People of Letters


20th Century (1980-1990)

1980 marked the beginning of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership and the transition through to Blair’s Britain at the end of the millennium. During her time in office, Thatcher introduced stricter immigration policies particularly concerning entry to the country. However, a cultural surge of popularity in the 80s for music like punk, reggae and bhangra reflected the younger generation’s interest in a diversified British subculture.

In the publishing world, more attention was being paid to writers of colour due to the efforts of people like those included in this gallery. Initiatives like Greater Access to Publishing set up in the 1980s and co-founded by Margaret Busby, campaigned to diversify the industry. John La Rose, featured in the previous gallery, was one of the founders of The International Bookfair of Radical Black and Third World Books which ran from 1982 to 1995, the first ever opening address given by C.L.R. James. At the end of the decade Hanif Kureishi won the Whitbread Award for his first book The Buddha of Suburbia (1990). The novel aptly encapsulated this period for many people of colour in Britain who felt simultaneously at home and unwanted.