Jackie Kay

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Jackie Kay
Jackie Kay3.JPG
Jackie Kay, 2013
Born (1961-11-09) 9 November 1961 (age 55)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Alma mater University of Stirling
Occupation Professor of creative writing at Newcastle University
Known for Poet and novelist

Jackie Kay MBE (born 9 November 1961) is a Scottish poet and novelist.[1]


Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father. She was adopted as a baby by a white Scottish couple, Helen and John Kay, and grew up in Bishopbriggs, a suburb of Glasgow, in a 1950s-built housing estate in a small Wimpey house, which her adoptive parents had bought new in 1957. They adopted Kay in 1961 having already adopted Jackie's brother, Maxwell, about two years earlier. Jackie and Maxwell also have siblings who were brought up by their biological parents. Her adoptive father worked for the Communist Party full-time and stood for Member of Parliament,[2] and her adoptive mother was the Scottish secretary of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In August 2007, Jackie Kay was the subject of the fourth episode of the BBC Radio 4 series The House I Grew Up In, in which she talked about her childhood.[1]

Initially harbouring ambitions to be an actress, she decided to concentrate on writing after Alasdair Gray, a Scottish artist and writer, read her poetry and told her that writing was what she should be doing. She studied English at the University of Stirling and her first book of poetry, the partially autobiographical The Adoption Papers, was published in 1991 and won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book Award. This is a multiply voiced collection of poetry that deals with identity, race, nationality, gender, and sexuality from the perspectives of three women: an adopted biracial child, her adoptive mother, and her biological mother. Her other awards include the 1994 Somerset Maugham Award for Other Lovers, and the Guardian First Book Award Fiction Prize for Trumpet, based on the life of American jazz musician Billy Tipton, born Dorothy Tipton, who lived as a man for the last fifty years of his life.[citation needed]

Kay writes extensively for stage (in 1988 her play Twice Over was the first by a Black writer to be produced by Gay Sweatshop Theatre Group),[3] screen and for children. Her drama The Lamplighter is an exploration of the Atlantic slave trade. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in March 2007[4] and published in poem form in 2008.[5]

In 2010 she published Red Dust Road, an account of her search for her natural parents. Her biological parents met when her father was a student at Aberdeen University and her mother was a nurse.

Jackie Kay was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on 17 June 2006. She is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University,[6] and Cultural Fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University. Kay lives in Manchester. She took part in the Bush Theatre's 2011 project Sixty-Six Books, with a piece based upon a book of the King James Bible.[7] In October 2014, it was announced that she had been appointed as the Chancellor of the University of Salford, and that she would be the University ‘Writer in Residence’ from 1 January 2015.[8]

Awards and honours

External video
Jackie Kay, vimeo format[9]

Selected works

Some other poetry used in GCSE Edexcel Syllabus

  • Brendon Gallacher
  • Lucozade
  • Yellow

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "The House I Grew Up In, featuring Jackie Kay". The House I Grew Up In. 27 August 2007. BBC Radio 4. 
  2. Jackie Kay, "My old man: a voyage around our fathers", The Observer, 15 June 2008.
  3. "Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company", Unfinished Histories – Recording the History of Alternative Theatre.
  4. "BBC Radio 3". Bbc.co.uk. 25 March 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  5. Bloodaxe Books, 2008; ISBN 978-1-85224-804-8
  6. "Prof. Jackie Kay: Professor of Creative Writing". Newcastle University. 
  7. "Jackie Kay – Hadassah in response to Esther", Sixty-Six Books, Bush Theatre.
  8. "Appointment of new Chancellor", University of Salford, Greater Manchester, 17 October 2014.
  9. 9 April 2013, Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, Georgetown University.
  10. "Jackie Kay". British Council Literature. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 

External links