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Samantha, Book Love (South Drawood exhibition)

  • Year Invented: 2018

Samantha of Book Love previously had a long career in television, mainly working with independent film companies. She felt conflicted in trying to do the right thing and telling her own truth but following the demands of her job. She said that one day she decided “F**k this. I can’t tell your stories anymore, I have to tell mine”.

Samantha first remembers experiencing racism at nine years old. She wanted to be an angel in her school nativity play, and the nuns that ran the school said no as she did not look like how angels were meant to. Her mother was from Barbados, and she also has Welsh blood in her and says that as a woman of dual heritage and multiple backgrounds, she is passionate about promoting inclusion both for herself and others. 

As a mother of three, she was starting to sense her children were becoming aware of their own racial identity and she didn’t want them to have the same experience as she did growing up and not feeling like she fit in. In September 2016, Samantha wrote a letter for every parent in her children’s school, with the schools’ full support, inviting them to participate in Black History Month, ran an exhibition with each class about black history and authors came in to sell books. Samantha later took the books to sell at the school playground and realised she was not alone in wanting to spread the message of black and brown brilliance. Originally, she only had self-published books but then wrote to the larger publishers to say they didn’t have enough representation of black or brown children. She notes that a statistic released in 2017 showed only 1% of children’s books featured a black child.

She found her business boomed with the dominance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the media in the spring of 2020. She had to move her business online due to COVID, but then found that she couldn’t keep up with the orders that she received. Her house became a warehouse with a gazebo in the garden to be able to sore the books. People in the community came to help her fulfil the orders and she notes how important community is to her. She is passionate about catering to the community and loves to diversity of South Norwood. She says there are a lot of black and brown families in the area and notes that, unfortunately, the area isn’t as integrated as it could be. With Book Love, she helps to fill that gap by spreading the words of black and brown authors. 

Samantha does note that South Norwood is very lucky to have the green spaces and community hubs such as Stanley Arts. However, she wants to see more people to fill the spaces. Fewer invisible landlords and invisible shops, and more people coming to create the community which South Norwood so clearly deserves. 

Elizabeth Walters

Interview with Samantha, Founder of Book Love, February 2022

Book Love

Available at weare@thisisbooklove.com

 

This project was part of the South Drawood exhibition in 2022 by artist Jonny Kemp. A community art project celebrating the people of South Norwood, SE25.

From autumn of 2021 to summer 2022, Jonny drew 40 portraits of independent business owners, volunteers, and other movers and shakers from South Norwood, his local area. His partner Lizzie interviewed them.

South Norwood is regenerating yet doesn’t want to gentrify: it wants to keep its character and support people who already live in the area to prosper. This was Jonny and Lizzie’s way of ‘giving South Norwood a hug’: by representing the diverse people of SE25 through portraits in fine liner pen, and their own stories.

The portraits were displayed in Stanley Arts, a beautiful Edwardian arts venue on South Norwood Hill. Over 150 people attended the opening night: Friday 29th July 2022.

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