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/

Another Great Night Out – Joshua Idehen

It started with a web search for Passing Clouds, the iconic East London venue that was shuttered in 2016. If you’ve never been to a Passing Clouds night, well, brother/sister/friend, you missed out. I was trying to find info on the efforts to reopen any nights they were running at satellite venues, but the webpage was not there. The Facebook page was frozen somewhere in June. 

For poet and musician Joshua Idehen, the clubs and community spaces of East London are close to his heart: safe spaces where he hung out, met other creatives, made friends, first performed and developed as an artist.

As gentrification started to spread east of central London, these spaces started to disappear, and with them went the collective memory of all the things that took place in them, the art created and friendships forged. When the key venue in Dalston’s community, Passing Clouds, was forcibly closed, Joshua went searching for information about it and found nothing. Another Great Night Out was born out of the desire to archive, document and remember these lost spaces.

Joshua Idehen on why Passing Clouds deserves to be remembered

As of 2015, 50% of clubs, bars, pubs and social venues in London have been shut down. East London, like the once vibrant walls of Passing Clouds, has seen its colour run out, save grey and brown brick. These places were more than just watering holes for the city’s multicultural working/middle class: they were music hubs, arts spaces, community halls, social meeting points, landmarks and, most importantly, fond, favoured memories. London forgets easily, especially its counter culture, and in an age where everything is recorded, it seems a miscarriage of justice that there was no central place for people to find information and media on these vibrant venues and the important activities that took place in them. Another Great Night Out is a start at preserving, and remembering, and celebrating these places. We start with Passing Clouds.

Joshua on the genesis of the project

Speaking Volumes worked with Joshua to get a Heritage Lottery Grant to create the website which collects together music, photos, posters and artwork, and memories of people who played, performed and attended activities at Passing Clouds. To go along with this material, Joshua commissioned six poets who had connections with the venue to write work about their memories and experiences of it. As well as having the text of these poems available on the site, we filmed each poet reading outside the shut up and as so far unused Passing Clouds building.

Belinda Zhawi reads her poem remembering Passing Clouds

Head over to AnotherGreatNightOut.com to check out all of the archive material and commissioned poems, and keep an eye out for the next venue that Joshua looks to arhcive and remeber.

Generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, produced by Speaking Volumes.

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

Mixtape – Nick Makoha and Roger Robinson

Mixtape is your sonic CV. The gumbo of humanity that we are – shows we like, music we like, conversations with friends. Our experiences wide and deep.” – Roger Robinson

Rising stars of poetry Nick Makoha and Roger Robinson present a unique new show of poetry

With enduring friendship at its centre, hear poems which leap back and forth in time, giving voice to the universal struggle to carve out personal and political identities. Poems about music, poems about love, poems of protest and of exile, monologues and duet poems … all tied together through an unforgettable soundtrack of songs, from Afrobeats to hip-hop, from reggae to soul. Through a heartfelt, humorous and honest exploration of two individual lives, Mixtape will inspire audiences to compile the definitive track list of their own experiences.

Watch an extract from the Mixtape show, filmed at the first international tour event at BOZAR, Brussels, Belgium.

Video: Roger & Nick in conversation

Watch Roger and Nick discussing the concept for the Mixtape Tour with Johny Pitts.

Mixtape Tour

Roger and Nick performed Mixtape at venues and literary festivals around the UK through 2018, finishing with a show at BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. In Spring 2019 they were invited to visit Norway where they spent a week performing to audiences in Oslo and Haugesund.

Full tour dates

3 February 2018 – Speaky Spokey, Brighton

3 April 2018 – Beyond Words, London

11 May 2018 – Mixtape Workshop with Nick Makoha, Words in the City Festival, Leeds Library, Leeds ¦ 11am ¦ Free

12 May 2018 – Words in the City Festival, Carriageworks, Leeds ¦ 4pm ¦ Tickets £7/£5

21 May 2018 – Mixtape x The Artist’s Table, Waterstones Tottenham Court Road, London ¦ 7pm ¦ Tickets £45

25 May 2018 – Writing on the Wall Festival, Studio 2, Liverpool ¦ 7.30pm ¦ Tickets £12/£6 

2 June 2018 – Mixtape Sessions at Stoke Newington Literary Festival with Theresa Lola & Momtaza Mheri

17 June 2018 – Windrush Day at Keats House, London ¦ 3.30pm ¦ Free but ticket must be booked

19 June 2018 – Workshop – Mixtape: Unlocking Your Creativity with Spread the Word & Deptford Lounge, London ¦ 6.30pm ¦ Free

23 June 2018 – The Last Word Festival at The Albany, London ¦ 7.30pm ¦ Tickets £10/£8

30 June 2018 – The Last Word Festival at the Roundhouse, London ¦ 7pm ¦ Tickets £10

2 July 2018 – Ledbury Poetry Festival, Ledbury

7 July 2018 – Poetry Mixtape with special guests at Bradford Literature Festival, Alhambra Theatre, Bradford ¦ 5.30pm ¦ Tickets £7 / £3 / £1

October 2018 – Ted Hughes Festival, Mexborough

20 October 2018 – Dis Othering – Beyond Afropolitan and Other Labels, Brussels, Belgium

16 March – MelaHus – Oslo, Norway

18-22 March 2019 – various – Haugesund, Norway


Contact

For more information about Mixtape or to enquire about booking a performance, contact Nick: nicholas.chapman@speaking-volumes.org.uk


About Nick Makoha & Roger Robinson

Nick Makoha and Roger Robinson (photos by Benji Reid)

Nick Makoha is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow who represented Uganda at Poetry Parnassus as part of the Cultural Olympiad held in London. A former Writer in Residence for Newham Libraries, his 1-man-Show My Father & Other Superheroes debuted to sold-out performances at 2013 London Literature Festival and is currently on tour. He has been a panelist at both the inaugural Being a Man Festival (Fatherhood: Past, Present & Future) and Women of the World Festival,(Bringing Up Boys). In 2005 award-winning publisher Flippedeye launched its pamphlet series with his debut The Lost Collection of an Invisible Man. Part of his soon to be published 1st full collection The Kingdom Of Gravity is in the anthology Seven New Generation African Poets (Slapering Hol Press). He is the 2016 winner of the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize for his manuscript Resurrection Man, to be published by Jai-Alai Books in spring 2017. He won the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry prize and has poems that appear in the The Poetry Review, Rialto, The Triquarterly Review, Boston Review, Callaloo, and Wasafiri. Find him at www.nickmakoha.com | @NickMakoha

Roger Robinson was born in Trinidad and has lived in the UK for over 20 years. Decibel named him as one of 50 writers influencing the Black British writing canon. His commissions include The National Trust, The National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Roger’s books include the fiction Adventures in 3D and poetry collections Suitcase, Suckle – Winner of the Peoples Book Prize – and The Butterfly Hotel, from which the poem ‘Trinidad Gothic’ was Highly Commended by the Forward Prize and shortlisted for the OCM Bocas Poetry Prize. He is a co-founder of Spoke Lab and the writing collective Malika’s Kitchen. He released a solo album, Illclectica, and is lead vocalist for King Midas Sound, whose debut album, Waiting for You (Hyperdub Records), was critically acclaimed. www.rogerrobinsononline.com | Twitter @rrobinson72