focused on neuro-affective cognitive science and leadership behaviour. In her first profession she works as the Global Racial Equity Programme Director at WPP.
Zoë McWhinney is a Visual Vernacular performer and a poet in British Sign Language (BSL). As a Deaf person and native BSL signer, she works as a freelance theatre maker, consultant and workshop facilitator in BSL storytelling, poetry and Deaf culture. As an actress, she performed internationally both on stage and in films. Over the last 5 years, she participated in national and international Visual Vernacular shows and championships both on and offline; and graduated from University of Birmingham (BA International Relations and Political Science) and École de Théâtre Universelle in Toulouse. The iconic and visual-based bilingual poetry and VV pieces she creates and performs are insights inspired by her own personal life as an ocularcentric human being with in-depth physical language knowledge from a lifetime as a signer.
Saima Mir is an award-winning journalist. She started her career at the Telegraph & Argus and went on to work for the BBC. She is a recipient of the Commonwealth Broadcast Association's World View Award, and has written for numerous publications including The Times and The Independent. Saima's essay for the Picador book It's Not About The Burqa appeared in Guardian Weekend and received over 250,000 hits over two days. Her work also appeared in The Best Most Awful Job: 20 essays on Motherhood. Her debut novel, The Khan is out now.
Samantha Baines is an award winning writer, performer and broadcaster. With acting credits in Netflix's The Crown to BBC's Silent Witness, sell out stand up comedy tours, presenting on BBC Radio and her own critically acclaimed British Podcast Award nominated podcast The Divorce Club, Samantha likes to stay busy. She is also a proud hearing aid wearer, RNID ambassador and author of award-winning children's books with awesome deaf protagonists. Her debut book Harriet Versus the Galaxy won the Coventry Inspiration Book Award 2021, was listed in The BookTrust's Great Book Guide 2020, the Independent's Children's Books of the Year and has been optioned for TV.
Shelley’s stage plays include Eating Ice Cream on Gaza Beach (NYT/Soho Theatre), Falling (The Bush). Plays for Radio 4 include The Trial of the Well of Loneliness, two series in Val McDermid’s comedy crime DEAD series, Dead Weight and Dead Cert. The People Next Door, Mr Jones Goes Driving, I am Emma Humphreys (winner of the 2010 Clarion Award), The Sound of Silence (short-listed for the Imison Award). Adaptations of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s novel Heat and Dust and Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet (with John Harvey), Comfort Girl in the From Fact To Fiction series. Her VR short The Turning Forest was originally written as an experimental piece for BBC R&D. With visuals created by Oscar Raby, it has featured in many film festivals and was chosen to launch the original Google Pixel and Daydream headset. Google nominated this for best VR Experience in the 2017 Play Awards. Her monologue, Mum-Bai! was part of Kali Theatre’s digital 2021 Winter Solos. She is writing a play for Rifco Theatre, and contributing to a series for BBC Radio 4 and Pier Productions. Shelley is a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. In September 2021 she starts an MA in Existential Coaching.
Dr Sofia Rehman is an academic specialising in Islam and Gender. When she is not reading books for research, she is reading them for pleasure. She is the founder and co-ordinator of Leeds Lit Book Club which is now in its 7th year. During the global pandemic she launched the Islam and Gender read alongs in which she facilitates readings of academic texts penned by Muslim female scholars in conversation with a global virtual audience and has recently been featured by both Vogue Arabia and Refinery29. She is also a contributor to Mapping Faith: Theologies of Migration edited by Lia Shimada and to the anthology Cut From The Same Cloth? edited by Sabeena Akhtar, as well as having a publication of her own due out with Kube Publications in 2022 and a chapter in an upcoming anthology on Decolonising Translation with Tilted Axis. You can connect with her on her Instagram @Sofia_reading where she talks about all things related to books, faith and academia.
Sophia Money-Coutts is an author and journalist who spends most of her time writing at her kitchen table and making 59 cups of tea a day. She’s written four novels – The Plus One, What Happens Now?, The Wish List and the forthcoming Did You Miss Me? – and hopes to carry on writing books that make people laugh forever, because we could all do with a bit of that at the moment, couldn’t we? Before books, Sophia worked for various newspapers and spent five years studying the British aristocracy as Features Director for Tatler. She now contributes to a variety of publications including The Times, Grazia and YOU magazine, and writes a weekly column for The Sunday Telegraph called Modern Manners, in which she discusses important topics like hot tubs, Kate Middleton’s hair and posh crisps. If she’s not at home drinking lukewarm cups of tea in her leggings, she’s often embarrassing herself on radio or television by talking about subjects such as her abysmal love life and the etiquette of the threesome.
Author of Millennial Black and Anti-Racist Ally, Ted Speaker, Founder of @OfficialMillennialBlack, and Racial Equity Consultant and Activist by night, Manager, Production Planning at Netflix by day.
Stella Duffy is an award-winning writer with over seventy short stories, fourteen plays written and devised, and seventeen novels published in fifteen languages. She worked in theatre for over thirty-five years as an actor, director, playwright, and facilitator. She is the co-founder of the UK-wide Fun Palaces campaign supporting creative community connection. She was awarded the OBE for Services to the Arts in 2016. Stella is also a yoga teacher running workshops in yoga-for-writing and is training in Existential Psychotherapy towards eventually combining psychotherapy, embodied practice and creative work.
Thora Hjörleifsdóttir is an Icelandic writer born in 1986, she has published three poetry collections with her poetry collective, Imposter Poets. Translation of Hjörleifsdóttir’s debut novel, Magma, will be published by Picador in July 2021. Magma is a story about love, abuse, and sex in an era of pornification.
Victoria Princewill FRSA is a historical novelist, drawn to uncovering untold stories. Her first novel, In The Palace of Flowers, set in 19th century Iran, explores the inner lives of enslaved, prized Abyssinians serving in the Qajar royal court of Iran in 1895, as they pursue lives of meaning at the height of political turmoil. It was released globally in June 2021. Her next novel will be YA, the first of a two-book deal she signed, recently, with Scholastic. Born and raised in the UK, Victoria is of West African descent. Educated at Oxford and UCL, she holds an MA Oxon in Literature, a Masters in Philosophy and is working towards another graduate degree in Neuroscience at King’s College London. A lifelong learner, stints at Accenture, the Financial Times, the WPP & Demos, taught her about a breadth of industries from finance to fashion to think tanks -- and about what she did not enjoy. Writing for the Guardian, the LRB, n+1, BBC and more crystallised what she did. Which involved writing to interrogate the human condition, so we might grow to recognise and understand ourselves.
Viv Groskop is a writer, critic, broadcaster and stand-up comedian. She is the author of How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking, also a Top 10 iTunes podcast, now in its 9th series, featuring guests like Hillary Clinton, Margaret Atwood, Nigella Lawson, Julie Andrews, Sarah Hurwitz (Michelle Obama’s speechwriter). Her latest books are Lift As You Climb: Women, Ambition and How to Change the Story and Au Revoir Tristesse: Lessons in Happiness from French Literature. She has presented Front Row and Saturday Review on BBC Radio 4, is a regular on BBC1’s This Week and has hosted book tours for Graham Norton, Jo Brand and Jennifer Saunders.
Yara Rodrigues Fowler
Yara Rodrigues Fowler is a writer from South London. Her first novel, Stubborn Archivist, was longlisted for the Desmond Eliot and Dylan Thomas Prizes and shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year 2019. Her second novel, there are more things, will be published in April 2022. As a work in progress there are more things received the Society of Authors’ John C Lawrence Award 2018 and was shortlisted for the Eccles Centre and Hay Festival Writers’ Award 2019.
Zoe Antoniades was born in West London of Greek Cypriot parents. She graduated from the University of Hull with a degree in English and Drama and trained as a teacher at the Institute of Education. She has taught English and the arts and worked on a wide range of creative projects in partnership with the Southbank Centre, the Royal Albert Hall, the Young Vic and the Polka Theatre. With Andersen Press, Zoe has recently launched a brand-new series of stories for children about twins, Cally & Jimmy. The first title, Twins in Trouble was published in September 2020 and the second, Twintastic, in April 2021. The third, Twins Together is out in January 2022. Zoe also writes collaboratively with young people and has published four anthologies of short stories: Invincible Voices – Long Shorts, Medium Shorts, Short Shorts and Winter Shorts. Her memoir, Tea and Baklavas, won the Winchester Writers’ Festival Memoir Prize.
Zoë Howe has written acclaimed biographies of artists including The Slits, Poly Styrene (a collaborative project with Styrene's daughter Celeste Bell), the Jesus & Mary Chain, Wilko Johnson, Stevie Nicks and Lee Brilleaux. Zoë was also part of the team behind hit documentary Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché. A visual artist and sometime musician, she has worked with Viv Albertine, Helen McCookeryBook, Steve Beresford, Yumi Hara and others. Zoë currently presents the Rock ’n’ Roll Witch show on Soho Radio.