People of Letters


20th Century (1960-1970)

In 1935 the first paperback was published in the UK by Penguin, making books more affordable to the wider public. But increased accessibility did not necessarily mirror a greater diversity of authors.

Race was becoming an issue in the public consciousness with the first ever recorded race riots in the UK occurring between January - August 1919 over a labour surplus between native and migrant workers. There was also the ongoing process of decolonisation, including the partition of India (1947), Ghana (1957) as the first African country to gain independence and the first Caribbean islands Jamaica (1962) and Trinidad and Tobago (1962).

The portraits in this gallery reflect the individual efforts of people trying to diversify the publishing world against a cultural establishment that remained white. In 1961 John La Rose arrived in Britain from Trinidad, setting up New Beacon Books in 1966. It was the first Caribbean specialist publishers and booksellers in the UK.

In 1976 Naseem Khan wrote a report for Arts Council England 'The Arts Britain Ignores' highlighting the rich cultural production in the UK’s ethnic communities and how the mainstream arts world ignored them.

Rock Against Racism was created in the same year, a series of public music events that united fans and musicians of all ethnicities. Across all art forms a similar message was being echoed: that diversity in Britain enriches our culture.