31 January 2018

A Cup of Tea with Khadijah

We sat down for a cup of tea and a chat with our Creative Associate Artist, poet and theatre-maker Khadijah Ibrahiim, to discuss creativity, her inspirations and heritage, and our upcoming project, ‘Windrush: an Influential Force on British Culture’.

26173010_1690207044377961_7301386312983630547_o

First question on the agenda was ‘What does being creative mean to you?’ For Khadijah, it means “…using your imagination and allowing it to be free, to flow, to come up with ideas that one would expect to do if one was dreaming about things…reimagining the world in a different way.”

Khadijah is the Artistic Director of Leeds Young Authors, an organisation which aims to help young people develop their artistic abilities as confident writers and live performers. Although the group was initially planned to run for only a year, it has now been growing for over 15 years, and has been central to Khadijah’s life for a long time: “To watch the young people involved grow into independent artists and go on to create theatre, be published, be radio producers, be journalists is amazing. I’m very, very proud of that aspect of my creativity in terms of engaging communities and young people.”

In 2014, Khadijah published her full collection ‘Another Crossing’ through Peepal Tree Press and went on to create a one woman show based on this collection which was performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. For Khadijah, the collection is “a culmination of personal stories, family stories, community stories…that otherwise wouldn’t be told.” She was shortlisted for the Jerwood Poetry Prize last year – a “very proud moment”. Despite these many successes, she still believes that “you’re only as good as your last work”.

Khadijah Ibrahim
Khadijah Ibrahiim

As a GCF Creative Associate Artist, Khadijah works very closely with the Foundation on many projects and helps us continue the legacy of Geraldine, who’s work Khadijah really admired: “She was not only an amazing composer and director, she was an amazing mentor and advisor, especially in the work that I was doing in my early days with Leeds Young Authors. She saw something in me that she would always encourage. It was maybe just a passing word from her, but these were very strong words that made you feel quite focussed…Her legacy, to be part of that legacy, to be working to keep that legacy alive – I feel really proud about that.”

I asked Khadijah what guidance she would give to young creatives who want to pursue a career in the arts. Her advice?

Never stop, always keep going…Keep on progressing. Keep on believing in yourself. The best advisor is yourself. The best motivation comes from self-motivation…I think creativity is a very spiritual thing – it’s given to you through some spiritual realm, that’s what I believe. You cannot force it…My advice is keep on going, keep on believing in yourself, surround yourself with creative people and creative energy that can inspire you, be inspired by other people’s work, be an inspiration to other people, and the rest will come.

Khadijah is a Project Producer on our Heritage Lottery funded performance project, ‘Windrush: an Influential Force on British Culture’. June 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of Windrush. Bringing the first wave of Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948, this momentous historical event marked the beginning of the mass immigration movement in the UK that resulted in an estimated 172,000 West Indian born people living in the UK by 1961; the ‘Windrush Generation’. To celebrate, we are producing a live presentation that will be performed by both young people and adults from across Leeds on 22nd and 23rd June 2018. I asked Khadijah about her personal connection to this story:

My connection to the story of Windrush is through my Jamaican heritage. First and foremost though my ancestral line, my grandparents who came to England. They were part on the Windrush movement…My grandparents arrived in the 50s and my parents arrived in the early 60s. So they’re part of that Windrush Generation…Everything I have created so far has talked about that migration, that settlement, that sense of longing, because as an African-Caribbean woman born in Britain, there’s always a sense of exploring identity and belonging, and so the Windrush story is my story.

Finally, Khadijah talked me through her ideas for our celebratory Windrush performances in June this year: “The idea is not to just tell the story straightforward because its been told many times, not to say it couldn’t be told like that as its been told before because I’m aware, as much as I know the story, a lot of don’t know the story so its still quite new to them. And it’s quite exciting working with the young people in presenting that story to them and how they visualise that.”

Click here to listen to Khadijah’s interview in full and discover more about her incredible heritage and vision for the Windrush Project. More info on our Windrush performances on 22nd and 23rd June will be released very soon. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled on our website and social media pages!

Related projects