Throughout 2020, as part of our bicentenary celebrations, we have curated a special series of conversations: On The Same Page brings together RSL Fellows who would not normally share a stage, to discuss the role of the writer in uncertain political times. These writers were all due to share a stage at various UK literature festivals, so we have collaborated with BBC Radio 3’s ‘Free Thinking’ to adapt them for broadcast, and these episodes will also be available on the BBC Arts and Ideas podcast.
As part of Bradford Literature Festival‘s programme of world-renowned speakers, BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking presenter Shahidha Bari hosted a conversation with Tahmima Anam and Ian Rankin, both elected as Fellows in 2016. They discuss nostalgia for their ambitions as young writers, their differing and similar approaches to writing cities (Dakar for Tahmina; for Ian, Edinburgh) and about the awkwardness of writing sex scenes. They also share the impact lockdown has had on their reading habits, and Ian shares an anecdote about his encounter with the late RSL Fellow Muriel Spark.
Tahmima Anam is Bangladesh-born British anthropologist and a novelist. Her debut novel, A Golden Age, was winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, and was a judge for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. Ian Rankin is a Scottish novelist, and has received an OBE for services to literature. His Rebus series has been translated into 22 languages.
Elected by their writer peers, each new RSL Fellow signs the Society’s historic Roll Book, bearing signatures from 1825 to 2019. On The Same Page brings together writers who signed the same page of the book, to reflect on their own experiences and explore literature in Britain today.
Special thanks to BBC producer Robyn Read and presenter Shahidha Bari.