With over 180 speakers from 30 countries, this year’s UWRF lineup is a literary treasure trove of discoveries. Each week in the lead up to the Festival, we’ll speak to a writer whose work you may not have encountered yet, but who could well turn out to be your Festival favorite. This week we hear from London-based journalist and bestselling author Shrabani Basu, whose Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant has been made into a major film starring Judi Dench.
What issues and ideas are you hoping to explore during your UWRF18 sessions?
I hope to explore the role of women in history, the role of Indians in the First and Second World War, the legacy of Empire, Queen Victoria and India, finding hidden histories, and the writing of biographies.
Who do you hope will be in the audience?
People interested in women’s history. I hope that young people attend these talks, as it is important for the next generation to be aware of history.
What’s the most extraordinary place your career has taken you?
To the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, where I read Queen Victoria’s letters and journals. Also, walking the red carpet with Dame Judi Dench, Ali Fazal and Stephen Frears for the premiere of Victoria & Abdul in London, Venice and Toronto.
What’s the best piece of creative advice you’ve received, and what’s the best you can give?
When I was writing Victoria & Abdul, I was told: “We want to touch and feel those journals with you. Write in a way that transports the reader to your world. We want to travel with you, to hear how you felt when you held a one hundred year old document in your hand and were the first to look at it.”
My creative advice would be: Look for the small details. They are what bring a story to life.
Which of your works do you recommend readers begin with?
Spy Princess, The Life of Noor Inayat Khan, followed by Victoria & Abdul.
What are you most looking forward to at UWRF18?
Meeting writers and creative people from around the world, sharing their experiences and hearing their stories. And, of course, tasting the local cuisine and hopefully learning a few new recipes.
Shrabani Basu is part of the Main Program panels Biographical Boundaries on Day 2, Ladies to the Front on Day 3, and Shrabani Basu: Victoria & Abdul on Day 4. She’s also presenting the Workshop: Hidden Histories. To purchase your 1-Day or 4-Day Pass, click the button below.