2020 Booker Prize Judge (Chair)
Margaret Busby is an independent editor, writer, broadcaster and critic.
Born in Ghana and educated in the UK, she became the first Black female publisher - and, at the time, the youngest publisher - in Britain when she co-founded Allison and Busby in 1967. Two years later she made history by publishing Sam Greenlee’s much-rejected novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, which became required reading at the FBI Academy and is thought to have inspired the Blaxploitation genre in American cinema. Busby has contributed to many publications – including the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman and TLS.
She has judged numerous literary prizes, including the Caine Prize, Commonwealth Book Prize, Orange Award for New Writers and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. A long-time cultural activist, Busby has worked continuously for diversity within the publishing industry and has been awarded the Royal Society of Literature’s prestigious Benson Medal and the Royal African Society’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. She was appointed OBE for services to literature and publishing in 2006.
Margaret Busby was given the 2021 LBF Lifetime Achievement Award to mark her contribution to publishing.
The former Booker Prize judge was selected from a shortlist of international publishing figures, and recognised as ‘an individual who has made a truly significant mark in the sphere of global publishing’.
Busby was presented with her award on September 23 by Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo, at a ceremony at the Hurlingham Club in London.
Presenting the award, Evaristo said Busby ‘remains one of the nicest people on the literary scene’.
In her acceptance speech Busby paid tribute to those ‘who challenged the status quo’, and concluded with a quote from an interview she did with Toni Morrison in 1987: ‘It’s not patronage, not affirmative action we’re talking about here, we’re talking about the life of a country’s literature.’
On announcing Busby would be receiving the award, David Roche, non-executive chairman of The London Book Fair, said: “The scope of Margaret Busby’s contribution across publishing is vast – as a young co-founder of Allison & Busby and as a successful editor, writer, playwright, much in demand judge, and tireless cultural activist. Through her work she has unstintingly promoted international authors, and the Daughters of Africa anthologies have promoted the writing of hundreds of women of African descent. No-one has done more to promote diversity in publishing than her and we are delighted to award the 2021 LBF Lifetime Achievement Award to Margaret Busby.”