Tim is looking for community groups and individuals to share their stories and memories of the Caribbean and the region’s relationship with Leeds. Some of the stories collected will then be used as part of the summer exhibition.
If you would like to share your story and contribute to this exciting exhibition, please get in touch with Tim, who’ll be delighted to hear from you. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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”.
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!
It’s raining this week in Leeds but last week we had our own early Summer fun bringing Carnival to life with children from all over Leeds.
Our ‘Masqueraders’ (the troupes name for the week) made their own Costumes, ‘Soco’ Danced with true Carnival style and attitude and Beat the SteelPan, all with the help of local experts from the Leeds West Indian Carnival scene.
We’d like to congratulate all our Masquerader’s and thank them for their energy and enthusiasm all week!
We’d also like to thank all of the creative staff who put in some much hard work, as well as our volunteers Taysia and Adeline who gave up their own spring break to give us a hand.
For more Carnival Mash Up and other activites please sign up to our newsletter ‘GCF Insider’
We interviewed Akeim Buck and Omari Swanston-Jeffers about their careers so far and what to expect from their Creative Café on ‘Physical Theatre‘ on Thursday 30th March 2017.
How did you become an artist?
Akeim: It’s only since last year that I got used to saying ‘I’m an artist’. After graduating from Northern Contemporary Dance school I decided that I wouldn’t pursue other careers. It was trial and error for a while, whilst I was studying I tried to do other weekend jobs but they never seemed to work for me, whereas dancing, leading workshops and working with kids seemed to come naturally.
Omari: I’ve always been an artist, but professionally I suppose once I graduated from university and started working. I had work as a runner in tv for a while but during uni I started getting paid for dance and teaching and other skills, since I graduated I’ve been getting more and more paid work.
Who and what inspires you?
Akeim: Bob Marley is one of my biggest inspirations. My mum is an inspiration and then just people and their stories. The work itself inspires me because I try to stay true to it and create new work always trying to compete with myself to be better.
Omari: My biggest inspiration is my grandad, he came from the Caribbean and was able to build up a great family and provide for them and then, when he was older he moved back to the Caribbean and built his own house. My surroundings inspire my art, I look at different artists and different music. I find a lot of inspiration in black/afro-Caribbean culture, but not to the exclusion of other cultures.
What was the proudest moment of your career?
Akeim: Recently a piece I was successful in a grant application, there was an audience member who was a 1st generation Greek who watched the piece 3 times, first when it was just a rough draft, secondly when I posted something online and then most recently the completed piece. He told me that it ‘made him want to do something’, the man made a mix for the people of Aleppo. It showed that we don’t have to shout and scream to be activists, instead we can use our natural skills to do something for others as well as ourselves. I was really proud that it was my work that helped him to get to that place.
Omari: Graduating from Roehampton University with a first-class degree in Creative Writing.
What do you think are the challenges for young artists?
Akeim: Getting people and organisations, to believe in and trust you. Getting Arts Council funding is touch, when you do you feel like you’re a child who is finally get recognition and becoming an adult.
If you want to be seen as a professional and taken seriously you have to know what you want. If you don’t, what other people think of you and want from you will end up defining who you are as an artist. When you get feedback you have to think about what to take on board and what you should leave aside. Ask yourself if it aligns with your vision, and what you want. You are the artist not the art so try not to get to precious about your work or objectify yourself.
Omari: Financially sustaining themselves. It’s important to be a business person as well an artist.
What can we expect from your Creative Café workshop?
Akeim: To build your confidence in devising movement as an actor as well as taking direction and being honest and truthful with the directions you are given.
Omari: Lots of fun, lots of learning and lots of skill and passion.
Where can we find out more?
To find out more about the Creative Café and register for updates CLICK HERE!
To find out more about Akeimcheck out the following links: