Your Local Arena with George Padmore Institute

For our third online YLA event, we partnered with the George Padmore Institute. Watch the panel response film, listen to the commissioned poems and have a go at the Life Writing workshop. Scroll down to read about the original Arena film Caribbean Nights: Poetry which was the basis for these responses.

Caribbean Nights: Poetry — A Contemporary Response

Introduced by the GPI’s Nicole-Rachelle Moore, three poets of Caribbean heritage – Jacqueline Bishop, Hannah Lowe and Dorothea Smartt – will respond to the film and discuss some of its themes.

New and Exclusive Commissioned Poems
Award-winning poets Jay Bernard and Anthony Joseph share their new poems, inspired by the film, in text and audio.

‘Funny Words
by Jay Bernard

‘Funny Words’ by Jay Bernard

by Anthony Joseph

‘Comets’ by Anthony Joseph

Life Writing Workshop

Watch a life writing workshop led by acclaimed author and historian Colin Grant, who uses the Arena film as a starting point to encourage you to write your own memoirs.

It’s hard to believe now that, back in the 1980s the UK had little idea of the wealth of poetry which was and has always come out of the Caribbean. In 1986, the BBC’s Arena film Caribbean Nights: Poetry changed all that, when activist and intellectual Darcus Howe chaired a thought-provoking discussion with poet Derek Walcott (who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992), pioneering reggae poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and emerging poet Fred D’Aguiar.

Caribbean Nights feature in Radio Times

Including clips of seminal readings by the late dub poet Michael Smith and Kamau Brathwaite, one of the founding fathers in the use of Caribbean English in poetry, this film was ground-breaking in introducing Caribbean poets and poetry to a mainstream UK audience. But even now, in the twenty-first century, there is a freshness to the debate, clear insights and, above all, a real sense of the vital need for poetry in our everyday lives.

The George Padmore Institute (GPI) is delighted to be part of Your Local Arena, co-hosting this screening of Caribbean Nights: Poetry from the BBC Arena archives, available for five days only from 11 June 2020. Join the event on the Your Local Arena website.

About the George Padmore Institute

Founded by John La Rose, the late Trinidadian activist, poet and trade unionist, the George Padmore Institute is an archive and educational research centre based in north London which houses unique archive collections relating to the political, social and cultural organisations of the UK’s black, Asian and minority ethnic communities over the last 70 years. Collections include archives from the UK’s first black bookshop and publisher New Beacon Books (founded in 1966 by John La Rose and Sarah White) and from the International Book Fairs of Radical Black and Third World Books (1982-95) among others. See


Talking About the Film

Jacqueline Bishop is an award-winning writer and visual artist born and raised in Jamaica, who now lives between London and New York City. She has twice been awarded Fulbright Fellowships, including a year-long grant to Morocco; her work exhibits widely in North America, Europe and North Africa. Bishop’s books include a novel, The River’s Song (2007), two collections of poems, Fauna (2006) and Snapshots from Istanbul (2009), a 2007 art book entitled Writers Who Paint, Painters Who Write: 3 Three Jamaican Artists, and The Gymnast and Other Positions (2015), a collection of short stories, essays and interviews. The Gymnast and Other Positions won the nonfiction category of the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. The Gift of Music and Song: Interviews with Jamaican Women Writers is forthcoming.

Hannah Lowe is a writer and academic in London, UK. Her first poetry collection Chick (Bloodaxe, 2013) won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award for Best First Collection and was short-listed for the Forward, Aldeburgh and Seamus Heaney Best First Collection Prizes. Her second collection is Chan (Bloodaxe, 2016).  In 2014, she was named as one of 20 Next Generation British poets, an accolade awarded once a decade. She has also published four chapbooks: The Hitcher (Rialto 2012); R x (sine wave peak, 2013); Ormonde (Hercules Editions 2014). (2016) and most recently, The Neighbourhood. (Outspoken Press, 2019). She has been Writer in Residence at Keats House and currently lectures in Creative Writing at Brunel University.

Nicole-Rachelle Moore is a Cultural Educational Consultant and coordinates the George Padmore Institute’s events, outreach and publicity initiatives. She also works with the pioneering publishers New Beacon Books. She regularly consults on a range of cultural and educational issues at schools, colleges and other institutions. She is the Co-Editor of Dream to Change World: The Book of the Exhibition (2018) on the life and legacy of John La Rose. Her areas of research interest are Caribbean Studies and Postcolonial Cultures.

Dorothea Smartt was born and brought up in London and is of Barbadian heritage. She was Poet in Residence at Brixton Market and Attached Live Artist at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, where she was also awarded her first commission to create the collaborative performance from you to me to you. Her solo performance work, Medusa, combining poetry and visuals, was named an ‘Outstanding Black Example’ of British Live Art. In 2000 she was commissioned to write her first play, Fallout, which toured primary schools. Her first poetry collection, Connecting Medium (2001) explores her Barbadian heritage and her experience of growing up in London. Her second collection, Samboo’s Grave/Bilal’s Grave (2008) explores the history of Samboo, an African slave brought from the Caribbean to Lancaster and buried at Sunderland Point.

Commissioned Poets

Jay Bernard is from London and works as a writer and film programmer. They are the author of Surge (Chatto & Windus 2019), which came out of a 2016 residency at the George Padmore Institute. The collection explores the archives relating to the New Cross Fire of 1981 where fourteen young black people lost their lives. Surge has been shortlisted for the Forward, Costa, T S Eliot, Jhalak, Ondaatje and Dylan Thomas prizes. Jay was the winner of the 2017 Ted Hughes award for an early version of Surge performed at the Roundhouse in London, which was followed by a full run at the Albany in Deptford in 2019. Jay’s work has also been featured in numerous anthologies – TEN: The New Wave, Voice Recognition, Out of Bounds: Black British Writers and Place and Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology – and they are the author of three chapbooks, Your Sign is Cuckoo Girl (2008), English Breakfast (2013) and The Red and Yellow Nothing (2016).

Anthony Joseph is a Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician who has been referred to as ‘the leader of the black avant garde in Britain’. As a musician and spoken word artist he has released seven critically acclaimed albums which blend Afro-Caribbean music, free jazz and funk. The most recent, People of the Sun (Heavenly Sweetness) was recorded in Trinidad and released in 2018. In the same year he curated ‘Windrush: A Celebration’, a series of five events which celebrated the literary and musical legacies of the Windrush generation, culminating in a gala concert at the Barbican as part of the London Jazz Festival. Joseph’s novel, Kitch, a biography of calypso icon Lord Kitchener, was shortlisted for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize, the OCM Bocas Fiction Prize for Caribbean Literature, and the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award. In 2019 he was awarded a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship. His latest novel, The Frequency of Magic, is just out.

Life Writing

Colin Grant is an author, historian and Associate Fellow at the Centre for Caribbean Studies. His books include: Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey and a group biography of the Wailers, I&I, The Natural Mystics. His memoir of growing up in a Caribbean family in 1970s Luton, Bageye at the Wheel, was shortlisted for the 2013 Pen/Ackerly Prize. Grant’s history of epilepsy, A Smell of Burning, was a Sunday Times Book of the Year in 2016. As a producer for the BBC, Grant wrote and directed several radio drama documentaries including African Man of Letters: The Life of Ignatius Sancho and A Fountain of Tears: The Murder of Federico Garcia Lorca. Grant also writes for a number of newspapers and journals including the Guardian, TLS and New York Review of Books. Grant’s latest book is Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation.

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