Ali Smith (2013)

Ali Smith’s passion for language, endless enquiry and sense of humour made her the perfect choice to give the inaugural Norwich UNESCO City of Literature Lecture. Her lecture featured a call to draw Harriet Martineau’s face onto £5 notes in protest at the decision to remove Elizabeth Fry from the same note.

Kate Mosse (2014)

‘For when all else is done, only words remain. Words endure’ – Kate Mosse

Join celebrated novelist Kate Mosse OBE, writer of the best-selling Languedoc Trilogy, to celebrate the life and legacy of Harriet Martineau – Norwich’s 19th-century radical thinker and writer, and the world’s first female journalist. Mosse is the perfect writer to follow Ali Smith in this second annual Martineau lecture, where she will draw from her own extraordinary experience to reflect on Martineau’s legacy and life.

Masha Gessen (2015)

The third Martineau Lecture, given by celebrated journalist, author and activist Masha Gessen, explored freedom of speech and investigative journalism. Masha Gessen is world-renowned for her outspoken opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was at one stage ‘probably the only publicly out gay person in the whole of Russia’.

Linton Kwesi Johnson (2016)

In 2016 we welcomed our first male speaker – the world’s number one Dub Poet, internationally bestselling reggae artist, and former Black Panther Linton Kwesi Johnson. Linton considered a relatively underexplored dimension to Martineau’s writings: her progressive campaigning on behalf of Black emancipation. He analysed Martineau’s works, Society in America and The Hour and The Man, considering parallels with CLR James’ classic of Marxist historiography The Black Jacobins; as well as looking back on his own relationships with James and other progressive intellectuals of the late twentieth century and charting how far the struggle for Black equality has reached today.


Lydia Cacho and Anabel Hernández (2017)

Two of Mexico’s finest journalists, Lydia Cacho and Anabel Hernández, used the 2017 Lecture to describe their international campaign to lay bare the shocking corruption and violence of the government through writing. Their work has resulted in the persecution of their families, attacks on their homes and a persistent threat to their lives; in fact, almost one hundred Mexican journalists have been murdered for trying to speak the same truth to power.

Cacho and Hernández’s determination to change the world’s view of Mexico and heal the country’s many sorrows draws strong parallels with Harriet Martineau, who wrote openly against discrimination, slavery and corruption in Britain and the US.

Read: NCW Young Ambassador Emma Seager, from Attleborough Academy, reviews ‘The Harriet Martineau Lecture: Speaking Truth to Power’ at Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2017

Read: NCW Young Ambassador Billy White, from Norwich School, reviews ‘The Harriet Martineau Lecture: Speaking Truth to Power’ at Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2017

Sarah Perry (2019)

Author of The Essex Serpent and Melmoth, Sarah Perry, delivered the 2019 Harriet Martineau Lecture at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival. Sarah explores the notion of the ‘Essex girl’, invoking unexpected moments from history and popular culture.

Supported by The Martineau Society.

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Read a transcript of the lecture here