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Sathnam Sanghera: Empireland

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Sathnam Sanghera joins Desiree Reynolds for a discussion about his new book, Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain. The British Empire ran for centuries and covered vast swathes of the world. It is, as Sanghera reveals, fundamental to understanding Britain.

However, even among those who celebrate the empire there seems to be a desire not to look at it too closely – not to include the subject in our school history books, not to emphasise it too much in our favourite museums.

At a time of great division, when we are arguing about what it means to be British, Sanghera’s book urges us to address this bewildering contradiction. For it is only by stepping back and seeing where we really come from that we can begin to understand who we are, and what unites us.

Sathnam Sanghera was born to Punjabi parents in the West Midlands in 1976. He entered the education system unable to speak English but, after attending Wolverhampton Grammar School, graduated from Christ’s College, Cambridge with a first-class degree in English Language and Literature.

Before becoming a writer he worked at a burger chain, a hospital laundry, a market research firm, a sewing factory and a literacy project in New York. Between 1998 and 2006 he was at The Financial Times, where he worked variously as a news reporter in the UK and the US, specialised in writing about the media industries, worked across the paper as Chief Feature Writer, and wrote an award-winning weekly business column.

Sathnam joined The Times as a columnist and feature writer in 2007 and is a regular contributor on national radio and TV, having appeared on programmes including Have I Got News For You and BBC Front Row Late, and presented a range of documentaries, including The Massacre That Shook The Empire on Channel 4, which was shortlisted for best Factual TV show at the 2019 Asian Media Awards.

Sathnam Sanghera is author of Empireland: How Modern Britain is Shaped by its Imperial Past, memoir The Boy With The Topknot: Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton, and novel Marriage Material.

Désirée Reynolds, (she/her) a South Londoner up North, was brought up in Clapham, London to Jamaican parents and now lives in Sheffield. She started her writing career as a freelance journalist for the Jamaica Gleaner and the Village Voice. She has gone on to write film scripts, poetry, flash fiction and short stories.

Her first novel, Seduce, was published in 2013 by Peepal Tree Press to much acclaim. Her fiction is concerned with working class Black women, internal landscapes and a continuous struggle against the white, male gaze, notions of beauty, race and being. Committed to anti racism and intersectionality, she draws on her experiences of these to make her creative work. Her short stories have been widely published in various publications and online.

She has been on numerous panels, radio and given talks about literature, film, race and gender and continues to work as a writer, editor, journalist, broadcaster and creative writing facilitator.

Part of our 2021 festival strand

Progressing Social Justice

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