New Suns: A Feminist Literary Festival goes online


The Barbican Centre’s annual literary festival New Suns returns for a weekend of talks, workshops and a film centred around feminist storytelling.

The weekend will feature acclaimed writers, activists, artists, and academics including Adrienne Maree Brown, Season Butler and Dorothea Lasky. This third edition of the festival, running from Friday 5 – Sunday 7 March 2021, will take place entirely online for the first time. New Suns is a co-production between the Barbican and independent publisher and curator Sarah Shin.

This year’s New Suns will look to the legacy of eminent science-fiction author Octavia Butler, to explore the power we have to both sustain and change the world around us, and how to commune with others. In particular, New Suns will reflect on Butler’s prophetic, unfinished Earthseed series, which imagines Earth in the 2020s ravaged by ecological disaster and violent divisions.

The young Black protagonist Lauren Olamina not only survives a journey through a treacherous version of the American West after being forced to leave her home, but also seeds hope with her writing, and builds a new community that she believes one day will travel to the stars.

The festival will navigate the books’ central themes, such as the inevitability of change, community-building, examinations of race and gender, and humanity’s relationship to the cosmos.

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The New Suns merchandise package. Artwork and feature image by Cecilia Serafini.

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There are two ways for audiences to join this year’s festival: a standard offer with access to the weekend’s live online programme (£15), and a ‘New Suns Plus’ ticket which includes a limited-edition anthology and a merchandise package in the post, plus the workshop on science fiction writing with Season Butler (£25). There will also be a concession ticket of £5/ £15 for Young Barbican members. The festival is available to UK based audiences and all tickets are available to book via the Barbican’s website.

The New Suns anthology booklet includes an extract from Octavia Butler’s book The Parable of the Sower; poetry by Dorothea Lasky and Daisy Lafarge; guides for self-reflection and meditation; as well as herbal recipes for strength and healing to enjoy this spring and beyond. The anthology is accompanied by thyme seeds and instructions how to use the herb beyond the culinary.

Sarah Shin, New Suns Founder and Co-producer, said: “Taking inspiration from Octavia Butler’s Earthseed belief system and community, this year’s New Suns festival and accompanying anthology may be considered like seed: to sow ideas and practices to cultivate adaptation, resilience and hope to create inhabitable futures.”

Razia Jordan, Producer, Barbican, said: “We’re super excited to celebrate the third year of New Suns. As always, the festival aims to be a space for the exchange of ideas on new types of community and societies, and a platform for the creators and feminists who help us to envision these new worlds.

“Given the current circumstances, we’ve transformed New Suns into an online festival, and, for the first time, have been able to commission a special anthology which people can enjoy at home. New Suns is a key part of the Barbican’s Level G programme, an experimental platform for projects that ask crucial social and cultural questions, spark conversations and bring people from different disciplines together.”

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