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<title>Black British Writing</title></titleStmt>

<publicationStmt><distributor>BASE and Oxford Text Archive</distributor>


<availability><p>The British Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus was developed at the

Universities of Warwick and Reading, under the directorship of Hilary Nesi

(Centre for English Language Teacher Education, Warwick) and Paul Thompson

(Department of Applied Linguistics, Reading), with funding from BALEAP,

EURALEX, the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Board. The

original recordings are held at the Universities of Warwick and Reading, and

at the Oxford Text Archive and may be consulted by bona fide researchers

upon written application to any of the holding bodies.

The BASE corpus is freely available to researchers who agree to the

following conditions:</p>

<p>1. The recordings and transcriptions should not be modified in any


<p>2. The recordings and transcriptions should be used for research purposes

only; they should not be reproduced in teaching materials</p>

<p>3. The recordings and transcriptions should not be reproduced in full for

a wider audience/readership, although researchers are free to quote short

passages of text (up to 200 running words from any given speech event)</p>

<p>4. The corpus developers should be informed of all presentations or

publications arising from analysis of the corpus</p><p>

Researchers should acknowledge their use of the corpus using the following

form of words:

The recordings and transcriptions used in this study come from the British

Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus, which was developed at the

Universities of Warwick and Reading under the directorship of Hilary Nesi

(Warwick) and Paul Thompson (Reading). Corpus development was assisted by

funding from the Universities of Warwick and Reading, BALEAP, EURALEX, the

British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Board. </p></availability>




<recording dur="01:03:09" n="9863">


<respStmt><name>BASE team</name>



<langUsage><language id="en">English</language>



<person id="nm5001" role="participant" n="n" sex="m"><p>nm5001, participant, non-student, male</p></person>

<person id="nm5000" role="participant" n="n" sex="m"><p>nm5000, participant, non-student, male</p></person>

<person id="sm5002" role="participant" n="s" sex="m"><p>sm5002, participant, student, male</p></person>

<person id="sf5003" role="participant" n="s" sex="f"><p>sf5003, participant, student, female</p></person>

<person id="sf5004" role="participant" n="s" sex="f"><p>sf5004, participant, student, female</p></person>

<person id="sm5005" role="participant" n="s" sex="m"><p>sm5005, participant, student, male</p></person>

<person id="sm5006" role="participant" n="s" sex="m"><p>sm5006, participant, student, male</p></person>

<person id="sf5007" role="participant" n="s" sex="f"><p>sf5007, participant, student, female</p></person>

<person id="sf5008" role="participant" n="s" sex="f"><p>sf5008, participant, student, female</p></person>

<personGrp id="ss" role="audience" size="m"><p>ss, audience, medium group </p></personGrp>

<personGrp id="sl" role="all" size="m"><p>sl, all, medium group</p></personGrp>

<personGrp role="speakers" size="11"><p>number of speakers: 11</p></personGrp>





<item n="speechevent">Seminar</item>

<item n="acaddept">British and Comparative Cultural Studies</item>

<item n="acaddiv">ah</item>

<item n="partlevel">PG</item>

<item n="module">unknown</item>




<u who="nm5000"> # well good evening everyone # # well frankly i'm amazed that # there's such discussion of my child as i call it my firstborn here # i hope that you know it's opened a lot of areas of enquiry for many people and i hope it's entertained as well as after all it is fiction to a large degree # i don't know how i'm exactly how i'm going to do this whether some of you like to shoot me questions first or whether i should actually just read some of my favourite chapters and that's what i think i will do i'll just read some of my # <trunc>f</trunc> well # keynote passages i'd call them rather than favourite chapters 'cause i don't think i have any favourites # and i'll just invite questions on them afterwards 'cause i think you know there are a couple of sections one fairly lengthy one not so that # i'll read sort of sum up all the ideas and key points in the novel which i hope were <trunc>tr</trunc> # <trunc>trans</trunc> would be transferred to any potential reader # and i'll stand up for this as well

it's different you know i might as well read in my bed at that level # okay # oh sorry <trunc>di</trunc> # so <trunc>k</trunc> i can just be <trunc>f</trunc> clear # what sort of percentage of people here have # read the novel or are familiar with it oh okay well # for the sake of those who haven't i mean i'll if you'll bear those who will the majority will bear with me i'll start from the beginning # and as you know it starts in London twenty-ninth of May seventeen-eighty-six Buckram stood in a puddle outside The Charioteer and listened to the shouts and laughter of several black people in the big smoky room the alehouse was full this evening and through a grimy rain streaked window he watched his old begging mentor Georgie George as rigorous as ever standing in front of the fire opening and closing his shabby frock coat every few seconds there was Henry Prince the boxer looking fatter and dressing much better looking prosperous in

fact two men one black one white dressed as women were leaning against the bar screaming for drinks the publican Offaly Michael was still there bullying his staff and trying to keep order Buckram caught a glimpse of Angola Molly a lifelong whore and at twenty-eight a grandmother giggling eagerly into the hairy ear of some rich white sot business as usual Buckram thought he scanned the crowd more closely William wasn't in tonight and Neville of course wouldn't be seen dead in such a place it had been two years since Buckram had taken a drink in a boozing ken he studied familiar faces jabbering wildly under powdered wigs and all the bejewelled ill-painted women in laundered clothes and polished buckled shoes then he caught his own reflection in the green-tinged pane and flinched away before the image of a shivering grey-bearded black ogre with matted hair and greasy clothes could settle too solidly he glanced over his shoulder at the

cramped tenements of Bridges Street they looked seedy and sad like poorly baked loaves left in a cold grimy oven even from the street he could smell the sour stench that told of generations of uncleanliness starving drunken whores staggered from one tavern to another and gangs of cadgers huddled bickering at the mouths of alleys and courtyards groups of strangers gathered under awnings and talked about the weather the sky rumbled fitfully pack dogs sniffed his heels and Buckram felt abandoned at the mercy of an English god he thought back to the night before when too ashamed and confused to return to his old haunts he'd taken himself to Warren Street to the black sick house for a meal of maggoty biscuits smeared with maggoty marrow his bubbling bowels kept him awake throughout the night while all around him howling madmen expired on verminous mattresses it was almost as bad as jail so he escaped before morning and the arrival of the press

gangs three black grenadier guardsmen approached the tavern stepping gingerly on islands of slippery smooth mud hey brother a tall guardsman was loosening his pouch take this a handful of pennies landed at Buckram's feet gurgling the gratitude he scooped up the coins having no pockets he held them in his fist he looked in again at the irrepressible high spirits behind the window it was too soon he couldn't face them in there yet first of all he needed cheap food and some real friends # okay that's just # introduces well can't really call it well for the sake of # this i'll call him the protagonist the main victim i'll say Buckram who is a # penniless black beggar who suddenly finds himself in <trunc>u</trunc> # on the streets of # London after having served a # two year jail sentence in a in a traditional style for a <trunc>tr</trunc> crime he did not really commit et cetera et cetera # Buckram and some of his cronies were one of # a number of a group of people who

particularly interested me in eighteenth century England in the black population of London and this was the # large numbers of ex # <trunc>s</trunc> ex # black servicemen who could have been originally recruited while still slaves # in the American colonies and had joined with the loyalist side and of course after the British lost that particular campaign they # thousands of them left the # eastern seaboard ports and # settled either in Liverpool or in London others # settled of course in Nova Scotia # there's been a continuing # continuous population in Nova Scotia to this day some of them # i understand also settled in Bermuda # and the Bahamas but i know nothing of them and i wouldn't imagine i couldn't for the life of me imagine why any ex-slave would want to go to those places # so that that's the beginning i mean i had a lot of fun writing this book probably too much because # i am someone who loves research i can lose myself in it to a ridiculous degree and

# the thing is with a with <trunc>so</trunc> with a novel like this there is so much fresh material and so much obscure and downright perverse material that you come across that you just can't refuse the reader the privilege of you know you just have to share it i mean # what i'll what i'll read with you i mean for the the there are examples from example the fact that # there was a fashion for # young ladies to wear # eyebrows which had false eyebrows which had been made from # mouse skin now there was also a thriving <trunc>acti</trunc> there's also a thriving market amongst the lower <trunc>class</trunc> some members of the lower classes lowest classes to # # capture rats some would be used for sport and capture <trunc>ri</trunc> mice and some would be used for this activity there were other mouse skin products and thimbles how you're going to use a mouse to to get a thimble but # all these little # pieces of information i just felt i needed to really in

some places glut the # book with it the text with it because it really helped to flesh out the where the # how can i put this it it helped to flesh out the alien environment that i was coming into contact with the more i found out about # the physical aspects of everyday life for people of all classes in the eighteenth century # the more that alien nature became apparent to me and moreover the alien nature of the people i was trying to describe the way that basically life and death decisions had to be made on a daily almost casual basis # but # back to the trivia and # this is a section where Buckram has just made friends with Georgie George who's the king of the beggars styles himself the king of the beggars and this character Georgie George as with all the other characters # he's <trunc>amal</trunc> an amalgamation of # several # real-life characters one of the people who went into the Georgie pot so to speak was someone called # Blind Billy Waters or Billy

Waters who <trunc>wa</trunc> became the king of the beggars in the eighteen-twenties # he was another black ex-serviceman # blind one-legged black violinist became king of the beggars i mean we laugh but you know this was # quite a fantastic feat with actually a nice little # sketch of his funeral # entitled There Goes # Old Billy and it's a beggar's funeral that was incredibly unluxurious you know to our sensibilities and you know he's just there being wheeled by on a horse no his coffin's on a horse-drawn cart and you have all the beggars in doffed caps following in its wake a little cortege and he had a little write-up in the Times # so people like that i tried to bring to life in fiction but of course mixing it up with a lot of much more nasty cases # <trunc>wen</trunc> # <trunc>w</trunc> went towards making this character of Georgie George # here it goes yeah Georgie was friends with everyone Buckram saw how he seduced and obscured then

cajoled and spoke true his was an incomparable world as William described it easy and busy borderline and safe but safe the road to organized crime was a <trunc>s</trunc> sharp sweet drop at first Buckram and William fenced for fencers they were pimps and lookouts and couriers sometimes they helped with coining they learned how to drill and load dice and all the names for the different weightings before long they could tell bale of bard cinque-deuces from a bale of direct contraries and bale of flat cater-treys from a bale of langrets contrary to the vantage they acquired the more arcane skills of pickpocketry from elder cadgers the wipe-snitch the cly-fake the kinchin lay and how to nim a ticker specialists abounded upright men janglers jarkmen clank-nappers bufe-nabbers bilkers freighters and swaddlers and the dimber damber himself Georgie George it was a fairly undemanding life compared to the hand to mouth existence they'd led hitherto there was no shortage of food binges of roast meat

and fish replaced the communal stews of scavenged vegetables they'd grown accustomed to all kinds of beers and spirits flowed freely and soon became part of their daily lives except for Neville they ditched their fraying uniforms and started to buy new clothes William especially he quickly adopted the flamboyant dress code of their new circle of friends the blackbirds favoured bright primary colours worn in combinations that would have clashed against white skins in the room in Ivy Street soon acquired mattresses a cupboard and a table William gained membership of several gaming houses for gentlemen and he began with little success to apply himself to the theatrical arts the only hindrance to their new life was Pastor Neville Georgie had taken an instant dislike to him and the feeling was mutual Neville refused to partake in any illegalities and on the one occasion that he visited The Charioteer he was forcibly evicted after insisting on reading aloud

to the clientele from the book of Leviticus he was a good bud nevertheless Buckram and William couldn't bring themselves to abandon him the three of them had endured so much together and besides he was the only good cook among them gang life suited Buckram the noisy carefree atmosphere of The Charioteer was the ideal place for him to practise his gift of tomfoolery it became his second home in a matter of weeks he had gained enough status to merit the honour of a personal chair from which to conduct his business he <trunc>genuinel</trunc> oh he genuinely enjoyed George's company indeed everyone did and took to accompanying the king of the beggars as often as possible on his trips out # that's interesting on his trips to out of the way villages like Tottenham and Camberwell right # this sort of introduces in a back to front manner the two other main well <trunc>t</trunc> some of the other main characters

in this novel # one of the hardest things for me to do was to give an idea of the spectrum of # # black life in the black settlement of London in # the late eighteenth century and i was having very very i don't think i actually achieved it # but i was trying to show the actual breadth of activity that # black Londoners were engaged in at the moment i'm # working as a researcher for # Lambeth # archives looking up # <trunc>s</trunc> traces of the black population there and it's absolutely phenomenal # you know you find <trunc>a</trunc> apart from having an African school there there were also # African greengrocers and doctors and people involved in all sorts of careers and activities but the overwhelming majority of the people we do come across and this is in a sense partially echoed in this # work were # people who were just trying to survive on a daily basis basically living from hand to mouth and trying to make it # through the day any way they could # there's one final

thing i'm going to try and find here which # before questions come in yes yes yes <trunc>th</trunc> this is when # Buckram <trunc>actua</trunc> finally meets up with Pastor Neville # and this section is <trunc>f</trunc> particularly # dear to me and it's a fairly short one # and Pastor Neville who is # for those of you who haven't read it a mad preacher # i mean there's this thing # practically # there are two things in almost every black British novel and i fell victim to both of them of course one is the use of the kissed lips you know somewhere throughout the the novel one of the characters will kiss their lips as in that will just be there the other is the mad religious character and true to the stereotype this is my mad religious character # Pastor <trunc>n</trunc> Neville who # # has got a job working at # Saint Giles' church and he has some sort of accommodation there to which he is now leading Buckram

it wasn't so much a house as a shed this asked Buckram this is where you live the dwelling place of the most high almost a lean-to Pastor Neville's home was a windowless wood slatted structure held together in places by shipwrights nails and tar the hut lacquered <trunc>w</trunc> the hut lacquered with chevrons of green slime abutted a stable in Saint Giles' churchyard an ever present smell of hops and malts from the nearby <trunc>m</trunc> brewery blanketed the entire neighbourhood Buckram sighed slowly as Neville wrestled a bent key in a rusty lock they had both slept in worse places Neville lit a dim smoky lamp and weak light bled over a bed of rotting sacks used cooking utensils and countless open books lay in the mess like prone and hungry lovers the walls were cold and sappy and moisture dripped in gluey crawls to a broken flagstone floor but Buckram's only thought was of the hours of uninterrupted sleep awaiting him Neville left the shack returning

moments later with a half bale of fresh straw my bed i suppose aye sir fashion it as you please Buckram hefted the bale under his arm and started to shred it spreading handfuls of hay across his sleeping area he added another layer shaking out the clumps this time in order to keep the whole soft he padded the remaining straw high around the walls to ward off draughts and to lessen the chance of injury should he thrash about in his sleep only when he'd finished did he realize that he'd instinctively made a night bed for a horse stay away from George said Neville and keep out of The Charioteer those men are my friends Neville it was good to be with them tonight they're friends to no one least of all to you they have done this to you they have made you like this he framed his hands at the sides of Buckram's stiff dirty clothes Buckram nodded glumly friends or not the regulars at The Charioteer were the only people he knew who could make things happen for

him it was all right for Neville he could read and write he had his verger's post to keep him in food and lodging but Buckram had lived as a beggar he knew full well the horror of those days when you have to compete and sometimes fight with the legions of native poor crossing themselves whenever you crossed their path and your gaze never leaving the ground for fear of meeting another's bewilderment or missing the scraps that will feed you for another day looking more bedraggled lost and ethereal as one by one you give up your dreams and stumble on through shame filled lives not knowing who you are where you come from forgetting you ever knew otherwise slouching past one another in the street without acknowledgement because it could have been anyone or nobody and how it feels never to know security not even anonymity in a city of eight-hundred-thousand souls he would not live like that again he promised he'd kill himself first bom and

that's the short <trunc>rea</trunc> set of readings and # i suppose i'm open to questions </u><u who="nm5001"> are are you going to going to read later for us </u><u who="nm5000"> oh yes yeah <gap reason="inaudible" extent="1 sec"/> go on go on </u> <u who="nm5001"> are you going to read later on </u><u who="nm5000"> yeah that would be fine yeah </u><u who="nm5001"> so what he # what <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> has said is that he will read later but take a break ask a question <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> you wanted to ask about five questions yeah </u><u who="sm5002"> yes yes i did </u><u who="nm5001"> yeah one </u><u who="sm5002"> # </u><u who="nm5001"> to start with </u><u who="sm5002"> okay you chose the title Incomparable World # we've heard the citation from the actual reading itself as it was given </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sm5002"> referring to a particular character Georgie George but in terms of its casting over the entire

novel i mean where did you come up with the you know the the idea of something being <trunc>inc</trunc> incomparable is it incomparable in terms of us reading </u><u who="nm5000"> yes </u><u who="sm5002"> # or </u><u who="nm5000"> incomparable in terms of me writing it really was it was i mean # i'd set myself this task # which involved amongst many other things # getting into contact with the whole world with a a totally second-hand world and # # sorry a world that i can only # # approach through # # # # <trunc>o</trunc> <trunc>o</trunc> <trunc>o</trunc> other's writings and experiences # and and honestly the more i found about about eighteenth century # London Georgian London i found i couldn't come up with absolutely nothing in my experience which i could compare it also i'd given myself the problem of # <trunc>s</trunc> conjuring up # Buckram this # illiterate character # in a work of fiction and you know <trunc>th</trunc> that was quite entertaining as well and that involved all sorts of ironic nonsense # so fundamentally yes the answer to your question is that i think that the whole

experience of being alive at that time was simply incomparable because <trunc>no</trunc> we have nothing with which to compare it that's the easy answer </u><u who="sm5002"> 'cause i think i think when when we # someone's writing an audience will # necessarily having to compare it with other works </u><u who="nm5000"> so it's the <gap reason="inaudible" extent="1 sec"/> </u><u who="sm5002"> or compare the when we're actually writing on it or when we're considering it there has to be a sense of comparison that we we we use with other novels we've used Sam Selvon for example in </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sm5002"> in the mapping over the sense of community and such and </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sm5002"> that comes on into it but do you find that the there's a sort of fluidity about it though in <trunc>sp</trunc> in spite of what originally started off as being incomparable becomes later i mean if you consider some you know # areas outside of London # places which are <trunc>g</trunc> undergoing huge you know # </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sm5002"> changes in which people live in sense of class disintegrates and you have

underclasses having to you know pursue these sort of these you know similar sort of lifestyles </u><u who="nm5000"> yes it's yeah </u><u who="sm5002"> # former you know # U-S-S-R et cetera </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sm5002"> and in other places like that </u><u who="nm5000"> yes # yeah i mean i i <trunc>un</trunc> i think i understand what you're saying and of course these are my only references in an any sort of emotional # sense to it # # <trunc>i</trunc> because i mean of course there are ways you can approach the novel and get a grip on it it falls into a lot of # # standard forms # i don't think it's a very successful action adventure format novel but it can be approached like that # # it's also a very poor boy meets girl novel but # that's happened for various reasons that i'm not going to go into and it's # yeah i mean yes it it is easy to # compare

it to various things we are familiar with but i just feel that that whole period of history is something that has to be looked at again revised and # from this particular viewpoint it's still really interesting perspective on # that period in time </u><u who="sf5003"> i guess that which brings me to ask you why why the the eighteenth century i mean did you feel that there was a a gap to be filled that it was a a purloined letter of history or fiction </u><u who="nm5000"> # </u><u who="sf5003"> i mean did you do research to to assess yes </u><u who="nm5000"> yeah well history fiction that's that's a yes i i i'd say not so <trunc>mu</trunc> or just culture in general </u><u who="sf5003"> mm-hmm </u><u who="nm5000"> # the entire # reality impact of the black presence on British society is something which is very very slowly # seeping into # # the awareness of a small percentage of people # last # # you know we've recently had # the Windrush # celebrations and # if you

ask the overwhelming majority of people black and white in # Britain # when the # black presence # can be from when the black presence can be dated in this country # the overwhelming majority of people will point to towards nineteen-forty-eight and the arrival at Tilbury Docks oh yes that's Windrush # now i mean the plain historical fact is # that the black community particularly in London has been # continuous there has been a continuous black presence for at least five-hundred years some people put it much further than that but just for the sake of this particular discussion you can say at least over five-hundred years and # this whole novel was a way of just bringing this particular that you know that whole issue of the black presence in to you know to highlight it and # make it something which people spoke # more freely and openly # <trunc>i</trunc> <trunc>i</trunc> the reason i chose the eighteenth century was simply because it was the most interesting and there was

the largest body of records of # people both black and white you know they have newspaper records you have # the letters of # Sancho # you have the works of # letters of # Mary Prince you have </u><u who="sf5003"> mm </u><u who="nm5000"> i mean you have a vast # amount of detail # detailed information to work on and of course i was seduced completely by the language # which i found <trunc>in</trunc> very very # beguiling # and heartening like # you know you'd hear from some of these court records the # defences given up by # ordinary workaday black villains and the their use their use of vocabulary and the ability to to actually make language work for them is absolutely # well i mean # to or by our standards is stratospheric so i was really <trunc>s</trunc> # seduced by many aspects of the eighteenth century also the rough open # quality to life # which eighteenth century London presented it was a hugely cosmopolitan # environment i mean you had literally people from all over the globe here at the # # # imperial centre #

exchanging ideas meeting had people all over the # African diaspora # i've just been looking at this African school in # Clapham where and this is a very weird set-up to begin with but amongst other pupils they had side by side in the same classroom # the sons of # African # # heads African chiefs # African leaders who happened to be involved in the slave trade but they were but they sent their sons there they were sitting next you know side by side in the same # classroom sharing desks with the sons of # Maroons who were or semi-independent # blacks black settlers in Jamaica who had fought their way out of slavery they found # you know they had found some of their sons found themselves side by side with # probably the sons of families who had sold them into slavery directly and # as well as that you had people the sons of # this is a very male society as well you can tell also you had the sons of # # free blacks from

Nova Scotia # who were also at the school so i'm <trunc>rea</trunc> really trying to revise # our whole # idea or provoke i should say to provoke discussion of our whole idea of eighteenth century London of # Covent Garden of how people behaved what people did # because it's # one of the self-delusions of # our period of you know the <trunc>l</trunc> # last quarter of the twentieth century those of us who live in industrialized societies is to believe or to labour under the delusion that we # have some sort of # licence or <gap reason="inaudible due to noise from audience" extent="1 sec"/> on various lifestyles such as promiscuity and # a certain amount of # movement in <trunc>socie</trunc> ease of movement in society # we also have a totally # insane notion of # what people actually did in their spare time in the eighteenth century how people behaved what their expectations were it was not strait-laced and # # starched and # tight collared at all # there were acts of # promiscuity and perverseness which i just couldn't include in this

book though i was tempted but # i mean i mean <trunc>co</trunc> eighteenth century Covent Garden # was # well a place which actually would have been downright shocking to many of us in a lot of its activities # for example there were # what we would now call # gay bars or # they were called sodomitical taverns and it became dangerous for young men # i think i made a mention of it at one point in # in the early part of the book </u> <u who="sf5003"> yes </u><u who="nm5000"> so i just thought you know </u><u who="sf5004"> men dressed as women </u><u who="nm5000"> yes and also # # Pastor Neville refers to # these people trying to entice unwary youth unto the like # practice or something like that but it was worse you know people would actually you know you could be walking across Covent Garden Piazza and be actually mugged by men in skirts who would be # trying to you know do all sorts of things to you there were places where you could pay to see women fighting other women not so unusual there were also

places where you could # where women could go to be spanked by other women and there were magazines # catering to this taste so i mean there was a whole # range of activity which i just thought needed to be brought into the idea of what actually went on in these coffee houses and how people behaved how people made a living and # as <trunc>w</trunc> i mean yes i've just drawn out the whole alien nature of the time and the place was something i had a lot of fun with so i don't know if that answered your question </u><u who="sf5003"> <gap reason="inaudible" extent="1 sec"/> </u><u who="nm5001"> # yes </u><u who="sm5005"> thought the end was in a way it was very sad because he's he ends up being very very mean to his stablehand </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sm5005"> and he's nasty to the bloke who's got the letter from William </u><u who="nm5000"> yeah </u><u who="sm5005"> so he loses contact with his comrade </u><u who="nm5000"> yeah </u><u who="sm5005"> # is Buckram to be condemned for his actions at

the end of the novel and his <trunc>m</trunc> his metamorphosis or is that him just making his way </u><u who="nm5000"> # i just have to say it's him making his way i mean this is one of the things i mean with this book i was very aware of # agendas popping up and i was trying very hard to avoid them in all sorts of ways i mean i would have loved it to have a # Warner Brothers' ending and everyone sailing off together in wonderful stereoscopic vision and # stereoscopic sound rather and # but Buckram he he proved a problem because he just went off during the writing # and did his own thing i couldn't control this character he just # i was trying to beat him into this sort of nice politically correct character who would validate you know my # conceit as a writer but # no no # he went off and became this individual you know who having settled into # some sort of <trunc>mior</trunc> minor # <trunc>min</trunc> minorly prosperous role does adopt many of the

traits of the people he's been doing business with he becomes part of the world around him yes and he # he was a very difficult character all the way through like i said for # apart from all the <trunc>ri</trunc> ridiculous ironies of using the illiterate as # the protagonist # he was the one in a who in a sense # had the least baggage # he was just like # some sort of rhythmic innocent character # which his illiteracy helped me how that helped me with as well his illiteracy but # the other characters like William for example and # Pastor Neville they're both readers # Neville isn't so much a thinker but he's an educated person it's easy to get round his mind it's easy to # come into contact with him but Buckram he's a very <trunc>h</trunc> he he reacts to things he's not a reflective individual so he is definitely someone who's totally shaped by events and that's the story of Buckram at the end he's just been shaped by

events yet again </u><u who="nm5001"> # somebody is writing well many of you are writing essays on this # on this # on this novel # somebody wanted to ask if you you wanted to ask about Selvon was it </u><u who="sm5006"> # no # but i've got a different question with regard to Hogarth </u><u who="nm5001"> right </u><u who="sm5006"> to what extent did # William Hogarth influence # you writing this novel </u><u who="nm5000"> well that was # at the root of it at the very genesis of # the actual project i mean i found myself # i don't know where i was but i mean i could have been i just found myself in front of some # works by Hogarth i think it was the series Morning # # Noon and Afternoon Morning Noon and Evening and # i noticed black characters there and i # i was taken aback because i had to ask myself # A who are they what are they doing there and how do they manage to survive in this environment if this is supposed to be taken from life looking more at Hogarth i realized that you

know black figures were frequently used for various reasons i checked # Mr Dabydeen's work and # i then did my own researches from that first meeting of black characters in Hogarth interestingly enough the thing that other thing for me personally with Hogarth and this is very personal # hitherto in <trunc>eng</trunc> in English painting the black figure had always been represented in very very formulaic terms you would have # the black servant or the individual of whatever class # or whatever whatever degree of servitude would always be # # kneeling down there à genoux with # clasped hands looking up imploringly beseechingly spaniel-like at # the white social superior who would be # of course standing and looking not down at # towards the gaze of the black servant but out of the picture towards the stars you know where they # load there to those <trunc>con</trunc> astral celestial concerns and # that was pretty much # formulaic in my knowledge and experience of

# the representation of black people in # English painting # with Hogarth # on that first meeting what i saw were black people in the sense that i recognize a person as someone who's walking across a road or just happens to be there or even if they're acting if or they're even if they're there as a symbolic device they are still there # to a minor degree in their own right they just happen to be there and # my further # examinations just really # <trunc>f</trunc> flushed out # fleshed out that whole world of the black settlement in # Seven Dials and on the site of what is now the horrific Centreprise building in London for those of you who know it # so to yeah to answer your question briefly # Hogarth was central absolutely central to firing off my # curiosity # into what has now become well yeah an obsession </u><u who="nm5001"> what about Selvon <gap reason="inaudible" extent="1 sec"/> </u><u who="nm5000"> oh well Selvon he's someone # who # <trunc>h</trunc> # who who amazes me # so few people really

celebrate him i mean which Selvon did you read The Lonely Londoners fantastic book </u><u who="nm5001"> yes </u><u who="nm5000"> now absolutely fantastic book now it's not simply that he is a fantastic writer i mean with such ease and economy he manages to paint this extraordinary panorama # i mean i've got to confess i only read The Lonely Londoners # two years ago but # </u><u who="nm5001"> read it after this </u><u who="nm5000"> yes </u><u who="nm5001"> right mm <gap reason="inaudible" extent="1 sec"/> </u><u who="nm5000"> but it was # i mean i could immediately feel u-huh yes he's trying to he's attracted to the same # load that i that draws me # here he is looking again at # life in London also with <trunc>s</trunc> with Selvon as with myself he's someone # who in his writing expresses a an incredible love of London and the city which i share # and into this environment which fascinates and repels him at the same time which literally # sort of is at the centre of or of his attention he draws these apparently disparate characters # from all areas of the # black diaspora # again most of them are in irregular situations trying to hack their way through daily life but # it for me it's just

amazing that this book isn't spoken about more # i think it's the genuine # kick-off point for black British brack black British writing in # this century # to my knowledge and experience # oh what what did # do you think of Selvon did it get a thumbs up or a </u><u who="nm5001"> yeah it's a great it's a it's a great novel # # i <trunc>th</trunc> i think you're quite right we we teach it every year so # i can say we try to push the boat out Selvon himself was an honorary doctor at this university </u><u who="nm5000"> oh </u><u who="nm5001"> and my curry partner </u><u who="nm5000"> u-huh </u><u who="nm5001"> # </u><u who="nm5000"> no it is it's it's a it's a wonderful book i mean <trunc>wh</trunc> <trunc>wh</trunc> what hits me with # Selvon is that i mean i i was # lumbered by writing about the eighteenth century so the matters of sort of linguistic form which really # stayed my hand # so i couldn't really <trunc>a</trunc> achieve that economy and grace of style which # Selvon did i mean i was # lumbered down with # i don't i i don't actually know if it

succeeded or not but # i did have problems with how to # # write this novel in the sense that there are two competing schools seem to me to be two competing schools in historical writing at the moment one of which goes towards the # goes to the degree that # we can dispense totally with any anachronistic # usage of language # we don't have any yea verily forsooths et cetera but # we all just use a <trunc>s</trunc> we all just use straight direct English this is something i'm not very # comfortable with # the other # school goes directly # into cod English as i call it cod period English and it reached some ridiculous heights even using Y-E and you know as it's people actually said ye all that sort of nonsense # and i wasn't comfortable with that so i tried to hit # some sort of midpoint in which the two styles could almost flow together but # oh sorry are there any more questions </u><u who="sm5002"> just just one quick one </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sm5002"> # the The Lonely Londoners and # i think to an extent your

book as well is about coming to literacy # there's # a you've got # Moses Aloetta </u><u who="nm5000"> yeah </u><u who="sm5002"> coming to a sense of an ability to # interact aesthetically with # with what he experiences as well and as as a first novel did you try to express the sense of writing something # i mean in terms of not only of William having this this would </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sm5002"> fantasies of inclusion with terms of writing and </u><u who="nm5000"> mm-hmm </u><u who="sm5002"> possessing novels but also Buckram you know of drawing Cs well what you know </u><u who="nm5000"> yeah </u><u who="sm5002"> by observing as well i mean how far was that conscious in you when you were writing the actual novel itself </u><u who="nm5000"> semi-conscious # yeah <trunc>ca</trunc> <trunc>becau</trunc> oh yeah it was # something which i i mean i didn't actually deliberately set out to # do this but it's something which # just seemed to achieve critical mass in the writing you know the various ideas connected with # self-expression

and # freedom i think in one # space i'm actually Buckram was actually # sorry William was actually # his house has burned down and # i describe how he fears his life will turn out and # i mention that he fears the lack of access to paper and he fears being paperless i wish i was more familiar with my own book so that i could find this exact # page for you but you know so i mean though that that's one with many # in # references there's also # the dreaded letter which really chopped up the flow of the action scene # in which # William beseeches his wife to # continue with yes # to acquaint yeah i mean he he says to his wife Good Mary as he says of her # he says # many was the night i passed in deepest gloom beset by thoughts of your travails and my heart is well pleased to learn of your untiring efforts to maintain our little ones in the ways of rectitude acquainted as you are with the ways of our

former masters i don't know why i said former with our former masters i trust you do bend their young minds ever towards the written word it will stand them in good stead in that land where ignorance is the best and only security for obedience blah blah blah et cetera et cetera yours husband # so yes it does come up this # # need for some sort of intimacy for self-expression through the written word # </u><u who="nm5001"> in fact that's a kind of echo of Sancho isn't it </u><u who="nm5000"> yes </u><u who="nm5001"> that particular <gap reason="inaudible" extent="1 sec"/></u><u who="nm5000"> yes it is # yeah </u><u who="nm5001"> who himself is very concerned about language </u><u who="nm5000"> yes i mean Sancho again he is someone who i just think should be on the syllabus i don't know why he isn't an astonishing person you know born on a slaveship in Cartagena # came over here he was adopted as a mascot or a pet by # the Montagues and # it is true Sancho is an unusual person

in that # he did you could say he had influential friends and a semi-privileged background regardless of his # # servile # docile status in the Montague household but # there he was running this # grocery selling amongst other things sugar cane mm and # # you know this grocery was # two streets down from Downing Street in # Charles Street as it was then now it's King Charles the Second Street i think and # when not tending to his shop # he was penning these wonderful letters and # he was writing the odd # minuet or country dance # you know he's a very sort of rounded character in a way that we can't actually imagine i mean the <trunc>m</trunc> overwhelming majority of people nowadays are too stressed even to cross the room to switch off the television and it's very very hard for us to get ourselves into this mindset </u><u who="nm5001"> yeah </u><u who="nm5000"> of people like Sancho or Equiano who did travel the known world and who did who had you know most people by

the the # their early twenties had survived some life-threatening illness # those who were in any degree literate # read and they read deeply and they you know they were very familiar with the language to a degree like i said before # would be stratospheric we need oxygen to comprehend # the # the grace and eloquence of some of the conversations i mean # # i always like to quote the letters of # that flew between # Sancho and Julius Soubise i don't know <trunc>f</trunc> how many of you are <trunc>s</trunc> familiar with Julius Soubise but he was a # black man about town for want of a better word he was a <trunc>d</trunc> a rake and # he was known for being well dressed and for being a womanizer and # he also taught sword fencing and # he it was his misfortune to become involved with a titled lady and the flow of letters between Sancho and Soubise are just astonishing astonishing you know high level and you know these people were not # standardized intellectuals of

their day this was just letters between you know two black men talking about sexual relationships and # the dangers inherent in them and # you know it's things like that you know all went to # inform this # i'm still looking for this particular page where William has lost his house but i don't think i'm going to find it but yeah in again to briefly answer your question # that is exactly what i mean yes the the # the <trunc>n</trunc> the use of language and the need of control of language # was was a theme which did crop up but # it wasn't planned it just came out of the nature of the book </u><u who="sf5007"> mm </u><u who="nm5001"> do you want to read now </u><u who="nm5000"> yes i'm trying to find this one particular place ba-de-bum but yes the the the the the the this is what i'll read for you # this is just a scene i like because # i'm trying to capture a lot

of things and # bring in something which is fairly central it's a fairly long piece here but # part of the background to this # period the summer of seventeen-eighty-six is that # this was a very dangerous time for # black men in London because # this scheme or scam would be a better word # known as the Sierra Leone scheme # <trunc>ha</trunc> # <trunc>w</trunc> was doing business # to do this whole thing injustice to try and put it in a nutshell the Sierra Leone scheme was a method by which # black the black population of London would be transferred from the street those who were on the street to this # putative settlement in Sierra Leone # therefore fulfilling two <trunc>s</trunc> very spurious # objectives one ridding # London of its black street population and B # <trunc>set</trunc> and two # actually settling these # many of them ex-slaves in a country they could call their own # it was a conceit which of course failed in much misery and agony until there was a Canadian settlement later which was a bit better

but # yeah the Sierra Leone settlement is part of the background of this whole novel and this draws in you know this whole theme of # # this sort <trunc>o</trunc> repatriation which seems to come in two-hundred year cycles in British history i mean you had it in # fifteen-ninety-six and sixteen-o-one with # Queen Elizabeth her edicts # basically # stating how # these negars as she called them N-E-G-A-R-S she spelled it these negars # are here the great annoyance of our own liege people who do want the bread which these people consume you know that's the oldest argument in the world doing good business in fifteen-ninety-six and she tried it again in sixteen-o-one both attempts at # repatriation failed here in seventeen-eighty-six you see the same thing the same tendency # <trunc>a</trunc> attempt at repatriation and it opens with # William Supple at # his so-called work of gambling excuse me the makeshift gambling board tilted

precariously under a weight of drinks and coins William Supple rolled a tiny whisky glass between his palms while waiting for the last of his five companions to show their hand ten or so other men their games long finished stood in sepulchral silence around them breathing down their necks and signalling wordless bets on the outcome they were playing in a small brightly lit cellar under the Strand the temperature in the gambling den was several degrees warmer than on the surface and <trunc>th</trunc> than that on the surface and the men played in shirt sleeves their coats turned inside out hung on the backs of their chairs for luck the air was filled with tobacco smoke and the smell of soil and old bricks William watched as Gerhard the Hessian studied his cards and stroked his great red beard the German was also a veteran of the colonial wars his regiment had served with William's at a number of battles in the Carolina campaign and like some of the black servicemen he had chosen to

make London his home they exchanged a brief # and William thought conspiratorial smile Gerhard drew a few coins from his purse and stacked them on the board the company exhaled loudly ten shillings <trunc>fu</trunc> sorry i don't do accents when i read so you'll have to bear with me ten shillings further William he whispered will you meet me i dare you William stared him full in the face and nodded do your worst Hessian the German spread his cards on the table almost failing to mask his anxiety a king a pair of nines and the jack of hearts William willed himself expressionless as pockets of malevolent cheer erupted around him that delight in annihilation paranoia redeemed the gambler's laugh and once more here he was on the threshold of games how to win without losing how to show face he fanned out his cards with quiet dignity his ace his queen of hearts his jack of diamonds his ten of spades his victory he took

some comfort in the overhearty applause from the fickle fortune-hunting crowd they'd come to cheer a winner and here he was ever the actor outplayed again admitted the <trunc>hau</trunc> the Hessian outplayed again a club-footed pot boy came over to clear the glasses and take a cut for the house you've a visitor Mr Supple at the door wants to talk to you tell him i'm busy Giles said William and fetch us another round of whisky William gathered up the pack to shuffle a game of faro it's a black man sir Giles raised his eyebrows and nodded significantly goes by the name of Buckram says it's an urgency William sucked his teeth there you go tell him i'll be up in a minute he passed the pack to Gerhard and strutted to the door three bolts were removed and two locks were turned before William could mount the steps to the street Buckram stood filling the doorframe with his hat with

hat sorry his hat that being William's hat in hand warm fresh air steamed in from the Strand and Buckram kicked his heels in the dark dusty street hello Bucky how is it oh i'm not too bad saw two all over tonight William i need to talk to you about something what do you say we go sink a few jars down The Charioteer with as much exasperation as he reckoned their friendship could hold William started explaining how busy he was making an illeval <trunc>li</trunc> # an illegal living down in the cellar and that he was available to friends during daylight hours only it hurt him to say that he had taken such care to avoid Buckram these past weeks best to keep things superficial just thinking about The Charioteer was depressing the door opened down behind him and the pot boy shouted tables are ready and waiting for you Mr Supple bid them wait are you winning Buckram asked he was looking better William noticed the jailhouse edges blurred back towards normality the

haunted eyes were still haunted but at home he was a man at leisure wanting to celebrate his liberty the old Buckram maybe winning yes William slowly replied i will join you in a while he returned to the cellar to close his affairs with the house then bounded back up the stairs pulling on his coat let's walk around for a bit i i need some air they strolled down to Charing Cross past <trunc>crow</trunc> small crowds of night people enjoying the antics of sword swallowers and a man lifting a four-hundred pound weight with the hair of his head William paused by a gypsy girl who was goading a small dancing dog to gavotte he noted Buckram frowning at the spectacle and reconsidered throwing her the coin he had palmed in his pocket with the exception of coal carts coming up from the river front alleys and the odd horseman or sedan chair the street was relatively free of traffic and like everyone else William and Buckram walked along in the middle of it how's your

side enquired Buckram no complaints hardly a war wound getting better i'm all right as long as Georgie keeps me supplied with this he pulled a fat brown glass bottle from his pocket opium cordial he tells me said William that you're working for him and Henry sort of i sell prints and guides around the piazza oh i can imagine no you can't i was stopped by the charlies in Southampton Row today that's the # well the <trunc>l</trunc> <trunc>l</trunc> the officers of the law # for want of a much better description # i was stopped by the charlies in Southampton Row today they asked me my business threatened to deliver me to the navy office if i didn't give them some money i caught one of them on the job and had to run i lost them in Clare Market but i think they'll come looking for me you know they'll remember my face William laughed openly no Bucky you're safe from the watch don't you know they can't tell one black man from another you

just have to lay low for a day or so then resume your work stick to Saint Giles and the Seven and Seven Dials they can't touch you there i'm sick of the place sick of this town William but where else is there Sierra Leone what Sierra Leone Africa you must have heard the news seen the handbills or posters everyone's talking about it well i don't talk to everyone don't read too much nowadays either so you really don't know do you they're planning to clear us off the streets they want us out of this country and any black or lascar found not working will be held at Newgate for transportation they're making the white raven beggars agree to sign for a place in this scheme before they receive their sixpence transportation to Africa what the devil do you mean every year they invent something new to scare us with it never works we're still here there's too many of us slaves ex-slaves freeborn and all just too many i read in gentleman's <trunc>magazi</trunc> gentleman's

magazine there are fifteen-thousand of us in London alone that was an exaggeration by the way but that was taken from fact <gap reason="inaudible" extent="1 sec"/> there are fifteen-thousand i mean eighteenth century statistics uh-uh there are fifteen-thousand of us in London alone they'll have to call out the soldiers to take us on it's impossible it'll never happen wouldn't you like to go to Sierra Leone no i've heard some old settlers from Nova Scotia talk about it but that's a free man's country they can choose how and when they go over here it's different imagine the Englishmen inviting us to return to Africa we'd end up in chains for sure he'd heard about the west coast of Africa and all he knew was that it attracted slavers like bees to a sugar plantation you're happy here aren't you asked Buckram William didn't answer they bought two portions of cold chicken pie with ketchup from a street

vendor in Villiers Street and sat down beside a Charing Cross pillory block to eat in front of them behind some railings loomed a statue of King Charles the First on horseback the starless sky was as clear as a London night could be and it goes on like that any more questions </u><u who="sm5006"> yeah the role of the River Thames i mean # reading Selvon there's this homage paid to this river which somehow symbolizes kind of the mouth to the empire right </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sm5006"> and # reading you know i believe there's also a kind of homage to it with one of the most beautiful and most comic # passages with the charcoal fires on the riverboat </u><u who="nm5000"> yes yeah </u><u who="sm5006"> # first of all what's the role of the Thames for you in this novel and what made you write i mean this this # charcoal fires on on the Thames </u><u who="nm5000"> okay # the role of the Thames # # i mean it's <trunc>ver</trunc> i mean it's very partial i don't i only

think i mention it once or twice although there's a whole scene set on it # although i mean i was driven by the same passion that Selvon had to sort of # boost his # you know the city he'd claimed as his own # and while i'm # advertising Selvon's writing adverting to it # # there's one beautiful # eulogy he's done to the city called # My Girl and the City </u><u who="sf5008"> mm </u><u who="nm5000"> and if you get a chance to read it read it # </u><u who="nm5001"> they read it </u><u who="nm5000"> # oh you did</u><u who="nm5001"> it was excellent </u><u who="nm5000"> it was and # </u><u who="nm5001"> some of us nearly cried </u><u who="nm5000"> oh yeah i mean # my own way of doing it was by # trying to draw aspects of the city which a contemporary reader would be familiar with and putting it in a different context # such as <trunc>m</trunc> you know just idly mentioning that # Hampstead and Highgate were just minor villages # and things like # the walk down Oxford Street and the contrast between

Oxford Street and # Saint Giles and the grot the real grot and horror of Saint Giles # but yes i mean everywhere that the city can poke its head up # i gave it a chance to do so the river scene # the reason i included that was because # well <trunc>f</trunc> it's a couple of reasons it was # practice along the river to shout abuse at others as they did the crossing # it was also # i wanted to capture some of that # coarse yet # very coarse energetic yet # totally engaged nature of eighteenth century communication there's a roughness to it and a real lewdness to it # which is very very hard to capture i mean fights were commonplace and # the normal pattern of a fight especially with a stranger # # i mean the traditional view of the Jewish stranger or a French stranger i'm sure it happened to black people as well and # the tradition would be you'd be walking past # a group of # indigenous folk and your hat would be knocked off you'd be challenged # you'd have to accept the

challenge because a circle would be formed round you now # if you lost the challenge # you know you'd be kicked by the others # the by the # by the cronies of the person who gave you offered the invitation and if you won the challenge you'd be raised up on everyone's shoulder and they'd get you drunk and you'd become their mate and you know the the you know the this level of # </u><u who="nm5001"> yeah </u><u who="nm5000"> sort of savagery and # i don't know the word but it's a mixture of # that's it i think i actually used it here # excuse me it's a mixture of vindictive you'll have to give me a a moment here # yes i mean there's a a section here actually was trying to # get to the nature of this whole thing as vindictive and gleeful as an as Anglo-Saxon as a # food fight this whole nature of that sort of food fight sensibility but again i can't find the actual quote i need # but yeah basically the

the that was yeah here we are dum-de-dum-de-dum yeah this is it # this is where Buckram is # actually looking for William and Neville and he's just looking around # the slum on a whim he decided to look in at The Beggar in the Bush it was somewhere he'd not normally visit the place was always too lively in the wrong way bursting with gregarious vindictiveness as Anglo-Saxon as a <trunc>feu</trunc> food fight and that was what i was trying to # get to in that river scene that gregarious vindictiveness of # life at the time </u><gap reason="break in recording" extent="uncertain"/> <u who="nm5001"> so we can shall we have one last question </u><u who="sf5003"> maybe about the future about </u><u who="nm5000"> mm </u><u who="sf5003"> is there a second novel in the making do you want to experiment with other genres beside the novel </u><u who="nm5000"> yes yeah oh beside the novel or beside the historical novel </u><u who="sf5003"> well or just the novel <trunc>g</trunc> period </u><u who="nm5000"> # no i don't so much like the idea of # experimentation or going off on tangents from # many

standardized forms # i prefer to # use the existing forms to expose the flaws in them which i know one again one of the conceits of this book # with a historical novel using it to # expose the flaws in many historical novels # i'm looking towards other genres such as # science fiction and horror </u><u who="sf5003"> mm </u><u who="nm5000"> # again the absence of a black presence in these whole in these areas is # i mean especially in the U-K is quite astounding it's not as if we are not familiar with either horror or science fiction i mean the ideas of abduction by aliens taken to somewhere you don't know and you know your life energy being used for various purposes we know all these genres so i mean

this is something which i'd like to introduce to a wider audience genre busting # rather than <trunc>for</trunc> you know <trunc>f</trunc> forming whole other areas of experimentation </u><u who="nm5001"> good well thank you # well thank you again <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> for coming </u><u who="nm5000"> oh thanks for the invitation <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> </u><u who="nm5001"> # it is one of the most remarkable novels eighteenth century novels that i have read it is an eighteenth century novel and the wonderful irony is that one of the best eighteenth century novels in the English language is written by somebody who's not English and # don't think you're eighteenth century either </u><u who="nm5000"> well </u><u who="nm5001"> thanks very much yeah we'll do a we'll do a book signing session now so do do queue up and #