WORDS WEEKEND REVIEW: Bernardine Evaristo & David Olusoga @ Sage Gateshead (06.12.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It might be a tad parky outside, but peals of warm chatter ring across Sage Gateshead’s Barbour Hall, and all around there’s a very palpable thrum of anticipation.

At the risk of overstating the obvious, tonight is exciting, and there’s no denying it – after all, it’s not every day one is privy to a rap between incisive intellects, let alone two beacons of Black British excellence.

As both the first Black woman and Black British author to win the Booker Prize (for her intersectional tour-de-force, Girl, Woman, Other), Bernardine Evaristo has ignited a long-overdue conversation about the disproportionately sparse representations of Black British womanhood in contemporary literature.

In his role as a public intellectual, David Olusoga has not only offered tactfully nuanced perspectives on contested histories, but is also arguably Britain’s coolest and most engaging TV historian (sorry Dan Jones; don’t @ me).

As they set off on a spirited chinwag, there’s no denying the effortlessly affable chemistry between the pair – Olusoga, a skilled interviewer with a voice as soothing warm milk, gently coaxes Evaristo through expansive self-disclosures detailing both her personal and professional journeys thus far.

Whether waxing philosophical on the inherent creative limitations imposed on writers of colour (“There’s this assumption that if you’re writing about Black characters, you’re writing about racism, and that’s just not true”), or wryly lamenting the Booker’s dismal diversity record (“It’s a prize that was clearly never meant for us”), Evaristo comes off as keenly astute and resolutely plucky as any of her exuberantly memorable characters.

If her infectious zest is anything to go by, we’ve had but the merest glimpse at Evaristo’s final form.

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