Edson Burton



I completed my doctoral thesis in 2005 but choose to pursue a portfolio career in order to ensure that I was able to write. I am simply most alive when writing. It is not just the process but also the reflection involved – problem solving, devising editing work – that I find most stimulating. Writing also allows me to explore the emotional landscape behind the historical narratives that I continue to research.

When I first began writing I described myself as a poet but it was through a case of opportunity and eventual conviction that I could more accurately describe myself as a writer. I had resumed writing seriously when I moved to Bristol in 1994 and joined Bristol Black Writers. I was working on my first anthology, Seasoned, when I had the opportunity to write drama for radio and for theatre. I have written across mediums ever since. My drama spans in-theatre, site-specific, large, medium, ensemble, two handers, writing for children, teenagers and adults. My radio work includes stories, essays and single drama although my last three dramas have now been packaged as a trilogy.

The opportunities for my writing continue to expand. I was one of five writers who created the libretto for Migrations — a critically received new work by the Welsh National Opera. I am currently working on a libretto for newly NPO-funded opera company Pegasus, and on a feature film treatment supported by the BFI.

Becoming a member of WritersMosaic has brought my work to a wider audience. Hitherto, my work has largely been known within the Southwest. Furthermore WritersMosaic has provided a platform and stimulus for my essay and article writing. Hugely inspired by James Baldwin, I previously lacked a space to express my interest in the essay form — a medium which unites my academic and creative impulses.

My work is informed by the diversity of voices that are part of my navigation of class, ethnic, and geographic communities. Incorporating these voices recognizes how they shaped my identity. In my formative years I had to make sense of a literary landscape that stretched from Keats to Chuck D. Now, as a writer, I try to reflect the actual richness and diversity of Black experience that I have encountered. In so doing I have eschewed notions of an essentialised Blackness. My work tries to challenge such narratives and to insist upon nuance and human dignity. I have for this reason become particularly drawn to Afro-futurism. The movement offers scope for visionary re-imagining. Economy, lyricism, voice and clarity are principles that I try to apply in my drama writing.

I am a largely self-taught writer or, rather, have learnt on the job. I have however recently begun teaching a creative-writing module with a special focus on the short story as part of a literature course at Bristol University. This has both been stimulating and fed back into my practice.

Image credit: Claudio Alhers

Edson Burton



  • Reading Round Fellow