The range of voices present in this podcast-from academics to authors to teachers, librarians and children – demonstrates a commitment to bringing the best books and the joy of reading to all children.
Professor Karen Sands O’Connor
The podcast launched its trailer today on Windrush Day with Episode 1 following on Thursday 1st July. It will highlight the invaluable contributions writers of Caribbean descent have made to the landscape of British children’s literature.
This limited series of three weekly podcasts is commissioned and supported by the Vital North Partnership, a strategic partnership between Seven Stories – The National Centre for Children’s Books and Newcastle University. Whose Stories? will see authors, illustrators, academics, changemakers, and archivists come together to talk about why building a truly representative national archive of children’s books is so critical, and to put a spotlight on issues of diversity and representation in children’s literature and its history within these contexts.
This podcast forms part of Seven Stories’ wider Windrush Programme, which seeks to inspire children of Caribbean heritage to see themselves both represented within British literature, and as writers of the future. It will explore the archives of four writers – John Agard, Valerie Bloom, Grace Hallworth and Grace Nichols, enabling new generations of young people to celebrate and enjoy their work. Funded by a Windrush Grant from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the programme will also include book packs, learning resources and public programmes.
A voice in literature
Whose Stories? builds upon work by Newcastle University’s British Academy Global Professor, Karen Sands O’Connor.
“The podcasts represent several years of partnership between Seven Stories, Newcastle University, and me to broaden both the archival collections at Seven Stories and the wider public understanding of the role of Black British children’s literature in the national culture,” said Professor Sands O’Connor. “The range of voices present in this podcast–from academics to authors to teachers, librarians and children, demonstrates a commitment to bringing the best books and the joy of reading to all children.”
Mairi Kidd, CEO of Seven Stories, said: “Since Seven Stories and Newcastle University came together in 2017 to hold the Diverse Voices? symposium, Covid-19 has again exposed the depth of inequalities in society. Against that context we are especially committed to the vital work of celebrating and championing UK-based Black writers and the right of all children to have a voice in literature, through our new podcast, our Windrush project and all of our broader programmes.”
The archives of these critically acclaimed writers have been acquired by Seven Stories with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and will allow youngsters to gain a unique insight into their creative processes and working lives, from finding a voice and facing down prejudice, to getting published and achieving recognition.”
Kidd added: “At Seven Stories, we believe that children’s books are a powerful vehicle for sharing experiences, nurturing empathy and understanding community. Books can be mirrors which reflect our own experiences, and windows into the lives of others and it is vital that all young people can see themselves and their communities on the page. We know, however, that children’s books fall short of fair representation of society. More than a third of children and young people in UK schools come from a minority ethnic background. By comparison, in the three years to 2020 only 7% of children’s books featured characters from diverse backgrounds. By shining a light on the work of four iconic Black British writers, we hope to transform the way that people of all backgrounds connect with books, and inspire more young people to think about creative careers in writing.”