BOOK YOUR TICKETS to BUFF Special Summer Season Screenings 26th June 2015

A documentary profiling the singer & songwriter Amy Winehouse will headline the British Urban Film Festival’s Summer Season of film programming at Genesis Cinema in June. The film, simply called 'Amy', comes from the BAFTA award-winning director Asif Kapadia, who brought audiences the Motor Racing documentary 'Senna' four years ago, and ...

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APPLY to NFTS 'BAME Leadership Programme' with Creative Skillset. Deadline July 24th 2015

Do you have the potential to be a future leader in the film industry? The National Film and Television School in partnership with Creative Skillset have launched the BAME LEADERSHIP PROGRAMME, a new six month programme to rigorously encourage diverse representation in the film industry, bringing on the next generation of diverse ...

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TBB Catches Up with Charmaine Hayden Director of Face4Music Modeling agency and new presenter of NFTR Online Radio Show

Charmaine Hayden is an award winning director of  modelling agency, Face4Music - the leading ‘curve’ specialist model agency and currently co-host of the UK online radio show 'NFTR - Not For The Radio' alongside Duane Jones & Posty. Charmaine studied Law and Psychology at London’s University of East London, whilst organising her own ...

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ShakaRa Speaks On It: Why ‘No Vote – No Voice’ Is a Lie!

I don’t vote! Never have! And as the fanfare around the General Election 2015 dies down and a disgruntled Black community wraps its head around the coming prospects of a Conservative government, there is a particular theme that became prevalent among the Black community, widely shared via social media and ...

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GUBA 2015 Launched! Nominations Deadline 28th June 2015

Thursday the 30th April, 2015. London. The Ghana UK Based Achievement (GUBA) Awards, launched its 5th year and celebrations at the Luxurious Sunborn London, Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, ExCeL London E16 1XL. GUBA, an organisation that has acknowledged and celebrated outstanding individuals within the British Ghanaian community over the last ...

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Juwon Ogungbe composer of score for 'Siliva The Zulu' screening at Wilton's Music Hall

Composer Juwon Ogungbe Discusses Live Film Scoring, & The Art of Merging Classical & African Sounds

Juwon Ogungbe is an inspiring and well respected musician, singer, composer and band leader from London, of Nigerian heritage. Placing African music at the heart of his work, Juwon also incorporates pop, jazz and classical music into his expressive range. Juwon’s concert and music theatre compositions consistently attract interest from theatre and dance practitioners, commissions ...

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Tinie Tempah, Glyn Aikins. (far right) Naughty Boy manager Riki Bleu

PART 2 Virgin EMI A&R Director Glyn Aikins Talks So Solid, Bobby Shmurda & Emeli Sande...

With a career stretching back over 15 years, Virgin EMI’s A&R Director Glyn Aikins made his name signing acts such as So Solid Crew, Artful Dodger and Craig David. Now responsible for A&R at one of the UK’s leading labels, he has played a key part in discovering and breaking ...

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(l-r) Ella Eyre, Glyn Aikins, Emeli Sandé, Naughty Boy

Virgin EMI's A&R Director Glynn Aikins Gives TBB Insight into The World of Artist & Repertoire...

With a career stretching back over 15 years, Virgin EMI’s A&R Director Glyn Aikins made his name signing acts such as So Solid Crew, Artful Dodger and Craig David. Now responsible for A&R at one of the UK’s leading labels, he has played a key part in discovering and breaking ...

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Up in the Sky - TBB Talks to 'Venus Vs. Mars' Writer-Producer, Baby Isako

Baby (pronounced “Babi”) Isako is a critically acclaimed playwright (Love is a Losing Game) and producer the UK should watch very closely. Her passion is infectious, her vision refreshingly simple and her articulation of that vision has been eloquent for a few years now. In short, Isako wants more scope given ...

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African Spirituality vs Western Religion - TBB Speaks to The Filmmakers Behind “Ancestral Voices” ...

Although people of African heritage do not have a word equivalent to the term "religion", there are a number of terms in African languages that describe activities, practices, and a system of thought that corresponds to closely to what most Westerners mean by religion. African religions are often closely associated ...

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Founder of British Urban Film Festival, Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe Lets TBB in on a Couple of Secrets...

British Urban Film Festival creator Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe is a quiet man - calm and some might say, unassuming. So, we were a little surprised and then excited when he contacted Team TBB to have a little chat. I had last officially met Emmanuel at the screening and post-film panel discussion of Selma ...

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Sara Myers. Photo Credit: Mike @People Pictures

Kunga Dred Speaks to Sara Myers The Unexpected Rebel Who Challenged Freedom to Art!

The name Sara Myers has not only become synonymous with the forced closure of a highly controversial art installation but has also come to denote the spiritual embodiment of the African voice and the fortitude of the Black female against all odds. I remember seeing the outrage of Sara Myers build ...

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Award-Winning Author Cezanne Poetess Explains How She Healed From Seasonal Affective Disorder

cezanne_sadDo you get ‘SAD’ during the winter months? Could it be that people of colour are often diagnosed with depression and prescribed chemical drugs, when really they are suffering from ‘SAD’?

‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ is a form of depression caused by lack of natural sunlight; during winter months the longer dark hours affects the pineal gland, which produces more of the hormone melatonin. This results in SAD sufferers feeling more sleepy with lower energy levels. F​ewer hours of sunlight​ also causes ​the brain ​to​ produce less of the hormone serotonin, a chemical that regulate​s​ mood, appetite and sleep. This ​contribute​s to the symptoms of SAD (such as feeling down).

If you go to your doctor with any of these symptoms, you’re likely to be prescribed antidepressants, particularly those from the Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitor family (SSRI), which have been found to be effective treatments for SAD. However these chemical drugs have common side effects which include insomnia, nausea, diarrhoea, and decreased sex drive or performance.

How can you heal yourself if you suffer from SAD?

Light Treatment
Regular exposure to light that is bright, (preferably natural sunlight) significantly improves depression in people with SAD when it presents during the autumn​ and winter. Taking vitamin D supplements can also help alleviate symptoms (the sun is a natural source). Temporarily changing locations to a climate that is characterized by bright light (such as the Caribbean) can ​help greatly​. Light treatment has also been called ‘phototherapy’.

cezanne_self_loveColour Therapy
Award-winning artist, poet and author ‘Cezanne Poetess’ from the UK explains how she healed herself from SAD:

“Every winter it was ​as if​ I went into hibernation; at its worst, I stayed in bed with the quilt covering my head, not even opening the curtains. Then in 2009 I was led to paint a number of brightly-coloured paintings and ​​hang them around my home. Since then, I’ve not felt SAD at all! It was only after I did the paintings and noticed I went through the winter without any symptoms, that I started looking into Colour Therapy. I realised I’d healed myself without even knowing it at the time”
Cezanne has now teamed up with Camp Grenada Academy to offer you a fantastic two-week holiday experience in the sun​! In her ‘Art4Life’ workshops you will learn how colours affect your mood and emotions, and Cezanne will then help you create a painting to take back home and hang on your wall to help you heal yourself, just as she did with her painting ‘Self Love’:

She will also be offering poetry workshops, which you can combine with your artwork to create a beautiful gift for your Self or someone else! It might be bright and sunny now, but what are your plans for ​the​ winter?

There will be plenty of time to relax, tour the island, visit other nearby islands like Carricou, and go scuba diving to see the underwater sculptures! Don’t miss this holiday experience of a lifetime, for more details visit:

Website: www.campgrenadaacademy.com (Creative Arts/Poetry & Art Workshops)

or Email: cezannepoetess@gmail.com

CALL FOR ENTRIES 2015 Birmingham Black International Film Festival. Various Deadlines. Fees Apply

black_international_film_festivalEnter your Short Films, First Features, Documentaries, to The Birmingham Black International Film Festival.

This year’s festival is due to take place in Birmingham (UK) from 26th Oct – 31st October 2015. They are seeking films from Worldwide, including European countries and of course UK & Ireland.

Submissions are not exclusive to people of colour but must either feature people of colour, address minority issues, be produced by people of colour or involve people of colour who have had a significant role in the film’s production.

Chosen submissions will be screened throughout the festival and on festival associated visual platforms. All films selected for the festival will also be entered into the BIF Festival’s awards program and winners will be announced at the MViSA Awards at the ICC, Birmingham on the 31st October 2015.

All selected films for inclusion in the festival will also be entered into the awards program for selection for a possible MViSA nomination. Winners which will be honoured at the Movie, Video & Screen Awards, (M-ViSAs) taking place at the prestigious ICC Birmingham on Saturday 31st October 2015.

PLEASE NOTE – Early submissions are encouraged with all entries being submitted to an awards panel for consideration. The deadline for all submissions is 3rd October 2015

Early Submission Deadline:

  • UK. and INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILMS Tuesday, 28th July, 2015 – £20 / $30 entry fee
  • UK. and INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILMS and DOCUMENTARIES
    Friday,7th August 2015 – £25 / $40 entry fee

Official Submission Deadline:

  • UK and INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILMS Friday, 18th September 2015 – £30 / $45 ENTRY FEE
  • UK and INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILMS and DOCUMENTARIES
    Monday, 21th September 2015 – £40 / $60 entry fee

Late Submission Deadline:

  • UK and INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILMS Monday, 5th October, 2015 £40 / $60 ENTRY FEE
  • UK and INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILMS and DOCUMENTARIES
    Monday, 5th October, 2015 – £60 / $90 entry fee

For further information / terms & conditions / submissions: http://www.vtelevision.co.uk/biff/submission.html

Orvil Kunga Reviews the 2015 Bfm International Film Festival ‘A festival not to be missed’

bfmmIFF_1There are very few reasons why I would head to deepest north London from south with no car and rapidly impending storm clouds gathering above.

But the Bfm International Film Festival’s (BfmIFF), is an event worth making the long trek for.
Considered by many to be the first film festival in the UK which focussed primarily on black films by black filmmakers, catering for a community lacking in multi-layered representations of themselves, the BfmIFF, once a firm fixture on the film festival calendar is back with a strong catalogue of films, talks and workshops! Its acclaimed film director and Bfm founder, Menelik Shabazz (The Story of Lover’s Rock, 2011, Looking for Love, 2015), has again assembled a team of skilled programmers and curators to bring this much missed festival back to the city of its birth and I am certain, the stalwart campaigner Bernie Grant would be smiling in approval as Shabazz has chosen the media centre named after the sadly departed MP and activist.

For this weekend, the Bernie Grant Arts centre in Tottenham, is host to an array films from all over the African world and I was lucky enough, to catch Kingston Paradise (2010). The award winning film made on the streets of Kingston Jamaica; streets often synonymous with crime and deprivation, where people sleep under beds, deeming it safer than sleeping on them as the sounds of gunshots pierce through the sounds of reggae music. It is this tragic environment which forms the backdrop for writer, director Mary Wells’ fractured love story of a couple struggling to find a way out of the poverty in which they exist.

The film harks back to the 70’s cult classic Harder They Come (1972), which starred Jimmy Cliff, but lacks some of the finesse of its predecessor, with scenes often hindered by moments of highly unlikely happenstance.
Whilst most scenes were packed with frustration, violence and brutality, the well-scripted narrative gave moments of poetic reflection and laughter as the raw, cut and mix Jamaican repartee flipped back and forth with ease as the central characters, excellently played by Christopher ‘Johny’ Daley (Rocksy) and Camille Small (Rosie), possess a brutal honesty and heart-wrenching vulnerability.
The tumultuous relationship between Rocksy and Rosie explores a flawed business plan and portrays a fractious coming together of an unbreakable bond between two people, seemingly linked by fear of loneliness and life’s cruel disappointments. The plot outline was perhaps not the most complex but the well crafted roles played by its white Jamaican cast members Paul Shoucair (Faris) and Peter Abrikian (The man), also gave cause for pause as their perfect Jamaican accents portrayed a Jamaica seemingly comfortable with the blurred lines of culturalisation.

kingston_paradise_the_british_blacklistThe film although well shot, felt a little claustrophobic at times as most of the scenes were filmed at night, in often closed-off environment which omitted the urbanised chaos of Jamaica’s capital city and did little to promote the beauty of the Jamaican people, its hills and its valleys. But a film depicting the harshness of downtown Kingston is bound to be full of concrete rubble and the stark reality many Jamaicans continue to face. The film does not shy away from showing the traumas of poverty and crime and a brutish police force, unyielding in its pursuit of those it deems acting outside of its law.

The Friday night crowd at the exclusive screening, whilst not massive, were appreciative and perhaps not surprisingly, were mainly Jamaican born as the post film discussions led to some interesting observations as some felt the film would have been wise to have shown the hustle and bustle of market life and the true essence of Jamaican vibe and lifestyle.

The reach of Menelik’s festival must be applauded however, as the few people I spoke to had come not knowing much about him or the history of the BfmIFF but took the chance to see a film from the country of their birth in an environment outside of the usual myopic cinema circuit. Obviously impressed with the idea of such a festival, they quickly grabbed programmes and promised to come back to see more.

As I flicked through my copy of the programme, I was amazed at the amount of films on show and with workshops from some of our own luminaries of the film and media world, the Bfm International Festival, in the spirit of Sankofa, has gone back, taking the best from the past to bring it forward to the present and hopefully, continuing into the future.

The Festival continues until Sunday 5th July at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre Tottenham, N15 4RX

Check programme for details: http://www.bfmmedia.com/festival/

article by Orvil Kunga  / @kungadred –  Founder/curator of  Welcome to Busseywood,  African Film festival 

The Alumni of Afro Sax Drama Group Honour Mr Larrington Walker @ BAFTA HQ

brochure-2On Sunday 28th June, The British Blacklist was invited to BAFTA to honour Mr Larrington Walker, at BAFTA headquarters, Piccadilly London.

These days the busyness of the week always knocks me for six by the time the weekend approaches, and this week running up to Sunday 28th had been a monster. So, making my way to BAFTA on a Sunday evening, leaving the family behind as they rested off Sunday dinner, I was digging deep for that extra bit of strength to see me through the evening. Thank goodness for that extra. Upon arriving at BAFTA, before Larrington Walker himself arrived, I was surrounded by some of the true legends of the British AfriCarib arts world. I wasn’t sure if BAFTA HQ had ever had as many in their infamous building. Or if the BAFTA members off on other floors even understood that their exclusive area was playing host to a legacy of British history… But it wasn’t about them, and as I worked the room making conversation, with photographer Sid Mercutio taking pictures, I couldn’t help but smile with pride and feel in awe of this room filled with people I’d grown up seeing on TV.

The night was organised by a team of Afro Sax alumni  consisting of Marie Berry, Beejaye Joseph, Angela Wellington, Alison Hogg, Carlton Dixon, Rickie Clarke, Patrick Miller and Dennis Riley, who thought it was time to honour a man they’d all like to thank for giving them somewhere to hone their talents and break them into the ever so exclusive British arts world. To being a father figure in times of need, some saying Mr Walker, helped them pay their bills; some saying the life skills he taught them when they were fresh faced actors, they still implemented today as adults, even those who no longer remained in the arts. [Afro Sax was the drama school / workshop Larrington Walker co-founded with actors Treva Etienne and Ellen Thomas, of which it seemed every single black British actor of the old guard passed through.

So the order of the evening was that everyone was to arrive, on time…which they did…well done. Then after much congressing and catching up, everyone was seated and told by the night’s hosts, actor Robbie Gee and actor, radio broadcaster Eddie Nestor that when Larrington arrived no one was to cheer, no one was look at him, no one was to act like he was anything special. They were all here to fundraise Robbie and Eddie’s fictional charity climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, correction, SillyManjaro in celebration of their 25th anniversary of working together; and by the way Larrington thought he was coming to BAFTA to hear his granddaughter play in a piano recital! It was perfect.

When Mr Walker arrived, there was a little false start where some people, caught up in the moment started clapping but Robbie and Eddie soon covered it up, by scolding him for being late, and telling him to hurry up and take his seat as they were in the middle of ‘something’ [you know that one time you get to tell a parent off all in the name of something bigger; and for which you know you can never get in trouble for because it’s not your fault! Yeah, that’s what that moment was like]. He and his group took their seats quickly. I caught Larrington every so often looking around the room; a little bemused at the turnout for his granddaughter’s recital. He was probably wondering where the piano was too.

Robbie Gee and Eddie Nestor

Robbie Gee and Eddie Nestor

Within a few minutes, once everyone had settled into Robbie and Eddie’s storytelling, the moment arrived to reveal the truth. It’s not often surprises work, and as an outsider to all the arrangements, I wasn’t sure if Mr Walker knew, had any suspicions; how great was this granddaughter to be playing piano at BAFTA for goodness sake, but his face when the truth was told, and when he started to place all the faces of the people he’d trained, worked with and enjoyed a lengthy art career with it truly was priceless. He sat in his seat with a complete look of emotional shock, and then he stood and his guests raised the roof.

Then proceeded a night of tribute speeches and performances.
Actress, Dona Croll (Family Affairs, Doctors) thanked Mr Walker for loving his craft and providing ‘Shoulders for us to stand on. Many of you stand on Larrington’s shoulders.’ She also noted that ‘the arts isn’t something to make a living from [knowing laughter from the guests ensued] but [Larrington] gave them a way to make life bearable’

Marie Bennett, who is no longer acting, said in her speech ‘[although] I’m no longer acting, I’ve used all the skills I learned from Afro Sax in the work I do today.’

Carlton Chance, actor (Cry Freedom, Fifth Element) – recalled Larrington always saying that you shouldn’t use more than one A4 side of paper for your CV. He noted that as work started to come in, the foundation work he’d done via Afro Sax and other Larrington Walker collaborations started to drop off his CV, and mirroring the time he’d played the ‘Invisible Man’ on stage, often thought that Larrington Walker may have felt like the ‘Invisible Man’ as the important work he’d been a part of stopped being recognised. Stating wryly that ‘it wasn’t personal, it was business.’

Actor Brian Bovell (Babylon, Kingston 14) said that years after knowing and working with Mr Walker, it was whilst performing a play in Uganda, that, ‘in the middle of the piece, I remembered all the work I’d done with Larrington, and it all came together in that moment’.

Actress Ellen Thomas (Eastenders, Rev, Teachers), acknowledged the amount of personal time, effort and heart ‘we’ in the arts put into projects on a mission. She recalled the time they cleared out her flat in order to prop a set for a production they were working on. No money, all love.

Comedian and actor Curtis Walker had the guests in stitches with his tales of seeing grown black men who attended Afro Sax drama school, partaking in exercises which didn’t fit their manly personas. Being speechless when he saw Ellen Thomas walking out of Afro Sax drama school, admitting that he ‘stalked Ellen and Dona Croll’ his whole life. Saying that being inspired to join Afro Sax, it changed he and comedy partner Ishmael’s lives. That many of the guests were their heroes and that it’s ‘so crucial for young people to see people and touch people that they admire’. He went on to tell of the time he auditioned  for Maya Angelou’s play ‘Moon on a Rainbow Shawl’ for which he got a part, but due to his external life he got caught up in a situation which resulted in him being hospitalised, to the point he wasn’t able to go on stage. First night of the play, he said ‘Oprah Winfrey comes up to me and said, you gotta make a choice.’ What Larrington Walker had taught him, made a difference to his whole life.

Actor Paul Barber (Only Fools and Horses), was there to recall the lessons Larrington instilled in him whilst they flat shared in Hampstead, after first meeting back in 1972 on Jesus Christ Superstar. That [Larrington] had helped him realise he’d been ‘sheltered from the reality of life’ as a mixed raced Scouser coming from Liverpool to London. From distinguishing a banana from plantain, to learning how to be himself, saying,  ‘maybe at times I tried too hard. I remember a time I was out with Larry and his West Indian friends, from BTC and Afro Sax, and I was trying to make conversation with them and join in, and they were all [talking] in patois…and then the next thing I know Larry just looked at me and said ‘no’… Recently my agent called me and asked me what my Caribbean accent was like, [I said] ‘well actually it’s Scouse’ so they said forget that don’t go for the job. Then about three days later they rang up and said forget the accent, forget the dialogue we just want you as you are…and that’s the sort of thing Larry gave me. Be myself’.

Larrington Walker

Larrington Walker

Actor Clarke Peters (Treme, The Wire), mentioned food again, Larrington taught him how to cook Basmati rice properly. He also told us about the time when he and Larrington had fallen out, but 5 years ago had reconnected as if there had been no love lost. Testament to Larrington’s unique character, along with Mr Walker’s distinctive handwriting as Mr Peters said ‘If you know you know, if you don’t then you have more to learn’.

Awarding winning theatre director Paulette Randall MBE (Fences, Desmond’s, Real McCoy), who was also integral to the night’s proceedings read out a message from Lenny Henry who was sorry not to have been able to attend, and there were also video tributes from British virtuoso vocalist, actor and composer, Cleveland Watkiss. The actor Don Warrington. Lovers Rock singer Toyin Adekele, actress Sharon Duncan Brewster, actor Gary MacDonald and more. There were also musical tributes from Victor Romero Evants, JB Rose, Noel McKoy, Sharon D. Clarke and more.

When Larrington finally took his moment on stage, after being presented with his honorary award by Treva Etienne, he was lost for words, requesting to be allowed to leave the stage saying ‘I know afterwards a speech will come to me’, but for fear of rambling could he get off the stage. But his protesting guests wanted him to sing, recite poetry, do something! So he recited a poem called ‘Busy in the City’ to which the appreciative crowd recited along.

Trying to capture the night in words is a little difficult for a number of reasons. Throughout the evening, as Robbie and Eddie kept things moving, it was obvious that as much as it was a surprise event for Larrington Walker, it was also an emotional reunion for everyone in attendance. You had people who had trained together, worked together, fallen out and rebuilt friendships, risen and fallen, who left the UK for better opportunities abroad (nothing has changed there) or have chosen to stick it out and fight the good fight at ‘home’; all of whom had been connected in some way by Larrington Walker’s work and foresight to start a place for British AfriCaribs who wanted to get into the arts.

As a result the night was peppered with in-house jokes and banter that if you weren’t there a part of the Afro Sax crew, you could laugh and appreciate but you couldn’t truly get it. Quite frequently I felt like I was a child at a family party. Where all the aunties and uncles were in high spirits catching up, cussing, joking and laughing, with most of their adult conversation lost on a child, but yet as a child you understood that you were lucky to have been allowed to stay up that little bit later to soak it all in

Larrington Walker and Treva Etienne

Larrington Walker and Treva Etienne

Another reason this is difficult is because there were a lot of the guests in attendance whose faces I recognised but couldn’t remember or didn’t know their names. There were those I didn’t recognise, and should have. Which is why I’ve used the phrase ‘and more’ and instead of chasing them all up I’ve left ‘and more’ as a reminder to myself and to all of us that we should know our legacy. We should know and remember and never forget the shoulders we are standing on. We wouldn’t be here enjoying the arts if it weren’t for these pioneers. It’s also a note to our industry; the documenting of our history in the UK arts world is poor. It’s why The British Blacklist exists in the first place. Google helps a lot when trying to find the name or biography of a celebrity, but for British Black talent, it’s very difficult when you hit the older generations.

Additionally, as enjoyable as the night was, it was bittersweet to see that although we do have this history, talent and legacy we still have to attend diversity debates and events like ‘Act for Change’ to ponder where ‘we’ are on British screen, stage and film. If you tallied up the CV’s of achievement for everyone at BAFTA that evening, it was evident that we should long have had an established British AfriCarib version of Hollywood churning out our own arts productions, controlling a secure space within the British TV and Film industry. We should not still be struggling to have our stories told. We should not still have to go off to America before our adopted home in the UK takes us seriously. We should not still be shouting at the BBC, ITV and Channel’s 4 and 5 to take a ‘chance’ with AfriCarib stories, outside of the narratives ‘they’ are comfortable showing…

But those thoughts aside, a feeling of inspiration and determination ruled the night. I kept thinking about Femi Oguns MBE who started Identity Drama School with the same spirit that Larrington Walker, born in Jamaica, then came the UK in 1956 and was fearless enough to start something which set the foundation for the future had… I mean just look at what Femi’s achieved with Identity Agency Group and the Identity Drama school. I thought of all the young actors over here and America, Sophie Okonedo, Idris Elba, David Oyelowo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Ajala, Antonia Thomas, John Boyega, Javone Prince, Letitia Wright and those behind the scenes like Sebastian Thiel, Levi David Addai, Destiny Ekaragha, Bola Agbaje, Fredi Nwaka AND MORE.

I was speaking to Brian Bovell before the event started, where he recalled part of the speech he was going to give later on. He said, ‘we invented the story’ an epiphany which struck him whilst he was  indeed performing Shakespeare in that Ugandan village, he said ‘it was like the stars aligned and it struck him, that we invented the story, and it’s important that ‘we’ in the UK invest in our stories’… I agreed.

As testament to who was in the BAFTA building that Sunday, British AfriCarib’s tend to forget that we are also a part of the patchwork quilt that contributes to the world of ‘Black Arts’; instead always looking to our African American cousins. I myself am guilty of reeling off the names of my favourite African American actors, directors; celebs, forgetting the fact that Dona Croll, Brian Bovell, Sylvester Williams, Curtis Walker, Ellen Thomas, Wil Johnson, Paulette Randall, Sharon D. Clarke, Larrington Walker and many more (just look through TBB’s database as testament)…these people raised me too. Shaped my British Black Existence. Told my British Black Story…

(l-r) Brian Bovell, Clarke Peters & wife, and Q

(l-r) Brian Bovell, Clarke Peters & wife, and Q

Janet Kaye, Noel McKoy, Victor Romero Evans

Janet Kaye, Noel McKoy, Victor Romero Evans

(center) Treva Etienne

(center) Treva Etienne

Paulette Randall, MBE and Sharon D Clarke

Paulette Randall, MBE and Sharon D Clarke

Wil Johnson and Victor Romero Evans

Wil Johnson and Victor Romero Evans

Treva Etienne and Robbie Gee

Treva Etienne and Robbie Gee

sylvester_williams_neil_reidman
Noel McKoy and JB Rose

Noel McKoy and JB Rose

Curtis Walker

Curtis Walker

Clarke Peters

Clarke Peters

Paul Barber

Paul Barber

Paulette Randall

Paulette Randall

Brian Bovell

Brian Bovell

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas

Larrington Walker

Larrington Walker

 photos by Sid Mercutio

Fran McLoughlin Talks About Mousetrap Theatre Projects…

MTP_IYP_LOGO_CMYK_SmallNestled in the heart of central London, Mousetrap Theatre Projects is the young person’s charity committed to opening windows of opportunity to all regardless of economic, cultural or social status. Since its beginning in 1997, Mousetrap has been working with schools and families across London to enable young people to access and creatively engage with the best of London’s theatre. Running 18 separate programmes throughout the year, the team are driven by the belief that encouraging young people to connect with performance increases self-confidence, social skills, and the ability to understand and change the world around them.

Being independent of any theatre, venue or producer, Mousetrap Theatre Projects is in the unique position to work across the breadth of London theatre – with both the commercial and subsidised sectors in the West End and beyond. While many theatres work within their own community, they take young people who rarely leave their local area into London’s centre for their theatre visit. This broadens their horizons and opens their eyes to London’s enormous arts offering.

Photo credit: Alex Rumford

Photo credit: Alex Rumford

But visiting the theatre is just the beginning. In a climate that can seem rife with disparity of wealth, class and opportunity, Mousetrap works tirelessly to remove obstacles that today’s most disadvantaged individuals face. They create education programmes, using theatre as a catalyst for discussion, exploration and the introduction of new perspectives and skills. Encouraging young people to link the work they see with their own capacity to connect with others creates an environment of possibility;opening doors that would otherwise seem closed, empowering and equipping through communication, collaboration and creativity.

One of the charity’s most successful schemes is ‘Family First Nights’, a five week annual programme for low-income families that allows them to attend a London show at just £5.00 per person in July to August, followed by offers of discounted ticket deals throughout the year, which Mousetrap secures from various shows and venues. With the average theatre ticket price soaring well over £50, for many, this is the first opportunity for the whole family to enjoy the creativity that London has to offer. Not only are families able to experience a cultural event together, but the visits also spark reflection and ever- lasting memories, as children and adults alike find ways in which to engage with real world issues and are able to discuss them.

Photo credit: Alex Rumford

Photo credit: Alex Rumford

Mousetrap also targets the most disadvantaged within schools; with their programmes open to all students in mainstream state secondary education, giving priority to schools with a high percentage of students on free school meals and social deprivation, and reaching out to the most excluded young people through special needs schools, pupil referral units and youth groups. Within all their work Mousetrap constantly finds ways to emphasise the worth and importance of all young people regardless of situation or status, and to emphasise that nothing is out of their reach.

Despite the many pressures that come with being a small charity, young people remain Mousetrap’s top priority at all times. In 2010,Mousetrap’s Youth Forum was set up, comprised of people who have participated in Theatrelive4£5 or WestEnd 4£10 (programmes securing discounted tickets for 15-23 year olds). The Youth Forum advises Mousetrap on its development, helping the team to provide programmes that are as relevant and beneficial as possible. The Forum also runsits own projects and events, including the annual Mousetrap Awards. In this way the members of the Youth Forum gain practical experience in the arts within an environment that emphasises the belief that no obstacle is too large to stop them from pursuing their passions.

Mousetrap is a key example of an organisation that champions diversity through opening its doors and giving valuable ‘life –changing’ opportunities to all, working specifically to encourage the most disadvantaged from all walks of life. Whilst providing a variety of practical skills and experiences, the most important thing this organisation offers is hope. Though small in numbers, the impact Mousetrap Theatre Projects has on the young and marginalised is felt on a huge scale, asyoung people are not only told that there is more out there for them, they are shown.

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article was written by Fran McLoughlin

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