Sylvia Vetta is best known in Oxfordshire for casting away 120 inspirational people on her mythical island of Oxtopia. The castaways included the Chancellors of both Oxford and Oxford Brookes Universities. Her three novels are informed by historical stories which have been lost or deliberately ignored. Her poem An Artist Observes was on a hoarding in the ROQ area for three years. She curated Poems in an Exhibition for the human rights charity Standing Voice.
Sylvia Vetta’s memoir Food of Love Cooking up a life across gender, class and race has received enthusiastic endorsements from Rana Mitter, Professor of History, University of Oxford, journalist, Yasmin Alibhai Brown, acclaimed poet, Sudeep Sen and more. She married Indian born, Atam Vetta, when that was regarded with hostility. Her story is one of a working class girl from Luton becoming middle class. She is a campaigner for libraries because her life would have been very different without access to Luton Central Library. She is on her fourth career after teaching, running a business, freelance writing and now as an author. Her story of women in business in Oxford, 1983-1998, is one of exclusion and casual misogyny. Food of Love tells how the intersection of gender, class and race shaped her life – and how she tried to transcend them. It is entwined with Atam’s often heartbreaking but in the end positive story.
In 2005, as a journalist Sylvia met Qu Leilei, a founder of the Stars Art Movement (Beijing 1979) . Her first acclaimed novel Brushstrokes in Time, set in China and the USA, celebrates those courageous artists (including Ai Weiwei). She wrote it after being awarded the Diploma in Creative Writing (Oxford)and interviewing Qu Leilei in depth over 3 years. It has been translated into German Pinselstriche (Drachenhaus Verlag) and made into an audiobook in New York.
Her life does not fit conveniently in any boxes. Sylvia has been involved in community and development projects for over 40 years and was given an ‘unsung hero’ award for her work in the community by Oxfordshire High Sherriff in 2018. She organised the Pied Piper Procession led by the illustrator, Korky Paul, which helped save 20 libraries from closure.