Joanna Brown, Highly Commended for the Life Writing Prize 2020


Joanna Brown was highly commended in the Life Writing Prize 2020 with Birds can be heard singing through open windows. She wins £500, a writing mentor, and development meetings with an agent and editor. Raised as an only child, losing her parents young further fuelled obsessive reading and diary writing. A qualified teacher, Joanna facilitates creative writing workshops. Recent work includes the development of the literary education programme Africa Writes: Young Voices, linking poets with London school students to explore writing from Africa and the diaspora. She is now immersing herself fully in her own writing practice, unearthing her personal family histories to honour and celebrate unsung Black lives in Britain. 

Life Writing Prize judge Sathnam Sanghera said: “I found this story incredibly moving – I had to put it down on two occasions to cry. A timely reminder of the heroism that permeates ordinary life and the important role literature can play in highlighting it.” 

Spread the Word’s Laura Kenwright interviewed Joanna during lockdown in May 2020, which you can see here. Joanna reads a short, brilliant extract from her highly commended piece.

Michelle Wood provides BSL Interpretation, and the video is also subtitled.

Published 3 June 2020