Come On In: Life Journeys

Devised as a riposte to the present rhetoric of fear of the ‘other’ that spawned the Windrush Scandal, StrongBack Productions’ core programme of activities is contained in Come On In.

Life Journeys is an invitation to each of us to stop for a moment, look at what surrounds us, look the people that we daily pass by and ask ourselves…what is that person’s life like? 

Six acclaimed poets and musicians – Francesca Beard, John Hegley,  Midori Jaeger, Anthony Joseph, Selina Nwulu and Sarah Sayeed – have interviewed employees and participants from three Lambeth organisations: Herne Hill train station, Loughborough Farm and the Baytree Centre. Their interviews have been transformed into song-poems elevating the everyday to the wondrous through their evocative words and music and quirky sketches.

Come On In: Life Journeys will be touring London from June 2020. Stay in touch with how the project is progressing via our social media. If you are interested in hosting a performance, please email sharmilla.beezmohun@speaking-volumes.org.uk

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/

Midori Jaeger

Midori Jaeger is a cellist, singer and songwriter who performs in the realms of folk, classical, jazz, world music, and free improvisation. Midori graduated with Distinction from the Masters course in Cello at the Royal Academy of Music in 2016 and has performed in Macbeth and King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe, tours as the cellist and backing vocalist for Heather Nova, and gigs regularly in London and abroad with many artists including Ex:Re, Shammi Pithia, Cherise Adams-Burnett and Daisy Chute. Midori is a regular session musician and can be heard playing cello and keyboards on Heather Nova’s upcoming album Pearl, playing cello for Joseph Lawrence & The Garden, and as a cellist for Glass Animals. Midori’s album of experimental ambient cello music, co-written with British record producer ‘Youth’, will be released in September 2019 on Painted Word Records and her debut EP of original songs with her four-piece band is due for release in Summer 2019. 

Anthony Joseph

Anthony Joseph is a Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician. He is the author of four poetry collections and three novels, The African Origins of UFOsKitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon and The Frequency of Magic (forthcoming in October 2019). Kitch has been 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. As a musician he has released seven critically acclaimed albums. The most recent, People of the Sun, was recorded in Trinidad and released in 2018. In the same year, he curated ‘Windrush: A Celebration’, a series of five events which reconsidered and 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. In 2019 he was awarded a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship. He lectures in literature, critical theory and creative writing at De Montfort University, Leicester. He lives in London

Sarah Sayeed

Sarah Sayeed is a musical artist whose practice focuses around contemporary works that have influence from Western classical choral works, orchestral ideas, Indian and Bengali classical vocals & instrumental works and Western contemporary jazz and urban music. Sarah plays tanpura, shruti and swarmandal, and is the lead vocalist in international duet Myth of Her with violinst and electronic artist Anne Eltard (Copenhagen, Denmark). She is currently training in classical vocals with leading Classical Indian Music maestro Swati Natekar.

Credits include Principle Musician in Richard II at Shakespeare’s Globe (2019), Composer & Musical Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company adaption of Moliere’s Tartuffe (2019/2018) and Sound Designer for Contact Theatre’s production on Suffragette Movement, She Bangs The Drums (2018) 

Artistic commissions include: Sound and Music‘s Portfolio composers programme and Curating Sound Travels with the British Music collection/ Google Curate.

Sarah has developed key projects such as  Sufi in the City with The Whitworth and New Art Exchange where Sarah is Experimentor associate artist. Her performances include Manchester International Festival, Brighton Fringe, Cargo, Queen Elizabeth Hall & Nottingham Mela.

A Windrush Legacy – Anthony Joseph

The Kitch Tour

Anthony Joseph embarks on series of UK and US events exploring the legacy of The Empire Windrush. Marking the first major wave of migrants from the Caribbean to UK in the 20th century, their arrival changed and enriched our society and culture. Joseph used his new novel, Kitch, as a starting point to interrogate this history and look at where we are now, examining the politics and activism, culture and music of the Caribbean on Britain.

Kitch book cover

2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the arrival of The Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, Essex on 21 June 1948. The same date marked the publication of Kitch, Anthony Joseph’s fictionalised biography of calypso icon, Lord Kitchener, who was famously captured on film by Pathé reporters at the landing of the ship, singing “London is the place for me”, a song he had composed as the ship neared England.

In his recordings of the 1950s and ’60s, Kitch, as he was affectionately known, sung about the problems migrants faced in Britian, from poor working conditions, the lack of satisfactory housing, to the open racism and hostility they faced in the ‘mother country’.

Anthony Joseph tells the story from Kitch of Lord Kitchener sending the song ‘Trouble in arima’ to Trinidad the night before carnival, as Crispin ‘Spry’ Robinson and Jason Yarde jam on the legendary tune at Bradford Literature Festival in July 2018.

Kitchener’s arrival onboard The Empire Windrush has become an iconic emblem of post war immigration into Britain, and his fourteen years in London and Manchester form an integral middle section of Kitch, in which his life as recording artist, touring musician, husband and quintessential Caribbean persona are intimately explored. His return to newly independent Trinidad in the early 1960s, is set against the dissolution of his marriage and his rivalries with fellow calypsonians. By focussing equally on Kitchener’s music and his largely undocumented private and political life, Joseph gets to the heart of the man behind the music and the myth, reaching behind the sobriquet, to present a holistic portrait of the calypso legend. You can hear Kitch!, a programme that Joseph made for BBC Radio 4, by clicking here.

Joseph visited key cities in the UK with Caribbean populations – Nottingham, Liverpool, Leeds Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and London – to connect with those who were part of the migration from Britain’s colonial islands, and those who have been influenced by them, from community groups and activist collectives, universities and schools, to literary festivals and music performances, this tour had something for everyone.


Tour Events

Saturday 17 November, 7.30pm – Barbican, London:
Anthony Joseph & Friends – Windrush: A Celebration. An array of musicians and artists come together to celebrate the Windrush generation and the triumph of the Caribbean spirit through song and spoken word. A newly commissioned Windrush Suite, composed by Jason Yarde and is performed by Joseph alongside a pan-Caribbean ensemble made up of artists drawn from the jazz, roots and spoken word scenes here in the UK. Joining Joseph on the night will be feminist icon Calypso Rose, ‘Calypso King’ Mighty Sparrow and Network Riddim Band singer and poet Brother Resistance with more special guests to be announced.
Tickets £30-35 – buy here
Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
Produced by Serious, supported by Speaking Volumes


Saturday 3 November, 3pm – YAA Centre, London:
Jump In The Line: Calypso in Britain. An afternoon of listening and discussion with Anthony Joseph, Dmitri Subotsky, John Cowley and Tina K Ramnarine.
Tickets: Free
YAA Centre, 1 Chippenham Mews, London W9 2AN
Produced by Serious, supported by Speaking Volumes


Friday 19 October, 7pm – Tate South Lameth Library, London:
Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon. Anthony Joseph reads from his fictionalised biography of Lord Kitchener followed by a Q&A.
Tickets: Free
Tate South Lambeth Library, 180 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1QP
Produced by Serious, supported by Speaking Volumes


Thursday 11 October, 7pm – Cheltenham Literature Festival:
Windrush Journeys: Mixtape Stories. Joseph brings the Kitch tour to Cheltenham, as he presents the story of the Calyso legend in a special event with a performance of Mixtape by Nick Makoha and Roger Robinson.
The Hive, Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham GL50 1UW


Wednesday 10 October, 5pm – Goldsmiths College, London
After Windrush – Reading & Discussion. Anthony Joseph and Fred D’Aguiar discuss their relationship with the history, music and literature of the Caribbean and read from their new books.
137, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, Lewisham Way, London


Sunday 7 October, 7.45pm – Ilkley Literary Festival:
Windrush Stories: From Trinidad to the UK. Anthony Joseph will be talking about Kitch and his own experiences alongside fellow poet Roger Robinson, as they are in conversation with Monique Roffey.
Ilkley Playhouse, Weston Road, Ilkley LS29 8DW


Sunday 19 August – Edinburgh Book Festival: as part of the Unbound programme, Joseph celebrates The Calypso King of the Windrush Generation, reading from Kitch alongside talented musicians.The Spiegeltent, Edinburgh


Saturday 7 July – Bradford Literature Festival: Anthony Joseph and Colin Grant in conversation with Emily Zobel Marshall, plus music from Anthony, Jason Yarde and Crispin Spry Robinson
Alhambra Theatre, Bradford


Thursday 12 July – George Padmore Institute: Anthony Joseph in conversation with Nicole-Rachelle Moore, and reading from Kitch.
George Padmore Institute, New Beacon Books, Stroud Green Road, London


Sunday 17 June – Windrush Day at Keats House: Anthony Joseph in conversation with Hannah Lowe.
Keats House, London