City Central

A journey that will take you from Sheffield’s once-glorious industrial past to the gritty urban high rises of contemporary Amsterdam, from the Afropean music of Brussels to Lisbon’s vibrant black community hidden from tourists, City Central stops at fascinating and surprising calling points.

City Central is a collaboration between author/photographer Johny Pitts and poet/musician Joshua Idehen. Using Johny’s 2019 non-fiction book Afropean: Travels in Black Europe, and the work of Josh’s band Benin City, the pair are creating a live performance that fuses poetry and prose, music and photography, film and field recordings.

The result will be a dynamic, exciting multimedia show that focusses on gentrification and the importance of multicultural, working class spaces in cities across the continent

Johny Pitts
Benin City
left-right: Tom Leaper, Shanaz Dorsett, Joshua Idehen

Working and performing alongside the pair are Josh’s Benin City bandmates Tom Leaper and Shanaz Dorsett, and Johny’s long-time multi-media collaborator and artist Chris Morris.

Join the City Central Express for an exhilarating whistle-stop tour of unseen Europe at the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room on 28 February for the show’s premiere. This multi-sensory journey will start in first class, with an iconic Arena film screening setting the scene for the unique sights and sounds to come in the live show.

Johny Pitts is the author of the non-fiction book Afropean: Journeys in Black Europe, an on-the-ground documentary of areas where Europeans of African descent are juggling their multiple allegiances and forging new identities. ‘A revelation’ – Owen Jones

Benin City are the acclaimed band named after a Nigerian capital, who are known for their genre-bending musicality. They are about to release their third album. ‘One to watch’ – the Guardian

A Speaking Volumes Production in collaboration with the Southbank Centre funded by ACE.

Come On In: Life Journeys

Come on In: Life Journeys, is an invitation to multicultural audiences to discover the lives of others through poetry and music. Six poets and musicians will collaborate in pairs, interviewing people who work in a range of workplaces: a train station, a funeral home and an urban community farm. Inspired by the research, each team will write a poem-song cycle that pays homage to the lives or ordinary and extraordinary people.

Poets Francesca Beard, John Hegley and Selina Nwulu, and musicians Midori Jaegar, Anthony Joseph and Sarah Sayeed will interview employees from an assigned workplace – Herne Hill overground station, Ashton’s funeral home in Brixton and Loughborough community farm – at the end of 2019. Each team will write a poem-song inspired by the interviews, giving an insight into unknown lives, and will then collaborate with the other teams to build a rich mosaic of diverse lives. This will culminate in a peformance tour of the new works in 2020.

Come On In is a co-production between Speaking Volumes and StrongBack Productions, and is generously supported by Arts Council England.

Participants:

Francesca Beard

Francesca Beard was born in Malaysia and grew up on an island balanced on the equator, surrounded by eagles, lizards, cobras and a fighting cockerel for a guard dog. Her best friend was Fluffy, a smooth-haired mongrel. After a spell in real jobs, she gave it all up and now exists as a London-based poet who has been called ‘the Queen of British performance poetry’ (London Metro) and ‘spine-tingling’ (The Independent). She has performed her poetry in places all over the world, from a shopping mall in the Bangkok Book Fair to a prison in Colombia and New York’s Nuyorican Café. She’s run creative writing workshops with the British Council, The Young Vic, The BBC, The Barbican, Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, The Natural History Museum and many more.

http://francescabeard.com/site/index.php

John Hegley

Mr Hegley was born in Newington Green, North London and was educated in Luton, Bristol and Bradford University. His first public performance monies came from busking his songs, initially outside a shoe shop in Hull in the late seventies. He performed on the streets of London in the early eighties, fronting the Popticians, with whom he also recorded two sessions for John Peel, and has since been a frequent performer of his words, sung and spoken, on both local and national radio.

He has produced ten books of verse and prose pieces, two CDs and one mug, but his largest source of income is from stages on his native island. An Edinburgh Festival regular, he is noted for his exploration of such diverse topics as dog hair, potatoes, handkerchiefs and the misery of human existence.

https://www.johnhegley.co.uk/

Selina Nwulu

Selina Nwulu is a writer, poet and essayist based in London. She was Young Poet Laureate for London 2015-6, a prestigious award that recognises talent and potential in the capital.  Her first chapbook collection, The Secrets I Let Slip was published by Burning Eye Books in September 2015 and was a Poetry Book Society (PBS) recommendation. She also writes for a number of online outlets such as the Guardian, Free Word and Red Pepper.

Selina has toured nationally with Apples and Snakes, representing London as part of the Public Address II tour, as well as more widely at a number of festivals including Glastonbury, Edinburgh Fringe, Cúirt Festival in Galway and Fiery Tongues Festival in Ruigoord, Holland. She has also taken part in a literary tour in India with the British Council. She was Writer and Creator in Residence at the Free Word centre and Wellcome Trust, looking creatively at food and how it connects to our health and matters of social justice.

http://www.selinanwulu.com/

Breaking New Ground

Breaking New Ground is a project celebrating British writers and illustrators of colour who are creating stories for children and young people, launching at London Book Fair 2019 with a new booklet featuring over 100 contemporary creators.

30,000 copies of the booklet will be distributed to every school in the country, as well as to librarians, festivals, venues, publishers, agents and all key people working in this sector of literature.

Celebrating British writers & illustrators of colour

This latest iteration of Speaking Volumes’ Breaking Ground series is created in partnership with specialist children’s literature organisations BookTrust and Pop Up Projects. Both organisations will be coordinating activites taking place throughout 2019-20 to make positive changes for contemporary writers and illustrators, to support their careers, offer them opportunities and generally help

You can read the new booklet on Issuu by clicking the image below.

Check back to find out the progress of the project.