Rachel Long (b. 1988, London) is the founder of Octavia Poetry Collective for Womxn of Colour, based at the Southbank Centre. Her first collection My Darling From the Lions was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2020.
Long participated in the first ever series of The Writing Room, Apples and Snakes’ successful artist development programme for 18-25 year olds, in 2013. During the programme, facilitated by Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze MBE, we quickly recognised Rachel as a young talent. From the final event of our Cape Farewell climate change project at Rich Mix; to Architects of Our Republic at Woolwich Library, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington; to the Spoke showcase, part of a visionary project in and around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – we went on to book Rachel for a number of performance gigs the following year. Later in 2014, we selected Rachel to attend the annual Arvon writing course we co-organise.
If it wasn’t for Apples and Snakes I don’t like to think of what I’d be doing now… probably on the edge of poetry somehow but not ‘in it’, all this under-the-surface energy to write poems but not being able to identify it.
During that week, tutor Warsan Shire gave her the permission she needed to find her own voice, opening the door to further opportunities. Whilst participating in our My Deptford project, we introduced Rachel to poet and facilitator Jacob Sam-La Rose. In 2015 Rachel began to co-tutor alongside Jacob on the renowned Barbican Young Poets programme, which she still tutors on today.
Rachel was also awarded the prestigious Jerwood/Arvon Mentorship 2015, through which she was mentored by poet Caroline Bird. The same year, Rachel performed at our monthly night Jawdance and was invited to be part of our Speak Up Newcomer Tour, performing at the Jazz Café alongside godfathers of hip hop The Last Poets. With support from Apples and Snakes in 2015, Rachel founded Octavia, a poetry collective for Womxn of Colour at the Southbank Centre, leading to performances at the Women of the World and London Literature Festivals in 2017. In 2018, we welcomed Rachel back to Jawdance as headliner, and she came full circle, becoming lead tutor for The Writing Room alongside guest tutors Yomi Sode and Caroline Bird.