The Inspiration of Vita Sackville-West

Date: 1/6/24
Speakers:  Shahidha Bari, Olivia Laing, Juliet Nicolson, Charlie Porter, Shola von Reinhold 

Available to watch online from 1 June 2024. Tickets are FREE to all. 

Recorded at the London Library in 2023, this event will be available to watch online to mark the start of this year’s Dalloway Day season.

Vita Sackville-West was a poet, novelist, nature writer, gardener, Bloomsbury set staple, queer icon, trailblazer and London Library member. Famous for her exuberant aristocratic life, her marriage to Harold Nicolson, her passionate relationships with women and her gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent, she wove her own experiences, interests and the inspiration of friends, lovers and the world around her into her work, from her narrative poem, The Land, to her best-known novels The Edwardians and All Passion Spent. In turn, she was a great inspiration to others, most notably Virginia Woolf in the creation of her ground-breaking classic, Orlando

On the 95th anniversary of that very book, we teamed up with The London Library and Curtis Brown Heritage to gather together a glorious line up of contemporary writers who are also inspired by Vita Sackville-West. Olivia LaingJuliet NicolsonCharlie Porter and Shola von Reinhold join chair Shahidha Bari for discussion and a celebration of all that inspired Vita, all that she inspired and why her legacy still resonates today.


Olivia Laing is a writer and critic whose books include To the River, The Trip to Echo Spring, The Lonely City, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, a novel, Crudo, and, most recently, Everybody: A Book About Freedom. Her new book, The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise, an exploration of gardens and utopia, will be published in 2024.

Juliet Nicolson is a journalist, author and the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West. Her books include histories The Great Silence: 1918–1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War and The Perfect Summer: Dancing into Shadow in 1911, a novel, Abdication and A House Full of Daughters about seven generations of women in her extraordinary family. 

Charlie Porter is a writer, fashion critic and curator. He has written for The Financial Times, The Guardian, The New York Times, GQ, Luncheon, i-D and Fantastic Man and has been described as one of the most influential fashion journalists of his time. His books are What Artists Wear and, most recently, Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and the Philosophy of Fashion.

Shola von Reinhold is a Scottish writer whose debut novel LOTE is a queer literary exploration of aesthetics, beauty, the Bright Young Things of the 1920s and the obscurement of Black figures from history. Published by Jacaranda Books during the publisher’s #Twentyin2020 campaign, it won the Republic of Consciousness Prize and the James Tait Memorial Prize. 

Shahidha Bari is a critic, academic and broadcaster. She presents Inside Culture on BBC Two and Free Thinking on BBC Radio 3. Her writing has appeared in publications including Art Review, The Guardian and the TLS and she is the author of Dressed: A Philosophy of Clothes and Look Again: Fashion, part of a series exploring the Tate Britain collection. She is a Professor at LCF at University of the Arts London.

Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and by Fondation Jan Michalski

Dalloway Day is the RSL’s annual celebration of Mrs Dalloway and other writings by and inspired by Virginia Woolf. This year, marking 99 years since the initial publication of the iconic book that takes place over a Wednesday in mid-June. This year our events are taking place over a few days, check out the full programme of screenings, talks and a workshop here.

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