Phillis Wheatley’s Poems at 250 – Talk and Exhibition Launch 

Thursday 26 October

Join Award-winning playwright Adeola Solanke for an introduction to Phillis Wheatley, one of the first published Black creative writers in English.

 

2023 marks the 250th anniversary of the publication of Phillis Wheatley’s book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. These poems by a prodigiously talented writer, barely out of her teens, are also the first book of imaginative literature in English to be published by a person of African heritage. It is a landmark in English and African American literature.

To celebrate the anniversary of Wheatley’s book, the University of St Andrews has mounted a display of the copy of the book it has held in its Library since 1773. Adeola Solanke’s play Phillis in London reimagines Wheatley’s time in the capital as her book was being printed. Adeola’s talk will offer insights into Wheatley’s imaginative life and her experience as a Black woman in Georgian London.

We hope you will join us in celebrating Wheatley’s epoch-making book!

Adeola Solanke is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, and founder of Spora Stories, telling the stories of the African diaspora. Her plays include her acclaimed debut, Pandora’s Box, which won a Best New Play nomination in London’s Off-West End Theatre Awards, and was shortlisted for the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature, Africa’s biggest literary award. It also won Best Play in the Nigerian Entertainment Awards and the Afro-Hollywood Awards and toured across the UK. Her play, The Court Must Have a Queen, about Henry V111’s relationship with Tudor African trumpeter, John Blanke, was performed in the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace.

A double Fulbrighter, she was a 22/23 Fulbright All Disciplines Distinguished Scholar at Emerson College, and was formerly a Fulbright Fellow, Phi Beta Kappa International Scholar, and Association of American University Women Scholar at USC, where she earned an MFA from the School of Cinematic Arts. In LA, she was twice an Academy Nicholls Screenwriting Fellowship semi-finalist and a story analyst for New Line and Sundance. She also worked in the story department at Disney.

She has a BA Hons in English Literature from the University of Sheffield, winning its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016. She’s written for the BBC, The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, Art Monthly, The Voice, West Africa Magazine and others. A Hawthornden Fellow, she was also a founding Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, and its first British Film Institute Writer in Residence. Ade has run playwriting programmes at the Royal Court, Soho and Arcola theatres in London, and taught screenwriting at the University of London, and in Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe. She was a judge for the South African Writers Guild Awards and the UK’s Royal African Society Baobab film Award.  She lectures in dramatic writing internationally.

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