Bernardine Evaristo profiled on BBC One's Imagine

Bernardine Evaristo profiled on BBC One's Imagine


British-Nigerian writer Bernardine Evaristo won the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel, Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2019). She was awarded the prize jointly with Margaret Atwood.  Evaristo became the first black woman to win the Booker since it began in 1969 and the first black British author.

The news came exactly a decade after the republication by Bloodaxe of Bernardine Evaristo's debut verse novel Lara (1997, 2009). This powerful semi-autobiographical novel-in-verse based on Bernardine Evaristo’s own childhood and family history.  The eponymous Lara is a mixed-race girl raised during the 60s and 70s in Woolwich, then a white suburb of London. In 2019 Bernardine became the inaugural Woolwich Laureate, appointed by the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, serving what is now a multicultural community.

Since winning the Booker Prize, Bernardine Evaristo has made countless appearances on TV, radio and in the press, including as a guest on BBC One's Question Time. She was Lauren Laverne's guest on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in September 2020, and was profiled on Sky Arts' The South Bank Show on 29 November 2020 and on BBC One's imagine on 2 September 2021.


An extract from Bernardine Evaristo's memoir Manifesto: On Never Giving Up (Penguin, October 2021) was featured in the new Saturday magazine in The Guardian of 25 September 2021. In this section she reflects on how her creativity 'could be traced back to my early years, cultural background and the influences that have shaped my life. Not least, my heritage and childhood.'  The feature includes a photo of Bernardine holding the first edition of Lara.    Read the extract here.

Manifesto was BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week from 18 to 22 October 2021.  Listen here.  Narrated by Bernardine Evaristo.



The Verb: Bernardine Evaristo, BBC Radio 3, Friday 12 November 2021, 10pm

Bernardine Evaristo has been interviewed for a special edition of Radio 3’s The Verb. She was in conversation with host Ian McMillan about drafting, redrafting, full stops, time and memory.

Bernardine spoke at length about her debut novel Lara, which was described by Ian McMillan as ‘her semi-autobiographical novel in tight stanzas of exploratory and expository verse.’  She read two pages from the opening of chapter 3, set in Ireland, ending with:

‘I believe in words. I read them, remember them,
load them into my mouth – and fire.’

‘Ian McMillan meets Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo to explore her poetry, her essays and her fiction - to find out about her writing process and how it has evolved, her sources of inspiration and her influences.’

Lara is featured in the intro and from 9:01.  Listen here.  

The programme was a pick of the day in the Radio Times.



imagine... Bernardine Evaristo: Never Give Up, BBC One, Thursday 2 September 2021, 10.35pm, repeated on BBC Two, 23 September 2021.

A documentary on poet and writer Bernardine Evaristo was broadcast on BBC One's Imagine on 2 September ahead of publication of her new book Manifesto: On Never Giving Up (Penguin, October 2021)She was in conversation with Alan Yentob about her life and extraordinary career. 

A substantial part of the programme was devoted to Bernardine’s family history, the subject of her debut novel in verse Lara , which Alan Yentob described as ‘a lyrical exploration of her complex family history’ and commended for its ‘vivid originality’. The book was discussed in detail from 22:04.  Bernardine read a passage from page 22 of Lara – from ‘a clarion call bugled / the tropics’ to the end of the page - one written in the voice of Lara's father Taiwo.

‘And through writing Lara she also developed a unique approach to telling her stories, using an experimental, free-flowing narrative poetry to create a novel in verse.’ – Alan Yentob

With archive footage, and contributions from Dawn French as well as two of Bernardine’s siblings and her husband.

‘Alan Yentob explores the remarkable life and work of the trailblazing Anglo-Nigerian author Bernardine Evaristo, whose Booker Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other has become a global phenomenon in recent years. With great wit and wisdom, Evaristo lays bare her unique approach to creativity across the decades as her latest book, an inspirational non-fiction work called Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, is published.’

The programme will remain on BBC iPlayer until 2 September 2022.  Lara is discussed from 22:04. 

Watch here.


Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, Sunday 20 September 2020, 11 am

Bernardine Evaristo was Lauren Laverne’s guest on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on 20 September.  She spoke about her career as an actor, activist, academic and writer, and of course was asked about her historic Booker Prize win.  She also talked about what it was like growing up in a mixed race family in Woolwich, and about how exploring her family history in Nigeria and Ireland for her debut novel Lara had helped her to reconcile herself with her identity.

'Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker Prize in 2019 for her novel, Girl, Woman, Other. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London.,,,Her first poetry collection was published in 1994, followed by a semi-autobiographical verse novel called Lara three years later. More books followed, experimenting with form and narrative perspective, often merging the past with the present, prose with poetry, the factual with the speculative, and reality with alternate realities. Girl, Woman, Other is her eighth book.’

Bernardine spoke about her verse novel Lara, a fictionalised version of her family history, from 17:48.

Listen here



Amanpour and Company, PBS, Monday 9 December 2019

Seventeen-minute television interview with joint Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo on Amanpour and Company, a new one-hour late-night public affairs series on PBS featuring wide-ranging, in-depth conversations with global thought leaders and cultural influencers on the issues and trends impacting the world each day.

'This year, Bernardine Evaristo became the first black woman – and Britain’s first black author ever – to win the prestigious Booker Prize. She won it jointly with Margaret Atwood, almost forty years since beginning her career as a writer seeking to elevate unheard voices and narratives. She joins Christiane in London to discuss what her win means to her.'

The full interview can be seen via CNN here.


The Irish Times, Saturday 23 November 2019

Interview with joint Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo in the Irish Times of 23 November.  Her backlist titles, including Lara, are discussed, as well as her Booker-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other

‘After a collection of poems (Island of Abraham), her first novel Lara (1997) was written in verse, and took in her family heritage in England, Nigeria, Ireland, Germany and Brazil.’

Read the interview here.

The Financial Times, Saturday 19 October 2019

Interview with Bernardine Evaristo in the Financial Times. Included a bibliography panel featuring her second publication Lara:  ‘1997 Lara (ARP; expanded and revised version published by Bloodaxe in 2009). Evaristo’s first verse novel is based on her family history, taking in seven generations and travelling between England, Nigeria, Ireland, Germany and Brazil.’

‘Evaristo was born in London in 1959, the fourth of eight children to a British mother and Nigerian father and grew up in the capital. She published her first book, Lara, in 1997 and is the author of eight works of fiction and verse fiction that play with form and style.’ - Frederick Studemann, Financial Times

Click here to read.


Profile: Bernardine Evaristo, BBC Radio 4, Saturday 19 October 2019, 7pm, repeated Sunday 20 October at 5.45am and 5.40pm

Bernardine Evaristo was the subject of Radio 4’s Profile on 19 October.  Her husband, mother and sister Cathy were all interviewed for this 15-minute profile. The Complete Works and her semi-autobiographical first novel Lara were discussed from 8:15.

‘Bernardine Evaristo is the first black British woman to win the Booker Prize. Her novel Girl, Woman, Other shared the 2019 award with Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. Mark Coles has been finding out about Evaristo's life as an activist, actor and writer.’

Click here to listen.  Lara was discussed from 8:15.



The Guardian, Saturday 19 October 2019

An article by Bernardine Evaristo in The Guardian of 19 October is here.  As part of this wide-ranging piece, Bernardine mentions The Complete Works mentoring scheme which she founded.  Three anthologies including work of those 30 mentored poets have been published by Bloodaxe in the Ten series, the first of which was co-edited by Bernardine.

‘Many of us have campaigned to improve access to publishing and the arts industry for people of colour for decades, and we are finally seeing the results. I founded The Complete Works poetry mentoring scheme (2007–17), which selected 30 poets to be mentored by many of Britain’s leading poets in order to redress the fact that less than 1% of poetry books published in the UK were by poets of colour. Now that proportion stands at 16% and the mentored poets are winning many top poetry and literature awards.’ – Bernardine Evaristo, The Guardian

[24 September 2020]

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