Surge – Jay Bernard

In 1981, a fire broke out at a house in New Cross. Thirteen young black people died and the political events that followed would have a dramatic effect on our understanding of what it means to be Black and British.

Inspired by that story, Surge is a poetic exploration of what came after – the resistance, activism and changing notions of the state, the body and the city, narrated by the ghosts of the fire. Rooted in the area’s local history, this is a show that imaginatively blends the personal and the political, tracing a line from Thatcherism, the colour bar and the National Front to our current age of Brexit, Grenfell and Theresa May.

For three nights at the Albany Theatre in Deptford, south east London, just down the road from New Cross, Jay Bernard performed this hour-long piece of poetic theatre, exploring the important history using poetry, archive film and audio.

Jay started off this process in 2016 as poet-in-residence at the George Padmore Institute, researching the New Cross Massacre through the archives of writer and activist John La Rose. Out of the residency came a small publication, Beacon of Hope, which represented a new generation’s creative response to the fire, encapsulating the essence and sensitivity of the massacre and its horror.

Jay reads from A Beacon of Hope in 2016

Athe the 2017 Last Word Festival at the Roundhouse, Speaking Volumes worked with Jay to produce an hour-long performance entitled Surge Side A, using the poems written for the GPI residency merged with new video work they made to accompany them as Jay found parallels with today’s society in London and beyond. This performance was awarded 2017 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.

At the same time as Jay worked on this most recent iteration of the performance of Surge, Penguin published a full collection of poetry with the same title, which was released on the opening night at the Albany.

Thanks for this show go to:

Blackcurrent Group Ltd – a multidisciplinary creative studio specialising in creative direction, media production, strategy and campaign development.

B.O.S.S. – Blackobsidian Soundsystem, QTIPOC led sound system based in London.

The George Padmore Institute – an archive, educational resource and research centre housing materials relating to the black community of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Britain and continental Europe.

Professor Maggi Morehouse, Coastal Carolina University –Burroughs Distinguished Professor of History and Culture.

Rex Obano – writer for the stage, TV, radio and film, dramaturg and actor based in London.

Mwen Rukandema – Producer, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and DJ.

Jo Tyabji – Performer and director, Associate @milkpresents, drag aka Joé de Vivre. @JoTyabji

Funded by Arts Council England, produced by Speaking Volumes with the Albany

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