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Summary

In The Lamplighter award-winning poet and Scottish Makar Jackie Kay takes us on a journey into the dark heart of Britain’s legacy in the slave trade.

First produced as a play, in audio, it translates as a profound and tragic multi-layered poem. We watch as four women and one man tell the story of their lives through slavery, from the fort, to the slave ship, through the middle passage, following life on the plantations, charting the growth of the British city and the industrial revolution. Constance has witnessed the sale of her own child; Mary has been beaten to an inch of her life; Black Harriot has been forced to sell her body; and our lead, the Lamplighter, was sold twice into slavery from the ports in Bristol. Their different voices sing together in a rousing chorus that speaks to the experiences of all those brutalised by slavery, and lifts in the end to a soaring and powerful conclusion. 

Stirring, impassioned and deeply affecting, The Lamplighter remains as essential today as the day it was first performed. This is an essential work by one of our most beloved writers.

©2020 Jackie Kay (P)2020 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

Critic reviews

"Ambitious, defiant, angry and gripping...the bitter story of slavery through the experience of four women." (Guardian)

"Jackie Kay’s work, formally expansive and inclusive...is always about the opening up of our notions of identity." (Ali Smith, author of How to Be Both)

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