- The Bookseller
To commemorate Black Ink Collective's 40th Anniversary, Black Ink Legacy
is planning a series of activities commencing in 2018, which will
include a book fair, a series of Black Ink Legacy Lectures, readings,
performances, touring exhibition, pop-up events, a website with online
resources, and a virtual archive.
The Black Ink Collective, founded in 1978 and the first of its kind,
provided a platform for young black Britons to write, have their voices
heard and their work published over the next 10 years, a time of great
social upheaval in Britain.
During the 1960s and early '70s a number of small alternative
bookshops in the UK provided an outlet for mainly political and local
history publications and pamphlets. Some of these were specifically
black-oriented, such as The Black Panther Bookshop (later Sabarr) in
Brixton. Bogle L’Overture Publications, and New Beacon Books were
independently publishing books that brought a radical perspective to
non-fiction, fiction and poetry.
The publishing industry in the UK at the time was very white, male
and middle class - both product and staffing. Some black novelists such
as Sam Selvon and George Lamming had books that came from major
publishing houses, but they didn’t speak to the young, black British
Black Ink created the first imprint specifically designed to give
voice to young black writers in the UK. It was a bridge between the
mainstream literary scene and a new, vibrant, up-and-coming style that
encouraged those in the publishing industry to look beyond where they
Black Ink played a crucial role in launching a wave of young black
British writers of Caribbean and West African descent into the literary
Through its Black Writers Workshop, established in 1979, Black Ink
catered for an increasing volume of young writers nationwide such as
Benjamin Zephaniah, S I Martin and Desmond Johnson, by providing a
nurturing space for lively debates about being young, and carving out a
place in a society that was at times hostile about identity and writing.
First generation Caribbean writers such as C L R James, Edward Kamau
Braithwaite, and James Berry were keen visitors and participated as
Nowadays there are far more books by black British authors available,
but far less reading by young people in general. There has been a
decline in the number of black bookshops in the last decade, but
increased opportunity to self-publish and promote writings online and on
social media. This has meant that black authors are not so reliant on
the mainstream publishing houses to get published.