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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

9 November 2017

Call for Young Creatives to take part in new performance project

Looking for a new opportunity to develop your creative skills and perform to a wide audience? The Geraldine Connor Foundation is currently searching for young creatives aged 14+ and based in Leeds who are interested in music, spoken word, dance or film to create and take part in a production celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Windrush.

What was Windrush? The ship called ‘Empire Windrush’ brought the first wave of Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948, marking 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. To many, they are known as the Windrush Generation. Our brand-new production that you will help create will explore this momentous historical event and its impact in Britain today.

Weekly workshop sessions will be on Monday’s 6-8pm at the Mandela Centre in Leeds, and lead to performances in June 2018. We are looking for passionate and creative young people interested in exploring their cultural heritage to sign up for this exciting new project, which will also allow you to achieve the Arts Award at Bronze or Silver level. Please note, these workshops are free to attend and, although this opportunity is unpaid, it is a fantastic chance to develop your creative skills and work alongside professional artists.

Want to find out more and express your interest? Please get in touch! Contact the Geraldine Connor Foundation by email at selina@gcfoundation.co.uk or phone us on 0113 243 1166. For more details on this exciting project, click here.

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1 November 2017

Ashley Karrell on Geraldine’s ‘unique spirit’

Leeds based film-maker, Ashley Karrell, chatted to us about Geraldine Connor ahead of the screening of his film, ‘Carnival Messiah The Film & Documentary’, which is showing at Leeds Town Hall on Tuesday 7th November as part of the 31st Leeds International Film Festival…

Geraldine Connor was a professional mentor and personal friend. It was an honour to create the film and documentary that showcases all the fantastic aspects of her epic theatrical production of Carnival Messiah. This incredible musical spectacle shows some amazing carnival costumery, magnetic voices, and a creative cast of over 150 drawn from the local Leeds community and celebrated international artists.

 

The film marks the tenth anniversary of the original production, staged at Harewood House as part of the Trust’s celebrations of the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. A decade on, Carnival Messiah has taken its rightful place as a cultural landmark in Yorkshire’s arts scene and remains relevant today. Geraldine’s vision of empowerment and inclusivity through the arts lives on not only through the film, but also through the work of the many artists she mentored and inspired. It has been a privilege to ensure that her unique spirit and phenomenal impact are cherished forever.

Feel inspired too? Then come join us at Leeds Town Hall on Tuesday 7th November at 8.15pm for Carnival Messiah the Film & Documentary. More details here.

Carnival Messiah, Ashley Karrell, film, Geraldine Connor
Ashley Karrell at the premiere of ‘Carnival Messiah the Film’ at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Sept 2017

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