Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey Loves of Mine,
How are you doing? Have you given up on your new year’s resolution yet? Have you stopped listening to Black Messiah by D’Angelo yet? Have you decided on your 2015 Aesthetic yet? Have you been to a gym and distracted the locals with your wobbly sex appeal? Have you got your eyebrows done yet? Have you –
I’ll stop now. I’ve done some of those things but not all, and already today have listened to Black Messiah, The Pinkprint and assorted Beyonce, so I’m feeling
But most of all, I just wanted to communicate, with excitement, that I am v happy to be writing to you, v happy by the hypothetical idea of your presence on the other side of a laptop or desktop of phone or tablet.
So, I’m here to like – EmBev (Producer Extraordinaire) calls it announce – tell you about my exciting plans for this year…
SO I AM MAKING A NEW BODY OF WORK
It is Called
As Wide and As Deep As The Sea
(But I adore that title, so maybe for keeps)
And it is about what it is to be Black, what it is to be British, and what it is to hold those identities in your body, life, spirit and history in 2015.
It’s a work born out of being in love with a man – who describes himself as black, but won’t describe himself as British – with a child that has just started going to school – and is trying to figure out, in her own 5 year old way, what those identities mean there. It is a work born out of friends getting married and engaged, and hashtagging pictures of themselves with their partners as #blacklove. It is a work born out of ‘having a name that’s black, but not too black’, of debates with god brothers and cousins and my parents and my sisters. It is a work born out of watching various debates rage online, out of evenings spent with Audre Lorde and bell hooks and James Baldwin and Stuart Hall and Sara Ahmed and the women from #thistweetcalledmyback and Claudia Rankine and Kiese Laymon and a million think pieces, out of FKA Twigs and Janelle Monae and Kelela, out of Warshan Shire and Nayyirah Waheed and Yrsa Daley Ward, and Dean Atta and the sorryyoufeeluncomfortablecollective and glass and the sea and salt and sweat and tears and history and trauma and rage and dancing and the placelessness of adoption and privilege and being silenced and crying later and pacing the floor and phonecalls and emails and Kanye West dancing to Take On Me and Blue Ivy’s hair and Desmond’s and Lenny Henry, and Vine and Octavia Butler and Sun Ra and the Brother from Another Planet and Shonda Rimes and Scandal and Viola Davis and Teju Cole and
I don’t know what it is.
But I have lots of plans on how to find out!
So over the next year, I’m going to be working with East Street Arts in Leeds, Theatre in the Mill in Bradford, Sheffield Theatres & Eclipse, The REP In Birmingham, Northern Stage in Newcastle and the Ovalhouse in London in a series of little residencies where I explore what it means to be black in cities that aren’t my own, in the same way that I explored what it was to have natural hair in Chapeltown in 2013. I will do some writing and some making and thinking and some residence-ing (and probably some crying, because that’s a big part of being in residence anywhere, right?) And then we show a film and eat popcorn, and have a big conversation because WHY THE HELL NOT.
Then, in Autumn, I go back to those same venues with my absolute bubsy of a show, Dark and Lovely, after a little Edinburgh run.
There’s me and my parents and Emma doing it last year, look.
(I say it’s a bubsy, but I am in the middle of doing major Cosmetic Surgery on it to make it better)
So you can catch me on tour again!
And we’re doing Chewing the Fat at the Albany and the REP and Warwick Arts Centre, and I’ll be at Buzzcut with all new, improved, shiny ready to go race cards (and then again in Edinburgh).
And a Children’s book.
SO IT’S ALL VERY EXCITING AND BUSY.
But most of all, it’s about making a show about Black Identity that is loud, and highly visible and is part of a national conversation, that is ambitious, and political, that takes up space, and moves, as much as possible, outside of me, and my autobiography.
I saw lots of shows about race from white men last year.
And that’s fine.
I read lots about how brave and powerful they were.
And that’s fine.
But I would like to see and create and champion work that asked more, and was perhaps made by different people, with a different point of view – but had the same profile.. That moved beyond binaries, because they will never allow us to acknowledge complexity, not really, so let’s not even start there. Where people of colour were not absent and abject and victims, and white people didn’t divide into good guys (I’m watching you, Brad Pitt at the end of 12 years a slave) and bad guys. Work that prioritised ‘the other’, that muddied and challenged your idea of what racism is and how it manifests – a work that asked me to take responsibility, as much as it demanded that the world gave it freedom of expression, and a work that did justice to the struggle that it sat within.
I also hope it has sick beats and Missy Elliott in it.
I’m really, really delighted to say that this work is supported by Arts Council England (yaaaay, thank you!) and that a part of that funding has been me having a studio at Patrick Studios in East Street Arts – which gives me a stability that I think is going to be invaluable. So shouts all around.
I’m going to stop now, because that last bit made me a little bit tired…
New Show (you’ll probs get it in 2016)
New Tour (coming to you in Autumn 2015)
New Dress (I look fly as hell)
New Hair (It’s the same as it always was, just bigger – but it’s important, I think, there’s strength inside it, like Samson. So take you Delilah ass away from me. Damn, that story is misogynistic as hell)
I love you, have a good day
Lots of people got in touch following the show to request a reading list of the various…