Commonword’s Artistic Directors put into action our basic mission – to help new and emerging writers become more successful. What it means to be successful is open to wide interpretation: for some of our writers, it’s meant getting an agent, getting published with a multi-book deal, getting commissioned by television streaming companies, winning awards. And it can also mean enjoying writing, watching your writing get better and better, performing, becoming part of festivals, or just sharing with friends and family.
To make all that happen, the Artistic Directors have to fundraise, plan our artistic programmes and try to make sure people know about everything we’re doing and our opportunities.
Which art forms do you work in?
I write poetry and plays, and direct and perform for theatre. Won a few awards along the way.
Which organisations/projects are you involved with outside of Commonword Cultureword?
I’m a Co-Artistic Director for Manchester’s Global Majority queer-led Black Gold Arts, which has been doing artist development in writing, directing, choreography and performance since 2014. We had a fantastic two-day outdoor festival at The Whitworth in August 2022 which had 5,500 folks come to join us.
I freelance as a theatre director, and have worked at Contact with black Africans living with HIV [I Am Because We Are, toured 2018]; with Community Arts Northwest with mostly women asylum seekers and refugees for ten years. I directed the launch of giant puppet Amal, A Sleeping Child, for Manchester International Festival in July 2021.
I’ve also been doing some teaching for Manchester School of Theatre’s acting course for the past two years [Manchester Metropolitan University].
What projects are you currently working on/have upcoming in 2023?
I’ll be directing a brand-new play, This Town, by performance poet Rory Aaron for Contact for March 2023.
And a play I directed in 2022 with the Royal Exchange Caribbean Elders, Dominoes + Dahlias [Plus Oware!] will still be touring.
What are you most excited about for 2023?
Commonword is going to start a Wellbeing Programme for our writers, staff and board members. I think about how best to do it every single day. We’re hosting our National Black Writers’ Conference in-person from Oldham and internationally online – the last one was a blast and we want to top it this time. And writer/performer Adam Lowe, who’s basing part of his PhD on researching Commonword’s Archive which goes right back to the 1970s [Commonword Archive], will be starting new queer workshops in September.
Plus, I get to direct a brand-new play, which I love doing.
Please share a book and/or show recommendation
I love The Jasmine Throne and The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri. We read them for Commonword’s Queer Black Book Club [they’re the first two of a trilogy]. I inhaled these books, they were so much fun – Southeast Asian-inflected fantasy, wonderful worldbuilding, lesbian protagonists who actually have really good sex, politics, magic, sibling rivalry played out across an empire – these books have it all.
Where can we find your work?
Director, This Town, by Rory Aaron, at Contact Theatre, starting 22 March 2023 then touring to Derby.
And look out for Dominoes + Dahlias [Plus Oware!] on the Royal Exchange website.