Hello from Apples and Snakes

A man dressed in green holds a mic to his mouth standing in front of a decorated van, performing to school children

What to say about 2021, was it worse than 2020? Hard to choose! We kept ourselves busy making work and supporting artists through programmes such as Writing Room, Work from Home, Artists Gatherings and our bespoke Poetry in Performance development programme supported by Jerwood Arts. We collaborated again with the BBC on the Word’s First Talent Development programme and with Sky Arts on the BAFTA winning Life & Rhymes series 2. Down in Plymouth we commissioned poets to write dragon stories as part of the large-scale outdoor show The Hatchling, put poets on screen at London Bridge station for National Poetry Day in partnership with Team London Bridge and celebrated the relaunch of Hit the Ode at Birmingham Hippodrome – after 18 months it was great to be live again!

Two artists paint a mural of Brixton on a wall in an underpass.

We’ve been busy working with the Keats Shelley Memorial Association on a project inspired by the works of Keats and Shelley which took poets out on the moors to be filmed and will tour to secondary schools in London and the Midlands in early 2022 as a live & digital experience. And we bought our first company van, a horsebox called Ivy, which tours PLOT17, our eco hip-hop block party and visited schools in Coventry as part of BBC Contains Strong Language Festival.

We commissioned Bunny Bread (@icreatenotdestroy) to paint a mural in Brixton in honour of our much missed and loved friend Ty (Ben Chijioke). Next year will see further commissioned works appear on Brixton streets as part of 81 Acts commemorating 40 years since the 1981 uprisings.

Other highlights from 2021:                                

  • Cece’s Speakeasy – our flagship project and fabulous collaboration with Jazz re:freshed and regional partners created an immersive poetic experience looking at climate justice through the lens of coffee and chocolate. Live events in London, Bristol and Nottingham, new poetic films and digital content, commissions for new and established artists and space for conversation…more info here: https://ceces-speakeasy.org/
    Huge thanks to: Jazz re:freshed and The Albany, Season For Change (SfC), The London Community Foundation, Cockayne – Grants for the Arts, the PRS Foundation, Jerwood Arts and The Garrick Charitable Trust.
  • Apples and Snakes: The Podcast – hosted by Yomi Sode, this podcast features an inspiring collection of Black British poets talking about everything from education to telling your story to music with poetry.  Listen here: https://applesandsnakes.org/2021/07/21/apples-and-snakes-the-podcast/

New series coming in 2022.

  • RED SKY SESSIONS: we launched a new online programme Red Sky Sessions, a free workshop programme for aspiring writers aged 18 to infinity. New series coming March.
  • SPINE festival: our annual festival funded by ACE project grants and John Lyons Charity and delivered in partnership with 16 London Library Authorities took place in June. Reimagining libraries as cultural hubs, we delivered 14 artist residencies, 107 performances and workshops and reached nearly 7000 children and young people through live and digital experiences.

Black and white image of Jean Binta Breeze laughingWe were also very sad to say goodbye to the inspiring, pioneering poet Jean Binta Breeze – who was part of Apples and Snakes journey for the past 4 decades, having her first gig with us back in 1986. Jean is very much missed and we will be celebrating her next year in some way. We feel very lucky to have had Jean involved in our last artist gathering early this year. 

Apples and Snakes turns 40 in October 2022 and we are delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Vienna on our archive over the next two years which will definitely support some of the ideas we have bubbling! As well as celebrating our history we’re also be looking at the future and what might be next for poetry.

The Apples and Snakes team are zoomed out, aren’t we all?! They have worked really hard and constantly shown how much they really care about the work that we do and supporting the artists that we work with. We have been extremely fortunate to have Zena Edwards working in the team as Consulting Artistic Associate as part of us beginning to reimagine how we make artists central to shaping the organisation’s future. Leading on our Cece’s project and wider climate work, her knowledge and experience has been invaluable. 

Despite everything that was going on around us poets have lifted our spirits, made us question, helped us imagine and fed our souls. Apples and Snakes exists because of the awesomeness of the poets that we work with, as always, it’s been an honour to support you all during the past year.

Final thanks to our funders including ACE, our partner organisations, our board and extra thanks and love to the team for being a brilliant group of caring humans.