Margaret Busby is a publisher and editor who was the chair of the Booker Prize jury in 2020. She has spent a life time in the literary world and was the youngest person and first black woman to set up a publishing house when she was twenty three years old. Together with Clive Allison, she created Allison and Busby based in Soho, London. Margaret was born in Ghana in the 1940s and spent her childhood at a boarding school in the UK whilst her parents ran a medical practice in rural Ghana. She studied English at Bedford College, University of London before embarking on her career in publishing. Margaret’s love of poetry was the catalyst for setting up Allison and Busby. They were both totally new to publishing and did not know the usual industry rules. She and her business partner had fifteen thousand, five shilling poetry magazines printed without any means of distributing them . They went on to be an eclectic publishing house championing new work and also reprinting classic texts from writers of all backgrounds. In recent years, Margaret has made time to be a literary judge and has compiled two landmark anthologies Daughters of Africa and New Daughters of Africa which pull together writings by women of African descent from Ancient Egypt to the present day. DISC ONE: 7 Seconds by Youssou N’dour with Neneh Cherry DISC TWO: Haiti by David Rudder DISC THREE: Ave Maria – Gounod by Kathleen Battle (soprano) and Orchestra of St. Lukes, conducted by Leonard Slatkin DISC FOUR: Visions by Stevie Wonder DISC FIVE: My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone DISC SIX: Masanga by Jean Bosco Mwenda DISC SEVEN: Soweto Blues by Miriam Makeba DISC EIGHT: On The Sunny Side Of The Street by Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins And Sonny Stitt BOOK CHOICE: Return to My Native Land by Aimé Césaire LUXURY ITEM: An endless supply of Ghanaian chocolate CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Visions by Stevie Wonder Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Sarah Taylor
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Pvc sounds music. Radio broadcasts hell. I'm lauren event, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they want to take with them if they were castaway to a desert island for rights, reasons. The music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. my castaway. This is the publisher and editor Margaret busby, her too blazing korea began when she was just twenty three and keen to publish the kinds of, books that she and her young friends wanted to read. She cofounded Alison and busby the pub
king house that still bears her name and made history, as both the youngest person and first black woman, to set up her own press as well as spending twenty years it its home. She worked as a playwright, journalist and editor in ninety, Ninety two: she created the landmark anthology daughters of africa put together, writings by women of african dissent from ancient egypt onwards. Many of today's literally leading lights, cited as a major influence. So when she heard it had gone out of print twenty five years later, she decided to do it again. A new daughters of africa was published in twenty team, the authors. Eighty smith describes her as a cheerleader instigator and celebrated blackouts for the past fifty years, shouting about us from the rooftops, even back when few people care to listen. She means an ardent champion of great literature and spent looked and reading one hundred
sixty two novels as chair of the twenty twenty book apprise jury. She says it is done single you can do when you don't care who gets the credit. Margaret Busby welcomed ireland discs hunky. Very you, chair of last year's book apprised. which came up with one of the most varied short list in the prizes history for the six short listed books, by writers of black asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and the winning novel was douglas stewards. Sugar, bain about gay working class boy going up in Glasgow Pauline said by his own childhood? How was it pulling that shortly together? I think you have to give credit to people who chose the judges if you like, because there was a very diverse group of judges, you like diverse, in terms of the fact that it had people of different ages, people from different areas. Different backgrounds people who were readers, people who editors people, reviewers people write a sir. We all came together from different perspectives,
and we were all looking to agree on what we thought was the best book when it was wonderful to find that we all did agree on the long list of is an eventual winner judging during pandemic. How did that work so all online all on zoom? Presumably it was all on. Do we think we had an initial meeting before lockdown, but then we would all in the same room, then, because not all the judges livin in britain, but we just were doing our best hour after hour month after month, to undertaken liver verdict that we all agreed with them, we will a proud of night. I think we did that city number one. Then, if you wouldn't mind, tell us a little bit about your first choice today and why you ve chosen it all. The first choice from right is earned. His is seven seconds which is a song. Performed by you to endure and
the cherry and I've chosen it because I remember hearing it as a concept was part of africa. Ninety five, which is an initiative that happened over season in britain around the country and those who consider which use windows performing in. I was watching him in a group of friends. Everything just seemed right in this is a song that brings me back to members, but apart from that, the words are just so telling and so important in the law leaped like when a child is born into this world has no concept the tone the skin is living in a necessary that everything we know about prejudice and racial discrimination
is not borne with us. We learn that. Second, seconds. Usin do with many cherry, so Margaret buzz They were born in ghana in the nineteen forties. What memories do you have a few earliest days there? My father was a doctor in what we call the bush in the rural areas, but occasionally we came up to the capital occur, because here too by drugs and so on and in the bush we had
None of the conveniences of modern life. We didn't have running water that came out of the tap when you turn the tap. We didn't have electricity that you had when you put on a switch, we had paraffin, lamps to get light margaret, you mentioned that your father's, the doktor and preparing for today I find a lovely video clip online. You were there in wealth and stole in london, paying tribute to him doktor george busby and unveiling a blue plaque that was put in donor there for his work as a jp in the nineteen twenties. Tell me more about him and more about that story. In this connection to the area. Will move further was actually born in barbados and is for those taylor, and when my father was a few weeks old, the family moved a true that so my further grew up in china, that and his father took him when he was a young boy to show him the premier.
School in port of spain. The capital which is cool, queensland collision sits my father. If you want to go to the school and get a proper education yet to be bright and win scholarships. So that's what my father did. He won a scholarship to queens rule college where he made lifelong friends, including see a larger suicide. Historian became a well known historian, but my father then one what was called the island scholarship, which meant that he could go and study in Britain which, he did in nineteen nineteen. He left true that he came to brittany studied festival universe. Even then, he went to Dublin any quantified, the doktor from dublin, and he then went to practice as a doctor in war from stone in london
working in this area, and he was there for ten years or so. He was there until nineteen twenty nine, because this was way before the national health service. So he told me that there was a barter system so that the what show used to pay him in pork, chops he's past, must have been very unusual at the time. What did he tell you about his experiences? While he was training and in the early days of his career, he wasn't one had spotlight focus on himself, but I remember bits and pieces. Let presumably tell me when he was in dublin, a nickname he was given, was burnt cook, which I guess was a reference to his skin color. That that was no no big deal and he went to go Though the girl case- as it was then at a time when there was a handful of other doctors lawyers and professional people from the west indies, who will, as far as part of that pan african movement, who became like extended families with if they were
my extended family, if you like its tanks, imo music margarets, tell me about your next disk. Well, I'd like to take the disk which, to me me a bit of that true that in heritage, as well as the connection that my father had with seal our james that led to my publishing seal our james, because sealer james router and iconic, a really important book called the black jacobean, which is about the the haitian revolution and the palestinian cool david rudder, who wrote a very perceptive circa chewing called haiti. I'm sorry, which was dealing with the legacy of what happened after the asian revolution and the sufferings it. Haiti is still subject to up to the present day nine member, I, my Just let it go member listening to this, some with
allow james, and he made a point of saying, listen to the first two lines. To sir was a mighty men and to make matters worse, he was black, is talking about to sell ouverture Who was behind the haitian revolution? one Haiti, David router, so Margaret busby
rescue about your mother, then Sarah she also worked in healthcare light. Your father at she'd, have gone to train is a midwife in edinburgh and nineteen thirties before returning home. That seems like quite an adventure thing to do back, then she must have been a very dynamic person. My mother in the thirties came to Britain, she came to london. She asked you train that queen marries hospital, the six children, cash and sorry. And she also trained as a midwife in scotland, and you remember her telling me about the fact that sir she had to go and deliver and little villages with never seen a black people before and she was called blackie nurse. She then went back to Ghana and she was a nursing sister, it actually motor school. My mother was a practical person. My mother was
This new made sure that she found somehow the money to make sure her children, school fees were paid, even if it meant that she any had dress that she warned the day watched at night more the next day. She wanted to know how to play the piano. In fact she bosses hanno. My earliest schooldays were spent trying to and the piano. In fact, I want a certificate of Hastings music festival, see your parents were together in the rural areas surrounding sue men gonna tell me a little bit more about their practice. He said no more cons, how busy, whether they were busy further went on trick as they put it too. villages, where there were no medical facilities. My father had to dispense remains a home in that somewhat. Various members, as is my sister, was helping in the dispensary wrapping appointment and bits of paper or sticking labels on bottles
there were lots of practical things had to be done, though. No easy, solutions, it's time for you said this to day margaret. What are we gonna hear next, and why will I spoke about my mother wanting us to learn to play there? and I remember, learning a buck prelude in sea, which is something on which The issue of maria was base, and so whenever I hear that I can hear my mother's voice in my head, seeing alone My mother had a wonderful voice, but she never use it professionally because she is doing her medical work.
ave maria baikonur sung by kathleen battle with the orchestra of Saint luke's conducted by lenin sat. Can Margaret busby your parents than sent you and your brother and sister to boarding schools in the uk? you and your sister, I lean, which together you went to chart, is tat, was boarding school for girls in beck's hill and see what we are first impressions of the place. You were very Well, I think, when you arrive at my mother had trouble finding school would take us saying that she would speak to the head mistresses eleven. They say: well, we don't mind, but it's the parents of the other girls who might mind, but eventually chartist how's school indexing on
He took us in the head. Mistress was an extraordinary woman called adding bulgaria who is really progressive and it was international school and the deputy head. Mistress was was cool markets diets and I remember meeting garriga she was called had mistress on her hundred birthday. Just a few years ago, she died when should into an jerry said. Will, although you were so young, I think I was eight and you'll younger We would normally have allowed people to be to take alone, but because you margaret and your sisters Eileen, and I was I do you know it's not a deputy was Mogi with their people to take them their fate hurriedly.
I was the youngest of the school and those holding my own, and I did find my old school report recently in it talked about him august, not doing badly sort of thing, but she's a be untied. The dormitory. So what's changed nothing much so I was at chartist tears with some. Wonderful friends from all over the world with ireland as well. Item was always by my side, but we had others children around the world, so I learnt account in full. Seen in to swear in mandarin things. I've never try to never dared fire You must have missed home. You must have missed your parents. Obviously presumably is very helpful having your sister with you. But what do you remember bites the huge change? growing up into hummed at your parents, medical practice to suddenly being a boarding school impacts hell it must have been another world. I suppose it was another world
The thing is when you a school child, you you don't have anything compared with the that's the schooling you had and we had fun. We had ends, but I realized much later than the one who was actually having. what time was my mother makes. I phoned letters from her and she would always send lots of wonderful letters with new gonna stamps on first they covers keeping in touch with his none reading letters from her. That said how Who are you now and so I suddenly realized very late said she was the one having a hard time she had been the told her children were, or at Margaret, let's take a break for some music. This is this number wives, doesnt seedy wonders visions that I could really have chosen aches tracks by stevie, because tv has been an important figure in my life in my sister's life in life,
my family. My friends EU assembly. I first met, I suppose all my sister first met in nineteen seventeen, because we were both doing freelance work for them. See african service and he remained in touch supportive in london my sister died last year Stevie. Since the message to Andre saying I didn't here this and it was the vigour of him singing visions which she set to us
just allow before she died. Then, where is my stevie contact and visions tabula you further education? I knew he studied english. It bedford college, which was part of the university of london, would have a european group margaret
How can we not on your course, for example, issues london in the very early sixties, with many other black students, along with you, I can remember, is hopeful in my year bedford reading, english. I will see any black woman is women's college. It also could be a barrier to finding rental accommodation, and things like that. Did you ever have to manage those kinds of situations in some way to rent simply not to rent funding. Some went to live with a problem. I remember I stayed in all sorts of different places when, as university eyes, I stayed in the private hotel and I remember then I couldn't afford to have a sandwich as well as take the bus to my lectures. So I had to choose either all I'm no time. I stayed with an actress who headed
a room for warm and another occasion, I had nowhere to stay, and so I went up to cambridge and I climbed over the wall and stayed with my they'll say it was all an era of people not wanting to accommodate black people, and that was happening at the same time as us trying to get through my course and get a degree. That was the arrow were you in you to it or you angry bite? It hurt by it, I think, all was in those situations you have to choose which battles you fight. I could have fought a battle every day all day, but I will focus on what I was doing. I was associated with people We believe there is anything wrong with people hacks. It wasn't something that I had to deal with on a daily intimate basis and what I was doing was more important than worrying about what people thought about me
margaret. It's time for your next piece of music. What are we gonna hear and and wisely chosen it today? The mixture had letter here. is needed. Moon, seeing my baby just cares for me. This takes me back to a lot of the record raised a play when I was in those free university. He is about hit? The real work is sticking to party, with my sister My friend jan and needed simone with one of those people that sweet plates time time again on our lp he's in? I just continued loving the song and it still something I love and I am happy to dance to its still. So let's hear businessmen thank my baby. Just casually mammy shoe baby
man baby ma am embrace me, kid can simply means. Is nice and even lana smile some of them Maybe you can
nina simone, and my baby just cares for me now, Margaret mostly, I cannot let you take neatness mon to the island without telling us about getting to know her cause. I've seen photographic evidence of the two of you hanging hint, we'll both ensure that to think for carnival accompanying what year, Listen became back to london on the same plane because she had to do some television into. You and we had a meal to together with agent and other people, and she was also seeing it money scots and I heard her singing at money- scots jazz club. She was at that time. I think, trying to get her was by wealthy bitten and she won't help. people in different ways it was in in that area, and we basically kept in touch margaret busby with co, founder of the publisher, Alison and busby in nineteen sixty seven, just twenty three, the youngest person, to found that
and publishing house and the uk first black female, publish it too. How do the business actually get started owes than those we started: the meeting of five allison and local busby. Before we were graduates and my friend makes none. The sun was about to marry a friend of his and they were having a policy to celebrate this, and we were talking about what we were doing in our respective universities. Writing perch publishing per tree eddying cornish maggie. means ends. The question was: what do you do when you graduate? I thought I might into publishing. I thought I met in publishing. Let's start a publishing house, and so we met up after graduating and we decided to start by publishing per tree, which we were both interested in the end. We find a way to get these
types it cheap, clearly legit typewriter week. We produce them, so they were five shillings each. I think they will find Bobby each. You didn't know how many copies to print reprinted, five thousand composition. We had fifty thousand provide hope, perch books. Could we wanted to make purchases books cheap enough for young people like us to afford? We had no way of distributing them the port from stopping people in the street or knocking on doors until we actually eventually got some help from hundred deutsche a publisher who helped to distributed books where we started from the point of knowing nothing about the industry, omnia copies you printed what you did with them when you'd printed them things didn't other conventions, renewables, and so we break the rules. We could just do we believed in and we went on from them and you have authors. Will you believe- and I was working closely with lots of different authors- whether there were people like some re, the first right republished or
Hu Jia machete. Another right who I worked closely with all noise heath, garnish might as well as writers, who were not black, Michael, more cargan with it was a really eclectic. First, when I saw that sealer James, my father's friend, who I knew was an important mighta was not in print mostly in britain, we start in re publishing, sealer James. We started with three volumes of selected writings. We published black Jacobin his his famous book, which has had gone out of print. That was a sort of thing It was made it worthwhile. We could do things because we believed in other people will not doing because they, I didn't know all they had different perspectives on the walls. He s in that fact to this reputation for being adventurous and unconventional. I mean like many list as our group reading the fantastically successful worst, which serious by jill matthew, o jill. There arose a wonderful book, the first we started the worst
and then she went on to publish the west tricks, strikes again and other books of them, people who came to us because they knew over mavericks. If you like model, you talk about the books all day, but we ve got to make room for the music to so it's ten theo sixth choice today tell us about this one. Why you take me with you less anger by john bull come when companies guitarists in this was actually given to me as a seventy eights. As a wedding present in the sixties- and I was mesmerized bite is just so I never tire of hearing it. I delighted to find another recording of the tune by John Williams. The qatar recently became a finn because I published his father match couple of books by John Williams, while the lehne williams, but Mustanger, is a brilliant guitar performance if you like, and I recommend it anybody wants, is just listen.
wonderful, music, noddy, not wind Andy? I wish I d be in day Andy. I, mombi baboon don't let me tell you, lay back again in new lamby weighing s. Yo Moscow lender and miss anger, Margaret busby part of your very significant contribution to the wishing world has been to monumental anthology S. Daughters of africa came out in nineteen due to a new daughters of africa, followed in twenty nineteen in the introduction to the latter. You ask us to feast on its banquet of words, and there really is so much to enjoy eight hundred pages embracing offers everywhere from anti
guess. It sounds above and from the present day, back to west african poetry of the seventeen hunter and the writing of abolitionist sarah parker remnant. How did you set about deciding what to include the first volume, those of africa that that was in fact was easier, because I just one my book shelves in my books, hidden pause of newspapers and magazines and books and selective what I wanted, and that was how it happened, It's just amazing how many wonderful writers haven't had enough attention haven't had but, like shown on them not to say that those who have not worthy of this body, tens writers who are well known as well. This will not well, then, so you may have all the right, as you already know, who have effing descent. What are you talking about? german, the ladys were two names you ve heard of but there are so many other writers who deserve attention like a donut.
for you to morrow old people I left out or who didn't get back to me in time or who have just learnt about. It's time to hear your next disk margaret number, seven already what's next There are so many wonderful, so by moving a cable that I've listened to over the decades her former husband, hugh motorcade route, soweto blues. me. I'm a cable thy will certainly there in the early days of nelson mandela being president- and this is something reminds me both of how far we ve come as well as of all the contributions that women have made to music and to the arts, including literature,
santa Yes, really We in the cable and wetter please margaret busby been a pioneer in your field. You ve been involved in a number of initiatives, looking aunt the diversity of the publishing industry, both in whose published, but also who is working within the industry. Have you seen of change during their lifetime there's so much changed needs to be done still, of course, the husband change and I think it's important, but you get.
different. People choosing the stories because you get different people consuming the stores as well is not that I only read books by black women. I read books by all sorts of people and its not that people who writes only write about themselves. I think you have to just looking in terms of. Why would she only spanish if you can also be chocolate, and they both goodwill in completely different ways, Margaret almost time to cast you away how good eu with solitude. I wonder I do we'd on my own. I can then don't turn my head, but I love that the people. I miss my friends, I'm a missile the people. I haven't seen you since look man began. I will certainly miss not being able to have a little dogs when my partner luke now
being able to phone up friends not be able to do all social things that make life worth living well more chine before you go then margaret. This is your final choice today. What is it just to reflect something about my love of jazz envelope? Don't I'm a trustee of of a wonderful organization which is now that he is Oh this year called tomorrow's warriors, which is a charity which tries to give musical education opportunities to young people who would otherwise have that opportunity so that feed of connecting the job. It is to me something joyous I'd like to capture that in track? Was I often listen to from an album cool sunnyside up which features performances? did it gillespie, so evil ends and sunniest it in on this cited the sheet.
on the sunny side of the street, performed by dizzy, gillespie, sunny romans and sunny state and a track that you like to cut a rug too in your daily life. My will. I was dutch into that just the other day, with more potent lucan we miss friday night known, is that we used to go to in local get together, but now we have to people, parties and missis. Track for that. Well, it'll be a solo party on the island, but definitely good one to have with you. So my group was beats time.
a cast you away, I'm gonna give you three books, the bible and the complete works of shakespeare. Of course, you can also have a book of your choosing. What, when it be, what I mean I have is an actual copy of a book that my father was given by sea. Allow James, in fact, is inscribed for george from narrow, witches, sealer's nickname and it's a copy of return to my native land by aiming says there. There are various wonderful bits: let's see their wrote in that one of which formed the basis of a volume of
liquid writings, masilo james, is thy public schools at the rendezvous victory, and that is from saying that says no race hold the monopoly of beauty of intelligence of strength and is a place for all at the rendezvous victory so that to me just hook that we're all gonna get together and have a good time in the end. it's yours to take with you. Of course, you can also have a luxury item, something to make your time on the islands more enjoyable. What would you like a like an endless supply of chocolate, not just any chocolate maiden gonna chocolate? Ok, why gone in chocolate in particular, as those who have to touch I'll take or is it is chocolate in the world's ok just checking and endless supply Yours would deny that, finally, Perhaps this is the most difficult which of these discs, which you save above the others, if you're forced to cheese- seedy wonders visions, because that reminds me of so many good times
use as well as at times. I think of the fact that my sister died the day before George floyd died and steady centre. This track Margaret busby thanks very much for letting us here, your desk island discs? Thank you, my pleasure I really hope you enjoy that interview with the publisher and editor Margaret busby with too many publishes to the desert island, including com, Malcolm little kay web unfit to glance you can find their episodes in a desert island discs programme archive untrue, BBC sand. Next time. I guessed will be the fashion designer pull costello. I do hope, you'll join us.
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Transcript generated on 2022-06-05.