Inspiring Older Readers
Beverley Naidoo @ Newman University, 6th March 2017
Beverley Naidoo's guest lecture ended up being a long time in the planning but I'm delighted to be able to report that good things come to those prepared to wait. The students and staff of Newman University were treated to an often emotional and always entertaining 60 minutes in which the children's novelist and political activist reflected on her background and her writing.
Speaking to students studying the iniquities of the Apartheid regime of racial segregation in South Africa, Beverley, herself an exile from that political system, was able to speak at first hand about the way the Black citizens of that country found themselves dehumanised and oppressed by their white Government. But it wasn't all about the negatives because she is by nature an activist who believes change can come through education, creativity and storytelling that has the power to help heal a traumatised community.
It is clear that the idealism of the post-Apartheid regime led by Nelson Mandela has not been fully realised and it was good to hear Beverley acknowledging this - her work with schools back in South Africa has still been characterised by obvious examples of segregation and discrimination from a generation still scarred by the system.
It's always a treat to hear writers reading their own work and Beverley clearly takes a real delight in entertaining her audience. The readings she did brought the room to life as the students hung on her words and It made me wonder whether it wouldn't be a good idea just to book her to come along and read to us all for an hour.
She clearly takes her relationship with the audience seriously and she was extraordinarily generous with her time when it came to the post-talk book signing session. It was great to see her swapping anecdotes with almost everyone who wanted a book signed and she personally dedicated and annotated each copy.
The feedback on the session from those who were there has been wholly positive and many of the students found Beverley's personal perspective made the subject live in a way academic lectures simply can't.
Ultimately there is one message that that comes through loud and clear from this event: please come back again soon Beverley, you'll always be welcome here.
( photograph by Brian Homer)