CULTURE: Writing Our Legacy – raising awareness of BAME authors

Writing Our Legacy is a growing collective of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) writers, poets, playwrights and authors connected to Sussex and the South East. They recently teamed up with Brighton & Hove Libraries to present a Black History Month Creative Writing Workshop with Nigerian-German writerOlumide Popoola. Writing Our Legacy published ‘Hidden Sussex’ in 2019, an anthology of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – find out more below.

In the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movements, many people have sought to re-evaluate and re-educate themselves through literature. In the UK, we have recently seen a spike in book sales by black British authors such as Reni Eddo-Lodge and Bernadine Evaristo, who have both topped UK bestseller lists. Black writers have also recently won prestigious awards, including Candice Carty-Williams who won book of the year for her powerhouse debut novel ‘Queenie’ at the British Book Awards. Although a proud moment for Candice, the unrepresentative reflection of contemporary British culture is sadly evident in the UK publishing landscape, as she was the first black author ever to win this award in its quarter of a century history.

Whilst successes and progress should be celebrated, it is clear that systemic practices within publishing have maintained inequalities, lacked diversity and allowed under-representation for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) writers.

In Sussex however, Writing Our Legacy aims to challenge the state of the publishing industry by creating a growing collective of BAME writers, poets, playwrights and authors connected to Sussex and the South East. They recently teamed up with Brighton & Hove Libraries to present a Black History Month Creative Writing Workshop with Nigerian-German writer Olumide Popoola. Last year, Writing Our Legacy published ‘Hidden Sussex’, an anthology of fiction, non-fiction and poetry supported by Arts Council England, Brighton & Hove City Council, East Sussex Arts Partnership and Devonshire West Big Local.


Hidden Sussex’ published in 2019 is an anthology featuring fiction, non-fiction and poetry by authors from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.


Twenty-three contributors from across East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton tell their own stories and narratives. The anthology tells stories of many firsts – first trip to Afro-Caribbean hairdressers, first sexual awakenings, first visit to the Chattri Memorial. The writing also deals with middles and ends – raising children, solitary pursuits, and the deaths of friends and family. Local places of interest such as Cuckmere Haven and Brighton Pavilion, are interspersed with memories of the Caribbean, Pakistan, India and Iran. Some authors deal with pressing issues of contemporary Britain, including Brexit and the Windrush scandal, while others cast their eye over history and the natural environment.

The work of seven writers from the ‘Hidden Sussex’ anthology was presented at an online event on 14.10.2020, with discussion about the importance of sharing diverse stories. An illustrative video piece by Josef Cabey was streamed during the event, exploring nature and the vital role bus journeys have played in his upbringing – blurring the lines between childhood wonder and adult curiosity. The session was co-facilitated by Writing Our Legacy Chair, Amy Zamarripa Solis and Dr Jess Moriarty, Principal Lecturer, School of Humanities at University Brighton.

As part of Black History Month, Brighton & Hove Libraries and Writing Our Legacy partnered to present a Creative Writing Workshop and Reading evening online event on 21.10.2020, with author Olumide Popoola. The workshop session brought together writers of all backgrounds and experiences to engage in a series of writing exercises. Olumide Popoola read a racy extract from her most acclaimed work, the novel ‘When We Speak of Nothing’, published in 2017 by Cassava Republic Press – a leading African book publishing company founded in Nigeria in 2006.

Olumide is a Nigerian-German writer with publications including essays, poetry, a novella, a play text and ‘Breach’ a short story collection, which she co-authored with Annie Holmes and published on Peirene Press in 2016.

Qualified with a PhD in Creative Writing and lecturing at various universities, Olumide has created and continues to lead the creative writing and mentoring scheme ‘The Future is Back’. The initiative is accessible for emerging LGBTQ+ writers and is funded by Arts Council England.

Olumide, who presents internationally as an author, speaker and facilitator, was named as one of Britain’s best BAME writers by Scottish Makar Jackie Kay in 2019.

Olumide’s reading was preceded by a narration from ‘Writing Our Legacy’ member and ‘Hidden Sussex’ contributor Sheila Auguste, who moved to Brighton over 20 years ago from East London (where she was born of St. Lucian parents), to study an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University.

Her published short stories are featured in anthologies ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ and ‘Playing Sidney Poitier’, and have been broadcast on Radio 4 as one of BBC’s Young Playwrights of the Year. She was part of the creative learning team at New Writing South, tutoring creative writing in schools and community venues in the South East. Shelia also tutors Creative Writing with the BBC Radio Roots and Sussex University course, ‘Exploring Difference Writing and Cultural Identity’.

Sheila has performed her poetry and prose at various venues in Sussex, including the PHD (Positive Hair Day) project, and performed as Sista in the play ‘Snakes and Ladders’ at the Basement and Pavilion Theatres Brighton. She spent 10 years working for Sisterwrite Co-operative Womens’ Bookshop (the first feminist bookshop in Britain), and Eastside Arts and Books (formerly Tower Hamlets Arts Project). As Director of Eastside Arts, she was responsible for a literature development project, organising events and readings throughout London.


Link to Josef Cabey’s video :


Check out Writing Our Legacy’s website or connect with them on social media –

Twitter:  @BHwritinglegacy

Instagram: @writingourlegacy

Facebook

LinkedIn


You can also find the author, Joey Lee, on Instagram: @joeyyy_lee

More articles by Joey Lee: http://theverse.co.uk/all/music-for-healing-from-acid-to-ambience/


All images property of Hidden Sussex Crawley Reading.

Joey Lee

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