Banner image left to right: Somalia Seaton, Chris Thorpe, Casey Bailey, Lanaire Aderemi, Adaya Henry, Sujana Upadhyay, Jasmine Gardosi & Chris McLoughlin.
“We are excited about how the richness of poetry and the narrative of theatre can work together to tell stories in new ways. The industry needs to enable new creative dialogues – we are delighted to be part of this journey and can’t wait to see what emerges.” – Theatre Royal Stratford East on the Poetic Theatre Makers programme
Poetic Theatre Makers is a programme designed to amplify Midlands artists and support spoken word poets as they take their writing and performance to new and exciting heights.
Based on research and conversations with artists, poets and theatre makers over the past couple of years, it’s apparent that artists based in the Midlands have long missed out on higher profile events, commissions, development opportunities with national reach, and overall projects. It can often feel as if they need to keep up with London because of the disparity in opportunities.
We’re not saying this programme will solve all those deeply embedded problems but we’re keen to raise them to the forefront of people’s minds and hopefully add to the conversation around more impactful artistic development opportunities across the country. This is the context in which this programme was developed.
Over twelve weeks the Midlands-based group are working with theatre makers Somalia Seaton and Chris Thorpe to really challenge and push the boundaries of their writing. I’m very gassed to be in a room with them all and to see the cogs ticking as characters, narratives and shows begin to develop. It’s beautiful to see.
We’re honoured to be working on this project in partnership with Birmingham Rep. Special shouts to Daniel Bailey and Catherine Fowles for the incredible and caring work they’ve put into this project.
Additionally, we’ve got each of the participants a paid residency with theatres across the country including Nottingham Playhouse, Birmingham Hippodrome, Theatre Royal Stratford East, the Royal Court, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Birmingham Repertory Theatre, so a massive thanks to each of them for their support and commitment.
It was important for paid residencies to be provided as part of this programme, not only as a way of supporting and providing one of very few paid residencies for Midlands-based artists but also to enable a space for each artist to gain access to an organisation they may not have necessarily been able to reach beforehand. The residencies will show each theatre maker how theatres work as well as enabling them to create and have the space, away from financial stress, to just be an artist and writer for a bit.
“This placement and collaboration with Apples & Snakes Midlands is very important to us as we strive to cultivate a non-Londoncentric narrative in our programmes. Supporting the development of writers, particularly those interested in making work for young people, from outside of the capital is a strong desire.” – Romana Flello, Royal Court
Our incredible cohort are from all across the East and West Midlands, creating exciting and challenging work. They are:
Sujana Upadhyay (@usujana)
Sujana’s work in development takes a look at the ongoing global and daily challenges of women across the world whilst drawing inspiration from goddess Adi Shakti, the supreme feminine power as described in Hindu Mythology.
Sujana is a writer and spoken word artist, working in both English and Nepali. She has performed and published in England, Ireland and Nepal. She has worked with the Belgrade Theatre, Rugby Theatre and Leitheatre in Edinburgh.
Lanaire Aderemi (@lanairea)
Lanaire’s work in development is called You Did Not Break Us. The play embodies stories of feminist resistance in Nigeria. The story is centred on three key anti-colonial feminist movements in Nigeria: the Egba Market Women protest, the Aba Women’s protest and Nana Asmau’s spreading of poetry and passion for educating girls in Northern Nigeria.
Lanaire Aderemi is a poet, playwright, performer and a second year sociology student at Warwick University. She has been featured on the BBC, in Coventry Telegraph and on student radio condemning institutional racism and sexism in universities.
“ I think I have grown in the past few weeks; from developing my writing to being able to read and critically analyse other amazing texts extensively and more nuanced. The course has challenged me to see this blend as not just putting these two elements together but skilfully using poetic theatre as a tool to better extract the stories I intend on pulling from the margin to the centre.” – Lanaire
Casey Bailey (@mrcaseybailey)
Casey’s work in development is called Grime Boy. The play explores the experiences of a young grime MC in mid 2000s Birmingham.
Casey Bailey is a writer, poet, spoken word performer, rapper and secondary school senior leader, born and raised in Nechells, Birmingham. In 2017 Casey released the short poetry collection Waiting At Bloomsbury Park through Big White Shed, and his debut full collection Adjusted with Verve Poetry Press.
“Working with Somalia and Chris has driven me to consider the process of my writing, the impact of my delivery and the importance of my intentions. This programme is really pushing me to do more and do better.” – Casey
Adaya Henry (@adayarrr)
Adaya’s work in development is called Shot Girl. The Play is set on a weekend in a series of clubs and explores how society adapts to new unwritten rules past 9pm as seen through multiple characters’ experiences.
Adaya trained at the Arden School of Theatre. She is a member of JUMPROV, the UK’s first ethnically diverse improvisation group, and is a spoken word artist who this year went viral after kickstarting the #WMgeneration campaign led by the Mayor of Birmingham Andy Street.
“Poetic Theatre Makers course is not only building my confidence in skills I already have but teaching me a range of things that will be so important to my final draft. It’s amazing that the Rep and Apples and Snakes are opening doors for Midlands writers and I’m so grateful.’’ – Adaya
Chris McLoughlin (@McLoughlinC)
Chris’s work in development is called Museum of Human. The play follows M.O.H. (Moe), an android implanted with human memories, exploring how humans behave through bereavement. The play aims to break the taboos around talking about grief, and help those with similar experiences feel less alone.
Chris McLoughlin is a spoken word artist, writer, and workshop facilitator. His poetry focuses primarily on mental health. He has published one poetry chapbook, Breakdown, with his second, Lose Your Armour, due later this year.
Jasmine Gardosi (@jasminegardosi)
Jasmine’s work in development follows the story of a supply teacher who hates talking about sex but has been asked to fill in for a sex education lesson.
Jasmine Gardosi is a multiple slam champion, BBC Slam finalist and Birmingham Poet Laureate finalist. She is a Ledbury Poetry Festival board member and runs West Midlands Poets’ Place with Apples and Snakes.
“For me this course is important because it empowers poets to do more with their work and their creativity beyond the traditional poetry set – no less in a relatively unknown world like theatre, where there is so much to find out, and so many new tools to play with.” – Jasmine
They sound pretty cool, right? Well, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it, contact them, work with them, give them commissions and feature opportunities if you feel inclined to and can.
One of the major aims of this project is to link artists who want to make work nationally and internationally to those who have the opportunities and resources to help them do that. For now, I’m happy to have introduced you to these incredible artists and if you’d like to know more holla at ya girl @ApplesMidlands. – Aliyah Hasinah, Midlands Producer.
Portrait credit: Paul Stringer