BFDay21 Festival: Speaking Truth to Power: Diane Abbott and Elif Shafak in Conversation, Sat 16 Oct 2021, 6-7.30pm

BFDay21 Festival: Speaking Truth to Power: Diane Abbott and Elif Shafak in Conversation, Sat 16 Oct 2021, 6-7.30pm

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Speaking Truth to Power: Diane Abbott and Elif Shafak in Conversation

Saturday 16 October 2021, 6-7.30pm
St Peter De Beauvoir Town, Northchurch Terrace, Hackney, London N1 4DA

Part of BFDay21, Burley Fisher's celebration of indie lit, 15-16 Oct 2021. You can an early bird weekend pass for £30 (to 5 July)/£40 (to 30 Aug) which includes this event. 


“Knowledge requires reading. Books. In-depth analyses. Investigative journalism. Then there is wisdom, which connects the mind and the heart, activates emotional intelligence, expands empathy. For that we need stories and storytelling.”
— Elif Shafak, How to Stay Sane in An Age of Division

Addressing their activist histories, the persuasive and emancipatory potential of reading and writing, the defence of freedom of expression, and the challenge of ‘how to stay sane in an age of division’ (to quote the title of Shafak’s recent, urgent pamphlet), Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, and Elif Shafak, author of the Booker-shortlisted 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World will bring their unique perspectives to this conversation, as formidable writers and orators, progressive public intellectuals and women of colour breaking boundaries in the public sphere.

Your purchase confirmation email will act as your ticket: just bring along the email, your name and/or your booking reference on the day.

Ten free tickets for low waged/no waged audience members are available. Email us at webshop[at] to reserve your place.

The event will be audio recorded and released as a podcast.

Our Speakers

Diane Abbott MP

In 1987 Diane Abbott made history by becoming the first black woman ever elected to the British Parliament. She has since built a distinguished career as a parliamentarian, broadcaster and commentator. Diane’s memoir A Woman Like Me will be published by Viking in Summer 2022, to mark the 35th anniversary of her election to Parliament.

Born in London in 1953, Diane attended the Harrow County grammar school and went on to Newnham College Cambridge where she obtained a Masters degree in history. Upon leaving Cambridge, she joined Government as a Home Office Civil Servant. She went on to work for the lobby group the National Council for Civil Liberties, before moving into journalism, working for TV-AM and Thames Television. In 2008 Diane was awarded the Spectator / Threadneedle Speech of the Year Award and a Human Rights Award from Liberty. In 2015, she was re-elected to her Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency with a landslide majority and, in September 2015, was appointed Shadow Secretary for International Development. Diane became Shadow Secretary for Health in June 2016 before serving as the first black female Shadow Home Secretary until earlier this year. 

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into 50 languages. Her latest novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; and chosen Blackwell's Book of the Year. Her previous novel, The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC among 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. Her crucial pamphlet How to Stay Sane in the Age of Division was written during the early stages of lockdown, . Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne's College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow.

She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women's rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice TED Global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people "who will give you a much needed lift of the heart". Shafak has judged numerous literary prizes, and chaired the Wellcome Prize and is presently judging the Orwell Prize.

Elif Shafak appears courtesy of Serpent's Tail.