The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho

Paterson Joseph performs from and discusses his glittering new novel, bringing to life an extraordinary figure from Black British history

During Black History Month, The London Library is delighted to welcome one of Britain’s best loved actors and writers, Paterson Joseph, whose captivating new historical novel brings to life an extraordinary real figure from Black British history, Charles Ignatius Sancho.


Performing from the novel and then in conversation with Dr Deirdre Osborne, co-founder of the MA Black British Literature, Goldsmiths University of London, Joseph reveals a larger-than-life character, integral to British history, whose story, hidden for almost 300 years, it is high time to tell.’

Born on a slave ship, sometime in the 1720s, and orphaned soon after, Sancho went on to meet the King, write and play highly acclaimed music, have his portrait painted by Gainsborough, lead the fight to end slavery and, as the owner of a Mayfair grocery shop (just minutes away from The London Library), he became the first Black person to vote in Britain.

An absolutely thrilling, throat-catching wonder of a historical novel. I read with alternating fascination, dread, hilarity, admiration, sorrow and triumph for a full life rendered with such animation, brilliance and understanding.’ – Stephen Fry

Paterson Joseph’s on-screen credits including VigilLaw and Order UKNoughts and CrossesPeep Show and Green Wing and theatre including A Christmas Carol (Old Vic), King Lear (RSC); and Elmina’s KitchenSt Joan and Emperor Jones (National Theatre). His monodrama Sancho – An Act of Remembrance, toured to transatlantic acclaim, and he recently co-wrote and starred in Severus, a rollicking drama about Roman Britain’s African Emperor, for BBC Radio Four. The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho is his debut novel.

Dr Deirdre Osborne Hon. FRSL, FRSA, is a Reader in English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths University of London. Her research spans late-Victorian literature to contemporary periods. She edited the Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010) and is Associate Editor of Women’s Writing. Her latest book is This is the Canon: Decolonise Your Bookshelf in Fifty Books with Joan Anim-Addo and Kadija Sesay and she is part of the editorial team for the Race Today Commemorative Special Issue 2022.

In association with MA Black British Literature, Goldsmiths University London

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England

Date and time

  • Thu, 20 October 2022
  • 19:30 – 20:45 BST

The London Library
14 St. James’s Square
London SW1Y 4LG

Tickets: £0 – £14.44

Book Ticket Here

The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph is available to pre-order from our partner bookshop Hatchards.

N.B. This event will take place in person at The London Library in alignment with up-to-date government COVID recommendations. Please see our Event Access and COVID Guidelines before you arrive. Doors (and the bar) open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start. The event will be livestreamed through YouTube from 7.30pm and will be available to watch live or at any time after the event, using the same link.

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Organizer of The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho

The London Library, founded in 1841, is one of the world’s leading literary institutions. Its open access shelves hold more than one million books and periodicals in over 50 languages and the collection includes works from the 16th century to the latest publications. With its atmospheric labyrinth of bookstacks, hidden corners and beautiful working spaces, it is a unique literary oasis in the heart of London and a home for anyone who loves the written word.