Communications Position

9 March 2018

‘Expect the Unexpected': Akeim Buck on PLAY

GCF Creative Associate Artist, Akeim Toussaint Buck, chatted to us about his upcoming interactive live creation, PLAY, coming to Seven Arts in Leeds on Friday 16th March.

Akeim makes up one half of Snakebox, an artistic collaboration between himself and Otis Jones. The duo met while studying at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, where they began exploring their interest in music and dance together. They spent time at the school dancing, writing songs, composing music and choreographing. Before graduating in July 2014, they created an audience participation show called PLAY.

Snakebox presents PLAY
Otis & Akeim, photo by Daniel Phung & Samuel Baxter

PLAY is an interactive live creation inspired by audiences’ response and input. Akeim and Otis guide a controlled participatory experience, gathering information from the audience through games, then transform this information into a performance in the moment.

I asked Akeim about this collaborative approach to making work with artists and audiences. “I love collaborating,” said Akeim. Wonderful things can happen when collaborators share a common passion or drive for an idea, and a pillar fundamental of collaboration is to create a space where “everyone’s ideas are valid.”

For both Akeim and Otis, the idea of playfulness lies at the heart of their collaboration together. For Otis, this passion comes from his love of video games and comedy. For Akeim, it comes from a desire to never really grown up. Akeim describes himself as a “big kid” and compares his art to the principles of Shamanism. A shaman is regarded as having one foot in this world and one foot in the next. An artist is similar; they have one foot in the ‘real world’ and one in another world entirely – a creative world where anything is possible.

I asked what audiences could expect from PLAY. “Audiences should expect the unexpected!” replied Akeim. “PLAY is a workout for the mind and soul, a chance to remind us how connected we can be to each other and the inner child in all of us – the part of us that doesn’t want to go to work on snow days but have snowball fights and make snowmen!”

Want to PLAY with Akeim and Otis? Their imaginative live creation comes to Seven Arts on Friday 16th March, 7:00 – 9.00 pm. Admission is £5 and can be brought here.

Snakebox presents PLAY, photo by Daniel Phung & Samuel Baxter


1 March 2018

Windrush on World Book Day

Things have been pretty Windrush focussed at GCF HQ over the past couple of weeks, and the participants of our Windrush: an Influential Force on British Culture project have been hard at work developing their new production celebrating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush.

As today is World Book Day, we thought that there’s no better time to take a step back and think about the books that have inspired this project. After all, this weather is perfect for wrapping up inside and enjoying a day of reading. So we’ve put together a list (with lots of help from our wonderful project partner, Peepal Tree Press) of books that have helped inform the project so far, shaped the new production, and generally inspired us.

Novels, Poetry & Plays

Small Island, Andrea Levy (Hachette UK) 

A delicately wrought and profoundly moving novel about empire, prejudice, war and love, Small Island was the unique winner of both the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread book of the Year, in addition to the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and the Orange Prize ‘Best of the Best’.

Andrea Levy was born in England to Jamaican parents who came to Britain in 1948. After attending writing workshops when she was in her mid-thirties, Levy began to write the novels that she, as a young woman, had always wanted to read – entertaining novels that reflect the experiences of black Britons, which look at Britain and its changing population and at the intimacies that bind British history with that of the Caribbean.

In Praise of Love and Children, Beryl Gilroy (Peepal Tree Press)

After false starts in teaching and social work, Melda Hayley finds her mission in fostering the damaged children of the first generation of black settlers in a deeply racist Britain.

Born in what was then British Guiana, Beryl Gilroy moved to the UK in the1950s. She was the author of six novels, two autobiographical books, and she was a pioneering teacher and psychotherapist, becoming London’s first black headteacher. She is considered “one of Britain’s most significant post-war Caribbean migrants”.

The Lonely Londoners, Sam Selvon (Penguin Modern Classics)

Both devastating and funny, The Lonely Londoners is an unforgettable account of immigrant experience – and one of the great twentieth-century London novels.

In 1950, Sam Selvon left Trinidad for the UK where, after several hard years, he established himself as a writer.

Eldorado West One, Sam Selvon (Peepal Tree Press)

These seven one act plays bring to dramatic life some of the characters who first appeared in Selvon’s classic novels of exile, The Lonely Londoners and Moses Ascending. Dreams, schemes, summer gaiety and winter disappointments: the experiences of the parents and grandparents of the Black British children of today are portrayed with Selvon’s characteristic humour and poignancy.

Kitch, Anthony Joseph (June 2018) (Peepal Tree Press)

Born into colonial Trinidad in 1922 as Aldwyn Roberts, ‘Kitch’ emerged in the 1950s, at the forefront of multicultural Britain, acting as an intermediary between the growing Caribbean community, the islands they had left behind, and the often hostile conditions of life in post War Britain. In the process, Kitch, as he was affectionally called, single-handedly popularised the calypso in Britain, with recordings such as ‘London is the Place for Me’, ‘The Underground Train’ and ‘Ghana’.

Anthony Joseph is a musician and writer. He is the author of four poetry collections: Desafinado, Teragaton, Bird Head Son and Rubber Orchestras, and a novel, The African Origins of UFOs.

Escape to An Autumn Pavement, Andrew Salkey (Peepal Tree Press)

Johnnie Sobert is a brown Jamaican who earns his living as a barman in a Soho club. Sobert is a man divided: between Black and White; between class identities; between heterosexual and homosexual desires; between being an exiled Jamaican and an incipient Black Londoner.

Andrew Salkey was born in Colon, Panama in 1928 of Jamaican parents. He was brought up in Jamaica by his mother and grandparents. He left to attend the University of London in 1952, where he did a BA in English. He taught in school and worked as a broadcaster for the BBC on the Caribbean Voices programme. He was deeply involved in the Caribbean Artists Movement.

Another Crossing, Khadijah Ibrahiim (Peepal Tree Press)

Another Crossing is a marvellous collection of poems that tell the stories of an individual life, of a family, of the communities of Chapeltown and Harehills, and of crucial moments in the making of Leeds as a place where cultures meet.

Khadijah was born in Leeds of Jamaican parentage. She is a poet and theatre maker, and a GCF Creative Associate Artist. She is also a project producer on this project.

Non Fiction

Windrush, Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips (HarperCollins)

Broadcaster Trevor Phillips and his novelist brother Mike retell the very human story of Britain’s first West Indian immigrants and their descendants from the first wave of immigration in 1948 to the present day.

Don’t Stop The Carnival, Kevin Le Gendre (May 2018) (Peepal Tree Press)

Telling the story of Black British Music and the people who made it, from Tudor times to the mid ‘60s.

Kevin Le Gendre is a journalist and broadcaster and writer with a special interest in black music.

Against the Grain: A 1950s memoir, E.A. Markham (Peepal Tree Press)

The memoir of poet, playwright, novelist and academic, E.A. (Archie)  Markham. When he came to London in 1956 from his native Montserrat, Markham’s ambitions were to make it as a writer or pop singer, and at the same time, fulfil family expectations to become a scholar and academic. Unfortunately the young Archie’s attempts to combine elements of Little Richard and the now forgotten Jim Dale never found the success he was convinced they deserved and it has been in less lucrative fields that Markham established his reputation as a ‘nimble-footed, silver-tongued’ poet, critic and fiction writer.

The Front Room, Michael McMillan

The Front Room is a unique study by author Michael McMillan of the position of the home in different migrant groups. McMillan draws upon memories of his relatives’ homes in the 1960s and 1970s to show a representation of his vision of the traditional West Indian front room and the symbolism of particular objects.


Do you have any book recommendations on Windrush? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us at

More details on our Windrush production coming very soon! Keep your eyes peeled on our social media pages and website.

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’.


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!

19 January 2018

Our 2017 – What a Year!

2017 was a big year for us at GCF and, to celebrate, we’ve created this very handy infographic that shows you all the amazing things we got up to. A massive thank you to everyone who helped make our projects, events, partnerships and goals a reality – we couldn’t have done it without your support. Here’s to another action-packed and creative year! To view the infographic full size, click here.

GCF AR Infographic FINAL

Please explore our Projects Page to find out more about what we’ve got planned in the coming months.

8 December 2017

Creating with our Young Creatives

The last couple of week have been busy ones at GCF with the first workshops for our new Heritage Lottery funded project, ‘Windrush – An Influential Force on British Culture’, Leeds Carnival Choir rehearsals ahead of their upcoming Christmas concert on 15th December, and filming sessions with our Young Creatives for their short films. Phew!

You may have caught a glimpse of us filming at various locations across Leeds over the past two weeks as part of our ‘Portrait of a Young Creative’ film project. These short films follow ten young people as they explore how the arts have shaped and will continue to shape their lives. Actress and poet Melissa was relieved to find the forecasted rain held off during her day of filming in the city centre.

Filmmaker Ashley and young creative Melissa preparing before filming in Leeds
Melissa and Luke film project shoot, young creative stories
Shooting in central Leeds for Melissa’s short film

We weren’t so fortunate with the weather when we filmed Callum outside on the coldest day of the year – Callum and the crew were forced to take refuge in cars during snow flurries! But the team persevered and managed to capture some very atmospheric shots of the actor in the picturesque grounds of Harewood House.

IMG_7624 v2
Film crew wrapped up to film actor Callum in minus temperatures

Pianist Rowan serenaded Christmas shoppers and commuters alike during his filming sessions playing the public pianos at Victoria Gate and Leeds Train Station. He has been working on a composition especially for this project, and we loved hearing it for the first time.

Filming Rowan in Victoria Gate Leeds
Filming Rowan in Victoria Gate Leeds

Filmmaker Ashley Karrell, who has been working with our Young Creatives to both shoot and help develop their films, said:

It’s great to see them taking artistic ownership of their individual short films. I think a few struggled with the amount of creative freedom they were given with this project at first. However, now we’ve started filming, it’s the perfect opportunity for each young person to start leading the creative direction of their films. After all, it’s their own stories and creative journeys they are exploring.

We can’t wait to share the final films with you in the new year. To find out more about the film project, click here.