Dr Nikita Lalwani, Department of English recently chaired the second annual Liberty Lecture in London, and is a trustee of the organisation and a 'writer at liberty'. We recently caught up with Nikita to learn more about the Liberty Lecture and to discover more about other projects she is currently working on.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role within the Department of English?
I’m a Senior Lecturer on the MA in Creative Department. I teach the fiction workshop and currently am involved in organising the summer schedule – visiting writers, editors and agents so that students are exposed to the industry.
2. We understand that you have recently been appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL). Could you tell us a bit more about this society and its importance?
The RSL is a fascinating society because it is author-led and author run and at its heart, is about building a dialogue with the reading public, via events, discussions and outreach work.
3. We also understand that you have recently signed a contract for a new book. Are you able to share any details about the upcoming project?
Yes – my new novel ‘You People’ is due out with Viking UK at the start of 2020. Here is the synopsis:
‘You People’ is a novel about the hierarchies and extremities of contemporary living. Set in a pizzeria in West London in the opening years of the 21st century, against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war and its outpouring of refugees to Britain, it navigates the big questions at a time of bewildering flux. What price do we put on life, on freedom and the right to love in an age defined by seismic political change?
4. You recently chaired the second annual Liberty Lecture in London, could you tell us a bit about this lecture and what Liberty is?
Liberty is a UK human rights organisation dedicated to safeguarding our civil liberties. They are made up of a dedicated team of campaigners, lawyers and policy experts, and I am a trustee of the organisation as well as a ‘Writer at Liberty’- one of a database of 80 writers who have offered their time and skills in the service of Liberty when needed. I set up the lecture with the help from our Department of English, and Liberty is an annual event for a writer of note to give their thoughts on a current topic in the area of human rights. This year we had Kamila Shamsie, last year it was Ali Smith.
5. Are you currently working on any other research or projects?
I’m working on a collection of linked short stories, called ‘Two for One’. The title story, which is due to be published in an anthology for Comma Press called ‘Protest’ is about the London Riots and was written in communication with Dr Roger Ball, and his research analysing the London Riots.
6. Do you have any hobbies outside of work?
Books, film, chat, travel, occasionally am a terrible but enthusiastic DJ.
7. What do you enjoy most about working at Royal Holloway and within the Department of English?
I like the culture of the staff – there is a sense that your creative work and research is important – and a curiosity about each other’s projects that is healthy and exciting. My experience of the department generally has been that it is collaborative – let’s find a way to make things good here – that kind of thing - and it makes you feel valued as a member in that deep sense, rather than in the more corporate use of the word. I like the building where we teach the MA in Bedford Square, not just the history and the view, but the staff on the desk and who look after the logistics place. It’s very friendly and that helps a lot!