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“At school I could count in Farsi, swear in Mandarin and sing in Spanish. I was very conscious of being different. I got used to being thought of as one of the little African girls. I was never me.”

A writer, editor, and Britain’s first black female publisher

Photo courtesy of Margaret Busby
Photo courtesy of Margaret Busby

Margaret Busby in conversation with Burt Caesar

The indefatigable Ghanaian-born publisher, editor and writer, Margaret Busby CBE, was honoured earlier this year with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Busby has been a star in the literary firmament ever since she co-founded the publishing company, Allison and Busby more than fifty years ago. She talks to the director Burt Caesar about breaching colour bars, smashing glass ceilings, championing black writers, and artistic and bohemian life in 1960s Soho. Watch the InSight video below for the full interview.

Biography

Margaret Busby CBE, Hon. FRSL (Nana Akua Ackon) is a major cultural figure in Britain and around the world.  

She was born in Ghana and educated in the UK, graduating from London University. She became Britain’s youngest and first black woman publisher when she co-founded Allison & Busby in the late 1960s and published notable authors including Buchi Emecheta, Nuruddin Farah, Rosa Guy, C. L. R. James, Michael Moorcock and Jill Murphy.

A writer, editor, broadcaster and literary critic, she has also written drama for BBC radio and the stage. Her radio abridgements and dramatisations encompass work by Henry Louis Gates, Timothy Mo, Walter Mosley, Jean Rhys, Sam Selvon and Wole Soyinka.

Busby has interviewed high-profile writers (among them Toni Morrison and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o), judged prestigious literary prizes, including the Booker Prize, and served on the boards of such organisations as the Royal Literary Fund, Wasafiri magazine, Tomorrow’s Warriors, and the Africa Centre in London.

A long-time campaigner for diversity in publishing, she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and recipient of several honorary doctorates and awards, including the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award, the Royal Society of Literature’s Benson Medal, the Royal African Society’s inaugural Africa Writes Lifetime Achievement Award and the London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award.

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