Carolynn Bain, owner of Afori Books joins us to tell us about this year's Brighton Book Festival taking place 20th - 25th June...

The problem with having your event be a success in its first year is that your expectations for year two are even higher and so is your stress level!

Well, kind of..

When we decided last year to put on a Book Festival for 2022 with 5 months notice, even I thought that we were being way too ambitious (although this is the first time I’ve ever admitted it!) I said to Ruth (our co-founder) privately “If we put this together and no-one comes, I’ll still be happy, because this is a mad experiment”. Well, we definitely did better than that.

Almost all our events were sold out. We had the most diverse line-up that I have ever seen in a festival, and I was an event manager for 15 years. But the highlight for me was how many people came that had never been to a book festival before.

So, I am going into this year a little bit nervous. I loved last year, and I think that the core team were faced with a tough task of making this year better. But we have had some help.

This year, 22nd June will mark the 75th anniversary of HMS Windrush. Following the Windrush scandal caused by the hostile environment that the Conservative government introduced, it feels so right to honour and celebrate the incredible contribution that the Windrush generation and their descendants have bought to our city, our country and to literature. And one of the things we saw last year is that we excel at celebrating.

So, we have a whole evening on 22nd June dedicated to Windrush. We have food, DJ, an exhibition, actors and of course authors. But truly the VIP guests will be our senior Caribbean citizens who will be telling their stories of triumphs and heartbreaks for that time. As a Windrush descendant this event sits close to my heart and my own dad and mum will be among the VIPs.

For the past year Afrori Books has had great success with our supper club, which has always sold out and had a variety of guests including award winning Caleb Azumah Nelson and Dorothy Koomson. So, I am very excited that we are bringing supper club to the Book Festival. A 3-course meal with Foodies Lerato, Jimi Famurewa and Frances Mensah-Williams. It’s no surprise to us that this this has been a big seller, with only a few tickets left. As a book loving extrovert a book festival is heavenly for me, as a foodie, supper club takes me to a whole other level!

Not to make this all about me, but well, why not? Another event that hits a chord with me is Boyz to Men on Saturday evening. Our panel consists of Okechukwu Nzelu, Stephen Buoro and Yomi Sode - 3 black men. I will tell you now that there is not a book festival in the country that gives black men a, platform like this. This is such an important event. An opportunity to really look at how British culture and world literature defines how are boys become men. As the mother of a young man this means so much to me and I wish I had put on an event like this when he was younger. There are just not enough platforms in this country to hear the stories of what it is to be black British and it really does mean so much to me and the rest of the core team to change that narrative.

Speaking of core team I cannot really talk about the festival without spending a too short moment thanking the amazing 10 women who make the book festival possible. It really does take so much work to make this happen and I know that despite all the laughter we have had over this last 9 months there has also been a lot of late nights and long days to make it all come together. Not to mention those 5 days in June being the longest five days ever.

But this is where passion takes you, it makes us step up to create the spaces for marginalised authors that don’t exist. And I  look at the festival this year and know that there is so much more we want to do. We have included theatre this year, but, I would love to see more creative arts taking part in next years festival. Dance, photography…

But that is a whole other blog.

I know that the book festival will be a delight for all of the attendees, but for those who cannot make it, I hope it will make you see marginalised people, advocate for them, make space for them and remind you to be the change that you want to see.

📚 The Brighton Book Festival runs from 20th – 25th June

📚 Tickets are available from Brighton Book Festival website




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