Barbican Producer Razia Jordan talks about the third edition of the New Suns Feminist Literary Festival
Forming part of the Barbican’s Level G Programme, “a platform for projects which ask crucial social and cultural questions, spark conversations and bring people together”, New Suns Feminist Literary Festival returns for its third year. Seeking inspiration from Science Fiction writer Octavia Butler, the festival draws from the late writer’s unfinished prophetic Earthseed series. Ahead of the event, Barbican Producer Razia Jordan tells us more about this year’s online programme, exploring New Suns‘ prophetic themes and the festival’s specially curated New Suns anthology.
The third edition of New Suns Feminist Literary Festival returns from the 5th to 7th March 2021, how are feeling ahead of the event?
We’re super excited to celebrate the third year of New Suns. Things obviously look a little differently this year, but we worked hard to reimagine New Suns as an online literary festival, and, for the first time, to commission a special New Suns-themed anthology which people can enjoy at home. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done to curate a festival programme that is packed with some really inspirational speakers and themes that try to capture the inevitability of change and how communities can adapt and become more resilient; topics that feel so pertinent especially at this moment in time.
This year’s event draws inspiration from writer Octavia Butler’s legacy, exploring the Earthseed series, in particular ‘New Suns’ and its prophetic imagining of the 2020s. How is the festival exploring her legacy further?
New Sunsis a key part of the Barbican’s Level G programme, an experimental platform for projects that ask crucial social and cultural questions, spark conversations and bring people from different disciplines together. Through New Suns, we aim to create a space for the exchange of ideas on new types of community and societies, and a platform for the creators and feminists who help us to envision these new worlds. For example, we’re organising a talk with writers and activists adrienne maree brown and Ama Josephine Budge who will discuss how we can collectively seed, cultivate and create the worlds we want, and build habitable futures; a central theme of Butler’s Earthseed series.
In lieu of a traditional book fair this year, we’re also partnering with Bookshop.org– a new online retailer for books that directly supports independent bookshops all over the UK and US. We’ve set up a specially-curated New Suns section on their website, offering reading lists for anyone who would like to dive deeper into some of the themes we’re exploring through the festival and Butler’s writing.
New Suns will take place online, consisting of a programme of workshops, talks and a film, featuring writers, activists, artists and academics. What will these events involve?
It was really important to us to work with different formats to explore Octavia Butler’s work and take inspiration from some of the themes she has written about.
For example, this year’s programme will include poetry readings and a discussion with Izabella Scott of The White Review, poet Dorothea Lasky and artist and poet Precious Okoyomon, exploring the relationship between space and our existence on Earth; a workshop led by Alice Spawls, the co-editor of the London Review of Books, inviting audiences to experience journaling as a foundation for creative writing; and a film about the feminist scholar Donna Haraway. There’ll also be a science fiction writing workshop with writer and performance artist Season Butler.
The festival looks to explore New Suns’ timely central themes including ‘inevitability of change’, ‘community building’, ‘examinations of race and gender’ and ‘humanity’s relationship to the cosmos’, topics shaping current conversations, what do you hope to achieve from these conversations?
The past year has really shifted the focus on, and amplified, so many of the forces and ideas which shape the world we live in today. New Suns is an invitation to explore and have a conversation about some of them.
By bringing together writers, activists, artists and academics we want to present visions and practices that resonate with Octavia Butler’s insights into the skills necessary for survival as well as contentment in the 21st century. We want to provide a space for a discussion that speaks to adaptability and resilience through collaboration and interdependence, speculative imagination, and invite festival participants to ‘shape change’, as adrienne maree brown might say, and remake the world.
There is also the opportunity to purchase the New Suns anthology booklet including an extract from Octavia Butler’s book The Parable of the Sower. What else can attendees expect from the anthology?
The New Suns anthology is a very exciting new addition to the festival experience. The limited edition booklet also includes poetry by Dorothea Lasky and Daisy Lafarge; guides for self-reflection and meditation; as well as herbal recipes for strength and healing to enjoy this spring and beyond. We’ve also added thyme seeds and instructions how to use the herb beyond the culinary.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
New Suns – A Feminist Literary Festival takes place from Friday 5th until Sunday 7th March 2021. To find out more about the event and to book tickets, visit here…