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Speaker biographies

Professor Alison Donnell is Head of School of Literature, Creative Writing and Drama at the University of East Anglia. She has published widely on Caribbean, diasporic and black British writings and has been involved in a number of collaborative projects and publications with academics based in at the University of the West Indies, most recently co-editing The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature (Routledge, 2011) with Michael A. Bucknor. She is the General Editor of Caribbean Literature in Transition, 1800-2015 [3 volumes] with Cambridge University Press (2020). 

Professor Donnell has been awarded a number of research grants and fellowships, including a visiting Hurst fellowship, Department of English, Washington University and the James M. Osborne Fellowship in English Literature and History, Yale Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. In 2013 she was awarded a fellowship by the AHRC to research literary representations of Caribbean queerness and she is currently beginning a 4-year Leverhulme Trust funded project on ‘Caribbean Literary Heritage: recovering the lost past and safeguarding the future’ with Professor Kei Miller'. 

Isaac Julien is a leading international film and video artist, producing work for cinema, television and art galleries. Julien’s work incorporates a range of artistic disciplines, drawing from and commenting on film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting and sculpture, uniting them in dramatic audio-visual film installations, photographic works, and documentary films. Julien first gained international attention in the 1980s for his provocative feature films, documentaries and experimental video works, which explored black and gay identities. His more recent multi-media installation works extend this inquiry into poetic yet politically charged meditations on representations of race and sexuality.

Julien was born in 1960 in London. He graduated from St. Martin's School of Art in 1984, where he studied painting and fine art film. He founded the Sankofa Film and Video Collective and was a founder member of Normal Films in 1999. He received the Semaine de la Critique Prize at Cannes Film Festival, and has received a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship Award; the Pratt and Whitney Canada Grand Prize; an Andy Warhol Foundation Award; Grand Jury Award, KunstFilmBiennale, Cologne, Germany; a Ford Foundation Award and the Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award.

His films have been screened at the Dakar Biennale, Senegal; Jeonju International Film Festival, Korea; Rotterdam Film Festival, The Netherlands; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and Tate Britain, London, among others.

Caryl Phillips was born in St.Kitts and came to Britain at the age of four months. He grew up in Leeds and studied English Literature at Oxford University. He began writing for the theatre and his plays include Strange Fruit (1980), Where There is Darkness(1982) and The Shelter (1983). He won the BBC Giles Cooper Award for Best Radio Play of the year with The Wasted Years (1984). He has written many dramas and documentaries for radio and television, including, in 1996, the three-hour film of his own novel The Final Passage. He wrote the screenplay for the film Playing Away (1986) and his screenplay for the Merchant Ivory adaptation of V.S.Naipaul's The Mystic Masseur (2001) won the Silver Ombu for best screenplay at the Mar Del Plata film festival in Argentina.

Phillips was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 1992 and was on the 1993 Granta list of Best of Young British Writers. His literary awards include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a British Council Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and Britain's oldest literary award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, for Crossing the River which was also shortlisted for the 1993 Booker Prize. A Distant Shore was longlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize, and won the 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize; Dancing in the Dark won the 2006 PEN/Open Book Award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of the Arts, and recipient of the 2013 Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Award for Excellence.

Caryl Phillips (Photo: Georgia Popplewell)