Books for Independent Thinkers

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Jackie Kay's The Lamplighter takes us on a journey through the dark heart of slavery. It is both a radio and stage play and a multi-layered epic poem. This edition includes the much acclaimed BBC radio play on two CDs (pouched inside the back cover).

Four women and one man tell the story of the fort, the slave ship, the middle passage, the life on the plantations, the growth of the British city and the industrial revolution. The Lamplighter focuses on parts of history other books rarely touch upon, revealing the devastating human cost of slavery for individual people.

Constance has had to witness the sale of her own child; Mary has been beaten to an inch of her life; black Harriot has had to become a high class whore; the Lamplighter was sold twice into slavery from the ports in Bristol. All four very different voices tell their story, along with Macbean, the zeitgeist.

"The Lamplighter was epic. Huge, sprawling, ambitious, defiant, angry and gripping, Jackie Kay's dramatised poem told the bitter story of slavery through the experience of four women. It began, and pointedly ended, with the voice of an 11-year-old girl, snatched from her home to be sold after a long sea voyage to Britain: 'I am a girl, I am in the dark, I don't know how long I have been kept in the dark.' This was dramatically towering stuff, full of rousing prayer and sad song, and choruses sung in helplessness and revolt, as Kay's women defied cruelty, death and silence. The superb Mona Hammond played Mary, a woman who defended herself from rape and was then punished with torture and death: left out to die for three days, she says, 'to break the spirit of anyone whose spirit might need breaking'. This highly charged production, full of true stories that have been left unheard too long, had quite the opposite effect. Its circular structure ended brimful of hope, with Mary merrily cackling to herself, 'I survived them all.'"
Elisabeth Mahoney, The Guardian

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