Paterson Joseph wins £10k RSL Christopher Bland Prize

Moving novel about 18th-century black Briton Charles Ignatius Sancho by actor Paterson Joseph has been awarded the Royal Society of Literature’s prestigious Christopher Bland prize.

Awarded to a debut writer who has published their first book over the age of 50, it comes with a £10,000 cash award.

Charles Ignatius Sancho, an acclaimed writer and composer, was born on a slave ship crossing the Atlantic in 1729, where both his parents died; arrived in London, where he suffered hardship and danger; found love; met the king; and became the first black person to vote in Britain.

The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho, a novel written in the form of a memoir, writes The Guardian, revives the intricacies of Sancho’s journey and of Georgian London where he lived. 

Joseph, who has been enthralled by Sancho’s story for almost 25 years, the outlet adds, said he was on a mission to rescue a great man from historical oblivion.

The actor said the first thing that made Sancho interesting to him was the Thomas Gainsborough portrait of him.

“The image is of a black man dressed like a high-class gentleman of the 18th century. Who was he? How could he? The incongruity of him made me want to know more. And then I discovered his story, which is extraordinary. He’s somebody you have to know about”.

Joseph, who has starred in shows including Vigil, Noughts + Crosses and Peep Show, originally wrote the story as a one-man stage show that he performed in 2018. He said it was “ridiculous and a bit criminal” that stories such as this were not more widely known.


Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up-to-date