Looking For Love Opens BFMIFF 2015


The Black Filmmaker International Film Festival (BFMIFF) will open with the new acclaimed film Looking For Love, director Menelik Shabazz‘s latest feature.

Love and relationships among Britain’s black community is a contentious subject. Looking For Love sources opinions and feelings from leading experts in the field of male-female relationships, to find healing, and forgiveness. Comedy is provided by Kojo, Andi Osho, Eddie Kadi, Donna Spence and Slim. There is also music and performance poetry. The BFMIFF 2015 opening night will feature entertainment, including a meet-and-greet reception, a Q&A with the director, followed by networking. To view the full programme, visit www.bfmmedia.com/programme

Date: Thursday 2 July 2015
Venue: Bernie Grant Art Centre, Town Hall Approach, London N15 4RX
Time: 7.30pm – 11pm
Price: £15
Website: www.bfmmedia.com

Melanie Keen is new director of Iniva

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Former Arts Council England senior relationship manager Melanie Keen has been appointed as the new director of Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts). With an extensive background in the visual arts as a freelance curator and consultant, she has worked with Iniva as a project curator on a variety of its publications, including Recordings: A Select Bibliography of Contemporary African, Afro-Caribbean and Asian British Art.

Keen joins Invia as it highlights its commitment to supporting diverse artists and their practice, creating platforms for debate and encouraging access and awareness of transnational art practices and histories. Keen will pay particular attention to building Invia’s partnerships and programmes to increase the organisation’s profile and impact.

Keen said: “I am thrilled to be joining Iniva in the midst of a transformation which will see it emerge as an organisation with a revitalised purpose and fresh artistic vision. Building on its previous achievements, Iniva will remain a champion of artists practising at the intersection of identity, politics and representation. Importantly, Iniva will continue to play a critical role in framing the discourse that challenges the notion of difference and diversity from a uniquely British perspective.”

Keen will take up her new role in September 2015.


National Youth Theatre announces 2015 season


Photo credit: Helen Maybanks.

Paul Roseby, artistic director of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain (NYT) has announced a new season of work for the company. It includes five new commissions, a collaboration with Sky Arts and one of the biggest casts to perform in London this year. It includes the world premiere of site-specific Homegrown – a response to recent events at Bethnal Green Academy and two brand new shows at the Arcola.

Following the huge success of the rep seasons in 2013 and 2014, the NYT is to return to the Ambassadors Theatre with three new productions in October, one of them documented in development as part of a new collaboration with Sky Arts.

The three shows in this year’s West End rep season include: Consensual – a brand new play about consent and sex education written by Evan Placey and directed by Pia Furtado; Wuthering Heights, in a new adaptation of Emily Brontë’s novel by Stephanie Street directed by Emily Lim and The Merchant of Venice – Shakespeare’s play abridged especially for schools by Tom Stoppard, directed by NYT Associate Director Anna Niland.

Roseby also announced that 2015 will see the NYT in collaboration with The Christmas TV & Film Company to create a specially commissioned film for Sky Arts. The film mixes documentary and drama and will star some of Britain’s best young acting talent. Sweet Sexteen (working title) will follow the NYT as they develop ConsensualSweet Sexteen will air on Sky Arts this summer as part of the channel’s new ‘Sex Season’ which features a collection of programmes examining the subject through the prisms of art, literature and culture.

For more information, visit: www.nyt.org.uk

Hugh Quarshie plays Shakespeare’s Othello at the RSC

Othello production images_ 2015_Photo by Keith Pattison _c_ RSC_Othello.2866

Photo credit: Keith Pattison

After more than a decade working in film and television on projects from Star Wars to Holby City, Hugh Quarshie returns to the RSC to play Shakespeare’s Othello. Quarshie was last seen with the RSC in Faust and Julius Caesar (1996). Hugh will play opposite Lucian Msamati in the role of Iago, returning to the RSC following his role as Pericles in 2006.

Othello is the greatest general of his age. A fearsome warrior, loving husband and revered defender of Venice against its enemies. But he is also an outsider whose victories have created enemies of his own, men driven by prejudice and jealousy to destroy him. As they plot in the shadows, Othello realises too late that the greatest danger lies not in the hatred of others, but his own fragile and destructive pride.

The production is directed by Iqbal Khan (Much Ado About Nothing 2012).

Date: Thursday 4 June – Friday 28 August 2015
Venue: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6BB
Price: £8.00 – £60.00
Website: www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/othello


Branagh Theatre Company launches The Winter’s Tale and Harlequinade

Rob Brydon, Lily James, Richard Madden, Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh. Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. Credit Johan Persson (12)

Photo credit: Johan Persson

Tom Bateman, Jessie Buckley, Jack Colgrave Hirst, Hadley Fraser, Michael Pennington, Zoe Rainey, Miranda Raison, John Shrapnel, Kathryn Wilder and Jimmy Yuill join the cast of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company productions of The Winter’s Tale and Harlequinade at Garrick Theatre. The two productions will play in repertory from 17 October 2015 until 16 January 2016.

The Winter’s Tale, Harlequinade, The Painkiller, Romeo and Juliet and The Entertainer make up the inaugural season of work for the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. The Company presents Plays at the Garrick, a series of plays that bring together an exciting group of actors led by Rob Brydon, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Lily James and Richard Madden.

For more information, visit: branaghtheatre.com

Image of an Unknown Young Woman

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Starting a revolution: Ashley Zhangazha (Ali). Photo credit: Iona Firouzabadi

Play: Image of an Unknown Young Woman
Theatre: Gate Theatre, Notting Hill
Playwright: Elinor Cook
Director: Christopher Haydon

Review by Esha Chaman

Elinor Cook’s contemporary political thriller is bursting with punky ferocity in a timely and unrelenting critique of police brutality against a dissident society fighting for revolutionary change.

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Talawa Firsts

WGO - Talawa Firsts

Talawa Firsts aims to kick start the careers of some very exciting new and emerging writers, directors and theatre-makers through a series of productions and workshops taking place Monday 8 – Friday 26 June 2015.

Throughout June, Talawa’s studio will become a hub of activity as upcoming directors lead development workshops on new plays and theatre-makers refine their work. Their studio will be transformed into a performance space and we will test out the work of three new writers and three new theatre-makers in front of a lively audience including industry professionals. Talawa Theatre will also run three workshop sessions offering the chance to build crucial skills in writing for stage and screen, along with practical advice in how to get a new project off the ground.

Date: Friday 3 – Sunday 5 July 2015
Venue: Talawa Theatre Company, 53-55 East Road, London N1 6AH
Price: £6.00 – £8.00
Website: www.talawa.com/talawa_firsts

Africa Writes

WGO - Hannah Pool Africa Writes

Africa Writes, The Royal African Society’s annual literature and book festival in association with The British Library, returns this year taking place Friday 3 July to Sunday 5 July 2015.

Africa Writes is an annual festival organised by the Royal African Society, which aims to promote contemporary African writing and writers as well as to explore Africa’s long literary past and its future. Every year Africa Writes showcases established and emerging literary talent from Africa and the Diaspora. The programme will include two headline events: African Books to Inspire, an evening of discussion led by a selection of writers and personalities as they share and discuss their favourite titles of African literature and Meditations on Greatness: Ben Okri in conversation in which the Booker prize-winning author will discuss his vast selection of literary work. There will also be an exciting programme of free book launches, readings, talks, panel discussions, performances, children and young people’s workshops, family activities, and an international book fair.

Date: Friday 3 – Sunday 5 July 2015
Venue: Conference Centre, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
Website: www.africawrites.org

Photo credit: Michael Leckie

London Short Story Festival

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Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency, has a brilliantly wide-ranging programme of 65 writers and 27 events on offer for the second London Short Story Festival , from 18 to 21 June 2015.

Following its success last year, the festival returns to Europe’s biggest bookstore Waterstones Piccadilly for four days of talks, readings, Q&As, discussions and insights into writing short stories and getting them published.

Headlining this year’s festival are some fantastic writers including Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri, chair of Man Booker International Prize 2015 Marina Warner, and multi-award winner Kevin Barry.

The festival is also about offering new and emerging voices an opportunity to showcase their work. Ben Okri wanted to share his bill with an emerging writer, and together with Spread the Word handpicked Irenosen Okojie (a contributor to Words of Colour online) to read alongside him.

articleimage - LSSF Ben Irenosen
Ben Okri and Irenosen Okojie. Ben Okri photo credit: David Hartley, REX Shutterstock

Guardian First Book Award shortlisted May-Lan Tan and Ghana’s ACRAG award for poetry and literary advocacy winner Nii Ayikwei Parkes will delight audiences with their stories and share some insights into their writing process.

The Caine Prize for African Writing , presents a special event at this year’s festival, bringing together excellent writers and editors including Caine Prize-winning Henrietta Rose-Innes, editor and literary critic Ellah Allfrey and Commonwealth Prize shortlisted, Caine Prize-winning Segun Afolabi.

The festival is for readers and writers alike, as it draws together people from across the world of publishing and writing to offer advice and share their expertise on what they look for in a short story, what writing course have to offer and how to get published. Part of the festival is the London Short Story Prize, a short fiction writing competition which this year is open nationally. The judges are Kevin Barry, Jon McGregor and Elise Dillsworth.

Writers are also being encouraged to post a photo of where they write and post it to Twitter or Instagram using #deskie and tagging @lssfest and @heals_furniture for the chance to win one of three lovely Heal’s lamps.

Free tickets and places for all events will be on offer to those on low income and on Saturday 20 June in the Writers’ Space at Waterstones Piccadilly, there is a programme of free activities.

The London Short Story Festival is supported by Waterstones, Heals, Book Trust, English Pen, Salt Publishing, The Caine Prize for African Writing, Word Factory, Comma Press, Wales Art review, Ambit Magazine, BBC National Short Story Award, Unthank Books, & Other Stories Publishing, The Asian Writer, Birkbeck University.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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Too much, too young: Jemima Bennett (Scout). Photo credit: Johan Persson

Play: To Kill a Mockingbird
Theatre: The Lowry, Salford
Playwright: Adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel
Director: Timothy Sheader

Review by Carl Palmer

The enchantment of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird is present from the start of Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation of the beloved classic.

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Cutting through diversity

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Act for Change Project founder Danny Lee Wynter.

Diversity in the theatre, or the lack of it, was at the heart of an intense debate at the National Theatre on Tuesday 2 June 2015, to mark the first anniversary of the much-needed Act for Change Project, reports Joy Francis.

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