Royal Society of Literature Fellowship for Sally Bayley
6 July 2021
Congratulations to Sally Bayley, Lecturer in English for Visiting Students, who has today been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Sally’s fellowship recognises her work of “outstanding literary merit,” with new nominees elected by current fellows of the society. Her most recent book — No Boys PlayHere, which was published in January — tells of a teenage girl in search of her lost father and uncle through the characters and plots of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice and Henry IV. A vivid re-imagining of English myth and folklore from the point of view of a serving boy — Francis, a girl in disguise — who waits upon the king, Sally moves back and forth between family life and Shakespearean scenes, asking some hard questions about how it is some children grow up poor and what happens to make them so.
No Boys Play Here draws on Sally’s own experiences of childhood. Growing up, she was captivated by the sounds and rhythms of poetry ballads and folk songs and in 1990 she became the first child from West Sussex County Council Care Services to go to university. The book is the second part of a trilogy which started with Girl with Dove (William Collins, 2018) in which a young girl escapes into the world of books, adopting Miss Marple, Jane Eyre and David Copperfield as her guides through a series of real and literary adventures which form the mystery and muddle of her childhood.
She is so wonderfully skilled at capturing the way life is lived half in and half outside a young person’s head.
Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller
Sally is also the author of two non-fiction works — The Private Life of the Diary and Home on the Horizon: America’s Search for Space, from Emily Dickinson to Bob Dylan — as well as co-editor of two academic works on Sylvia Plath. She lives on a narrowboat on the River Thames in Oxford and swims in the river most days. As well as teaching Hertford’s visiting students, Sally devises imaginative creative writing and arts education workshops for a range of educational, social and literary organisations. She often collaborates with the Oxford Life-Writing Centre and offers workshops for the general public on structuring and devising forms of creative and critical narrative.
Alongside the announcement of new fellowships today, the RSL has also launched Literature Matters: Reading Together which will see their fellows matched with Year 8 and 9 classes in some of the UK’s most deprived areas. One of writers taking part is Hertford’s Honorary Fellow Paul Muldoon. In the videos below, you can hear Sally Bayley talking about what literature means to her and discover Paul Muldoon’s favourite book.