Remember to keep consuming good art rather than just outputting all the time and getting burnt out. Don’t ignore red flags. You can survive anything. 

Describe yourself in 3 words…

Joyful Hopeful Queen

What inspires you?

Andrea Gibson’s poetry, Queer Eye, women supporting women, Jameela Jamil, strong people of colour, Aakash Odedra and his beautiful theatre show ‘Murmur 2.0’, Caleb Femi & his poem & video ‘Wishbone’, Joelle Taylor, Kat Francois, Brigitte Aphrodite & Quiet Boy, Helen Seymour (in everything she does), Alabaster DePlume, Fleabag, Chewing Gum & all of Michaela Coel’s work, and of course my wonderful husband & talented artist Adrian Saredia-Brayley (@_witchesgetstitches_). 

Tell us about your worst ever gig?

I was asked to perform for a careers festival and decided to say yes to help out a friend. It was unpaid and we had to travel there, but this was early days and I thought it would be good ‘exposure’! Myself and Adrian prepared a great set with poetry and live illustration, bought materials and were really excited.

However, when we got there, there was no real space for us – we were slotted in between the panel discussions during the tech changeovers as ‘filler’, where we were talked over by lots of people who just wanted to see the next event and chat to the previous panellists. The mics and music weren’t loud enough in such a noisy space and there was no compere for us as there had been for other acts. We also were in the unfortunate position of being the act before the event organisers were going to give out free pizza, so it felt like there was a hangry crowd just counting down the minutes until we were done! There were some kind people who did listen though, and we focused on that, and carried on creating little magic where we could. We did make the decision to cut the set shorter so we could save ourselves though, and left the event as soon as we could. None of the event organisers noticed – we may as well have not been there at all! It was awful, but it was a learning experience! Never again.   

What’s your number one poetry pet peeve?

Poetry events that run just a little too long! I really believe that less is more and it’s definitely more accessible to have short, effective events.

Whose words do you love at the moment?

I read the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins recently and THOROUGHLY enjoyed it! I read somewhere that Suzanne Collins writes for TV, which explains how every single chapter ends in a really great cliff-hanger, and how fast-paced and layered it all is. It’s a brilliant series that resonates with the world today – rebellions, police brutality, capitalism and more. Suzanne Collins is also incredible at world-building, bringing you right in the middle of all the action, and I raced through the books really quickly. Adrian read the books quickly too, once I was done – and, it does sound very uncool, but we both would stay up later and later because we couldn’t stop reading! I think that fierce level of absolute grip on the reader is a talent to behold. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Hi lovely little younger Neelam, you’re doing so well!
Remember to keep consuming good art rather than just outputting all the time and getting burnt out. Don’t ignore red flags. You can survive anything. 

What was your childhood nickname?

I have so many! Lily, Lilu, Lilu-Pilu, Shappy, Shappybob, Smee, Smeebob, Prince/King/Captain Smeebob, the Lion that Brought Home the Bug, Ladoo, Neelamb…and many many more today…

I collect them! 10 more and I will ascend. 

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