Henry Swanzy: The Selected Diaries - Ichabod 1948-58
"An unrivalled and often witty account of the Caribbean Voices and West African Voices programmes and the writing personalities involved in the crucial 1950s period." - DAVID DABYDEEN
Price
£19.99
Author(s)
Michael Niblett
Chris Campbell
Victoria Ellen Smith
Henry Swanzy
ISBN number
9781845235611
Pages
270
Price
£19.99
Classification
Memoir
Biography
Cultural Studies
Country setting
England
Pan Caribbean
Ghana
Publication date
20 Apr 2023

Henry Swanzy (1915-2004) has an unrivalled position as a midwife of Caribbean and West African writing in the 1950s period. As the editor of the BBC Caribbean Voices programme (initiated by Una Marson) between 1946 and 1954, he was there as the careers of George Lamming, Edgar Mittelholzer, Jan Carew, Andrew Salkey, Wilson Harris, Kamau Brathwaite, V.S. Naipaul, Sam Selvon and many others took off in London. He was pleased to receive work from women in the Caribbean such as Edwina Melville, Gloria Escoffery and Eula Redhead. As editor, Swanzy looked for work that was authentic to its Caribbean roots, in language, theme and social concern. As an Irishman, Swanzy had a sufficiently critical view of colonialism to be positively sympathetic to the nationalist thrust of the writing. He was well-respected by the writers to whom he offered both literary and personal support – and not least for his awareness of their pecuniary needs. Once Caribbean Voices was well established, it was left in the hands of Caribbean editors and Swanzy went to Ghana in 1954 to encourage and support writers and broadcasting there, launching the radio programme The Singing Net and being part of the writing careers of Cyprian Ekwensi, Efua Sutherland and many others. Thanks to the generosity of Swanzy’s heirs, his private and often amusingly indiscreet diaries of this period (known as “Ichabod”) have been made available and carefully edited and documented by the team of Niblett, Campbell and Smith. With an introduction that puts Swanzy and these radio programmes in context, this is both an essential, entertaining and highly readable book for anyone even remotely interested in the development of Caribbean and West African writing.

Not least of its value is the extensive appendix where Niblett et al. have documented all the writers mentioned in the diary. This, in itself, is a salutary reminder of the wealth of writing talent in both the Caribbean and Ghana that flowered in this period but then, in the absence of other opportunities, disappeared from view.

Read the introduction made at the launch at the Bocas Litfest on Sunday 30th April. by Jeremy Poynting

Variations

Michael Niblett

Michael Niblett is Associate Professor in modern world literature, and teaches on the English and Comparative Literary Studies programme at the University of Warwick.
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Chris Campbell

Chris Campbell is a Lecturer in Global Literatures at the University of Exeter and his research focusses on the intersections of world literature, postcolonial theory and environmental criticism. He is particularly interested in Caribbean literature and culture, world-ecology and postcolonial ecocriticism, and histories of broadcast culture and empire. From a broader perspective his research interests include: world literature as literature of the modern world-system; literary and cultural theory; the environmental humanities, debates in modernity and modernism; colonial/postcolonial Cyprus; and west country writing.
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Victoria Ellen Smith

Victoria Ellen Smith is Visiting Senior Research Associate to the Centre for Black Humanities, University of Bristol, and Founding Curator of the Adu Boahen Memorial Library and Archive, University of Ghana. Her research interests in cultural history include 20th century Ghanaian literature and literary networks, the history of radio in Ghana, oral traditions and their literature, West African state building, British imperialism in Africa, and Fante history.
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Henry Swanzy

Henry Swanzy (14 June 1915 – 19 March 2004) was an Anglo-Irish radio producer in Britain's BBC General Overseas Service who is best known for his role in promoting West Indian literature particularly through the programme Caribbean Voices, where in 1946 he took over from Una Marson, the programme's first producer. Swanzy introduced unpublished writers and continued the magazine programme "with energy, critical insight and generosity". It is widely acknowledged that "his influence on the development of Caribbean literature has been tremendous".
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