Writer survey 2015 – tell us what you think!

Writer survey 2015 – tell us what you think!

Writer Survey 2015

Help us make our services better for you! Give us a few minutes of your time and you will be entered into a prize draw for a £30 book voucher for Waterstones, plus 3 book prizes.

All personal information provided will be kept confidentially and only top headlines across all data will be shared with our funders (eg percentages). We will not share individual responses with anyone. 

Here’s the link: http://goo.gl/forms/e8bz7tgb22 – yes it is really is that simple! Thanks in advance for your help. 

Deadline for prize draw: Friday 15 January 2016, midnight (we will leave the survey open until 31 January for late responses)


Photo- No Place Like Home Crawley Library 2015. Photo- Bip Mistry.
No Place Like Home, Crawley Library, 2015. Photo: Bip Mistry
We’re taking part in Twitter campaign #DiverseDecember

We’re taking part in Twitter campaign #DiverseDecember


As part of the national #DiverseDecember campaign on Twitter, we will be sharing stories, poems, books and collections by BME authors living in the region.

This year has been an incredible one for South East and Sussex authors, who have taken part in Writing Our Legacy over the years.

Works to look out for:

  • Umi Sinha’s debut historical novel Belonging, published on 17 September 2015 by Myriad Editions, is an evocative and moving account of three generations in India and Sussex, from the colonial times to First World War, as they struggle to understand themselves and . myriadeditions.com/books/belonging/
  • Closure, an anthology of contemporary Black British short stories, was published on 28 September 2015 by Peepal Tree Press, edited by Jacob Ross and Inscribe Series Editor Kadija George. Lynne E. Blackwood, Sylvia Dickinson and Akila Richards sits alongside acclaimed writers Monica Ali, Jacqueline Crooks, Fred D’Aguiar, and Bernardine Evaristo to name a few. peepaltreepress.com/single_book_display.asp?isbn=9781845232887
  • Best British Short Stories 2015, published on 15 June 2015 on Salt Publishing and edited by Nicholas Royle, is part of a new series that aims to reprint the best short stories published in the previous calendar year by British writers, whether based in the UK or elsewhere. The anthology features Uschi Gatward’s story ‘The Clinic’. saltpublishing.com/products/best-british-short-stories-2015-9781784630270

Published? Let us know and we’ll tweet your publication details –writingourlegacy@gmail.com or @BHWritingLegacy

Arts Council England support for two new projects

Arts Council England support for two new projects

Arts Council England support for two new projects

We recently had some good news: our application to Arts Council’s Grants for the arts was successful!

This summer and autumn, we will be embarking on two new projects: La Llorona R&D and No Place Like Home (UK). Both projects will explore storytelling in the Black and ethnic minority and diaspora communities, examining cultural myths, legends and personal narratives.

We will also strengthen our organisation by creating an accessible community storage and resource of our decor and costumes, working with a community partner (school/venue); conduct participants and audience evaluation; and update our website.

In La Llorona R&D, five multi-cultural arts collaborators will create a new theatrical performance based on the Mexican myth La Llorona (Weeping Woman) over four-day intensive R&D residency.

As part of the team’s research, they will deliver a one-day participatory workshop with Brighton’s Latin-American communities, including children & families workshop.

Working together on this exciting new project are Mexican-British theatre director Rikki Tarascas, costume designer and carnival producer Hannah Barker, digital artist and sculpture Tom Hamilton, arts educator Linda White, and Mexican-American writer Amy Zamarripa Solis.

No Place Like Home comes to the UK in a special project in 2015 to help people from diaspora communities living in England remember and recreate their own childhood homes.

Amy Zamarripa Solis will be working with visual artists David Blandy and Larry Achiampong to deliver workshops in Milton Keynes, Bristol, Brighton and Crawley. Participants will learn how to use a range of digital skills including filming, sound recording, editing and writing to create and publish their stories in a range of mediums.

Artist and filmmaker Aikaterini Gegisian will create a film at each workshop, documenting participant’s lives. We will share these films and also the works created by participants in Autumn 2015.

The workshops are linked to No Place Like Home UK is linked to a wider project examining the loss of home and gentrification around the world, starting with the Mexican-American neighbourhoods of downtown Austin, Texas, where Amy Zamarripa Solis is

A special thanks to our partners on these two projects: Ujima 98FM Radio, MK GalleryArts GatewayMKCrawley Arts Development (Crawley Borough Council), BandBazi, and last but not least Mexican and Latin American Society at Sussex University (MEXSAS).

For Irene Mensah: a life remembered in poetry

For Irene Mensah: a life remembered in poetry

Irene Mensah (1963-2013)

Here at Writing Our Legacy, we’d like to take a moment to remember one of our members, Irene Mensah. Irene was a well-loved Brighton artist, poet and dancer who sadly passed away a year ago today, just short of her 50th birthday.

Irene left behind many legacies. A strong tree, she had many deep roots and branches. Friends, family, art works and writing, not to mention beautiful memories shared by many.

The community she created has been indelibly enriched by her life and her legacy. There’s not a day that goes by when someone isn’t posting lovely images on Facebook of Irene or reminiscing about her spirit, fun times in the past.

Today we’d like to honour her poetry. Continue reading →

How to start a career as a playwright

How to start a career as a playwright


How to start a career as a playwright

Step one: write a play

Step two: send it out

Repeat as necessary.

Step one: write a play

No-one can do this for you.  There are books and websites you can look at for advice on technique, software to help with formatting, and courses you can go on.  You should definitely go to the theatre as much as possible.  You may even be able to get a grant to buy you time to write, or to pay for mentoring or dramaturgy.  But at the end of the day it’s down to:




Step two: send your play out

Get your script as good as you can get it before you start sending it out.  Get the story right, and all the scenes and characters fully realized.  Put the script into industry format (it’s not set in stone, but there are conventions).  If you’re dyslexic, or your spelling is in any way dodgy, get someone reliable to proofread.

Then send it out.  Some of the major new writing theatres offer a script reading service.  You could also try sending it to reputable competitions — Bruntwood, Verity Bargate, Theatre503.  See our resources list for details.

Don’t forget your regional theatres, and smaller companies that might be interested in your work — eg Rifco if you’re an Asian comedy writer.  Send your script to us too, at the Writing Our Legacy address.

When you’ve sent it off, wait.  If you haven’t heard anything for six months (or after the notification period indicated), it’s OK to send a polite email enquiry.

Repeat as necessary

You probably won’t hit the jackpot first time (or any time).  But if you keep writing and keep sending out then you will slowly build a career.

If you have a bit of talent and a bit of technique and a bit of tenacity and a bit of luck, you will start to get noticed in competitions and by literary managers. You might get professional rehearsed readings of your work or an offer to work with a dramaturg (though you might not be paid for any of this).  You might get commissioned or offered a full production.

There is not (usually) a lot of money in it though.  So unless there are other compelling indicators, you might want to hang onto the day job.

Home, a new non-fiction work by Umi Sinha

Home, a new non-fiction work by Umi Sinha

Where do you belong?

We’re delighted to present Home, a new non-fiction work by writer, teacher and storyteller Umi Sinha, commissioned by Writing Our Legacy.

We’ve been working with Umi around the themes of home and displacement. Last year, Umi ran writing workshops at Jubilee Library, exploring these themes to write your own stories.

With creative writing, and especially for people from other countries or cultures, we write to understand, to feel at home in the world, to figure out where we belong. Writing is a great tool for exploring ourselves, other people and our past.

One’s sense of belonging becomes more complex when you’re a mixed race person, with family from different countries, and perhaps you from neither of those – or you have several places to call home and none are where you live now.

In 2012, Umi was invited to read from her current novel at our Asian Voices event in Crawley. The book is set during World War I and is about the Indian soldiers in Brighton at this time. We also commissioned Umi to write a piece about home. Being from both England and India, what did it mean to be mixed race? Where did you then belong? Where was home?

We present this work to you now. Enjoy!


By Umi Sinha

In 2006 I had been living in England on and off for nearly forty years, having left India when I was fifteen. For sixteen of those years I had lived in Sussex, first in Brighton, then moving along the coast to Saltdean, and now it was time to move again.  Even before I left India, the country of my birth, I had been searching for a place I could call home. In India I was ‘half-English’, a half-caste, and therefore an outcast. In Britain, I thought, things would be different, but the moment I arrived I became ‘half-Indian’. Would I ever be whole?

We arrived in England in 1968, shortly after the mass immigration of Asians who had been evicted from Kenya and Uganda. After three years at school in Kent I went to university in Coventry where a lot of Asians had settled to work in the car factories and in my second year I moved with some other students into a rented house in the Foleshill Road, an area occupied mostly by Indians. I was so homesick that I tried to strike up conversations with Indian bus conductors. They seemed interested in where I came from and my family – searching for common connections as Indians usually do – until I revealed my mother was English. Then their faces glazed over and they turned away.

At that time the expressions ‘wog’ and ‘nigger’ were still widely used, and once a man on a bus asked me how I was enjoying living with “our coloured friends”. I was too embarrassed to tell him I was one of them. Towards the end of my university course, the mother of my friend Sue visited and asked the same question, rather more genteelly phrased. Sue replied, ‘Oh I hate it here. Indians stink and so does their food.’ There was an awkward silence. I left the room. Later her boyfriend came to me and explained that Sue had forgotten I was from India. ‘Anyway, we don’t consider you one of them. You’re one of us,’ he said.

As soon as I left university I moved to Crete. It was halfway between India and Britain, geographically, climatically and culturally. Perhaps I would fit it in there? I discovered Greek cinema was very much like Bollywood naatch gana and that the film actress Nargis was much admired. I loved Crete but soon understood why the word ‘xenophobia’ had been adopted from the Greek: an Englishman – who had been parachuted in to liberate Crete during the war and had married a girl who’d been in the Resistance and stayed – told me that after twenty-five years he still felt like a stranger. On a visit to Agia Roumeli on the south coast I learnt that a woman from the neighbouring village, a few miles away, who had married into the village twenty years before, was still referred to as ‘the woman from Hora Sfakion’.

I went back to India, aged 26, to discover nothing had changed. I was told by a mutual friend that the family of a male colleague I had lunched with was worried that he might decide to marry me.

Four years later I returned to England and resumed my search.  I lived in London – at the beginning of the ‘80s not the multi-cultural place it is now – and then moved to Brighton in the ‘90s, where, despite the fact that there was practically no black or ethnic minority presence, for the first time in my life I felt accepted. As a lesbian friend said to me, ‘In Brighton no matter how odd you are there’s always someone odder.’ I found that statement reassuring because I had always been the odd one out. At school in India the only friends I could have were Anglo-Indian or Parsi; or Christian converts, usually from the caste still referred to then as ‘Untouchables’. To the Hindu girls we were all Untouchables.

But if Brighton embraces ‘the odd’, it also imposes an expectation that, as I got older, I began to find harder to live up to. When I left Brighton in the end it was probably because I didn’t feel odd enough.

So now, in 2006, I was looking for a home again. It was house prices that made us look in Newhaven, despite its reputation. The first few houses I saw dismayed me – cramped, dark and gloomy – but as I walked up the steps to a Victorian terraced house facing the river a gust of wind brought the smell of ozone, fish and diesel oil rolling up the valley. I took a deep breath and thought, “Ah, home!”

Home – that word that carries so much meaning. In colonial times the British abroad wrote and even pronounced the word with a capital “H” when referring to Britain.  In India the conception of home is so strong that the word for England was ‘vilayat’, which simply meant ‘province’ – the word ‘Blighty’ derives from this – and even today Indians will often say someone lives ‘bahar’ which just means ‘outside’, or ‘abroad’.  It’s as though once you’ve left Home, it makes no difference where you are.

As a result of my father’s career – he was a naval officer – I had lived around ports all my childhood, and we often travelled by cargo ship back and forth to England, so that smell of ozone, fish and diesel oil spelt Home, with a capital H, for me.

In fact, of all the places I have visited in the world, the one where I have felt most truly at home is the sea. Standing on the deck of a ship looking out and seeing nothing but blue all the way to the horizon in every direction is like being in a bubble out of time – neither one’s point of origin nor one’s destination, neither past nor future – exist. At sea I can be just me, not half this or half that. The sea does not belong to anybody. To me it represents freedom and escape and I have never been comfortable living far from it. Coventry, of course, was as far from the sea as you can get in England, but from my house in Newhaven I can watch the dredgers sail past the front window and the fishing boats putter past followed by a raucous cloud of seagulls and twice a day the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry docks further down the river.

Ports bring the world to your door and remind me that if ever I feel I don’t belong here any more all I have to do is get on that ferry and the whole world will be out there waiting for me.

Facebook WC picUmi Sinha has an MA in creative writing and has taught for the University of Sussex on The Certificate in Creative Writing course for twelve years. Students from this course have gone on to win prizes, be published, and have plays or stories performed on radio. She also does life story and reminiscence work with older people, teach fiction workshops for the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) and she runs her own courses and a literary consultancy.

Her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies, including in Cosmopolitan magazine and a Serpents Tail anthology, Getting Even: Revenge Stories. She has worked as a freelance editor for Orient Longman, written titles in the ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ series, which retells myths, legends and historical events in comic book form for children. She was a sifter (reader) for the Asham Award in 2012. http://www.umisinha.com

Dead Late 2013

Dead Late 2013

Dead Late 2013

Presented by Latin Voices Live! and Brighton Museum

Check out this awesome video of our evening event Dead Late as part of last year’s Latin Voices Live! The evening was produced by Transition Film.

Watch the film:


Dead Late took place on Thursday 7 November 2013 at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery as part of the Museum’s Late series, which aims to encourage a wider range of audiences coming into the museum after dark.

We had cocktails, face paint, DJ, costume, craft, performance, music, calaveras writing, and a special graveyard with skeletons and dancers. It was a fantastic night of fun and we can’t wait to do it again!

Supported by National Lottery funding through Arts Council England, Brighton & Hove City Council and Royal Pavilion & Brighton Museums, Brighton & Hove.

Follow Latin Voices Live! on Facebook and Twitter

Latin Voices Live! Family Day Film

Latin Voices Live! Family Day Film

Latin Voices Live! 2013 Film

We are delighted to get a short film of our Latin Voices Live! family day, which took place recently on Saturday 9 November. The event was bigger than ever, spanning across Brighton Dome, Brighton Museum and Jubilee Library, from 11am until 5pm.

The film captures a bit of everything from the day including:

  • Marta Scott Dance Company
  • Arts and crafts workshop with Linda White from Viva Mexico!
  • Cuban band Son Guarachando
  • James Burt reading Borges at Borges-a-thon
  • And lastly Chilean writer Luis Munoz reading from his memoir Being Luis and talking about his life as a torture victim and survivor.

The majority of the film focuses on the reading and talk from Luis, including a reading from the book when he and his younger brother were looked after when abandoned by their father by a criminal called Satan, who ruled the grocers markets, and later when Luis ran into his father on the eve of the military coup. An emotional reading and discussion is captured on this edit, in which audience members relate and probe the person Luis was and who he is now.


Photos and videos from INCUBATE Live Lit Industry Scratch Night at Nightingale Theatre

four people making a toast
INCUBATE participants Umit Ozturk, Lynne Blackwood, with Stuart Silver, and participant Priti Barua. Photo Bip Mistry http://bipmistry.com

I’m very happy to present to you photos from Paul Jackson and Bip Mistry and film from Joel Shepherd featuring the live lit performances from creative writers Priti Barua, Umit Ozturk and Lynne Blackwood. They performed for the first time on 24 January 2013 at Nightingale Theatre as part of our new live lit programme called Incubate.

Since 14 December, they’ve had the opportunity to work with BAFTA-nominated, Perrier award winning writer and acclaimed producer Stuart Silver to turn their original writing – everything from one-page scripts, a short story and an even flash pieces – into live lit performance fit for the stage. They rehearsed for 4 days in the studio, and I know put in a lot of time and hard work to produce some excellent results. See Lynne Blackwood’s account on our site about what the experience was like.

Stuart Silver, Producer, says: ‘Working with such obviously talented writers is a thrilling process, and Priti, Lynne and Umit have leapt into the challenge of turning their wonderful writing into performance as a first step to developing live literature works with dynamic shifts, risk, surprise, wit and warmth.

‘For the two days we’ve spent together, there is of course so much to explore with such richly nuanced texts and we’re thoroughly looking forward to seeing these three pieces performed for an audience for the first time.  It’s obviously an essential experience from which, with continued mentor support they can further develop the pieces and explore the performance techniques we’ve all been setting in place.’

The night of 24 January was packed out with audiences – yes, a sold out night! – and we saw moving, daring, and humorous performances from all three writers. If you missed it, not to fear, as we have videos of Umit, Lynne and Priti, plus a special 2.5 minute promo video of all three. Plus we also have photos on our Facebook page and on Flickr, so have a look and enjoy.

We expect to see more from these three writers in the near future!

A final thanks to Steven Brett at the Nightingale Theatre for supporting this programme, Akka Ali, who was the INCUBATE coordinator, and Sarah Lee, who is mentoring all three writers to help them get funding to continue their writing developments.

Umit Ozturk performing ‘Who do you think they are not?’

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKmqWz9PU8k]

Umit’s humorous short play “Aunt’s Agony” is about a person working in a call centre who’s trying to sort out people’s problems from around the world and tackles the issue of cultural diversity – and cats!

Umit Ozturk says of the residency: ‘Incubate helped the flames of my passion for stage to reincarnate! In this piece of stage performance, I am hoping to have a witty look at the perception of the diversity of cultures in the society, with a particular focus on the Mediterranean region. I would like to ask the audience this question with a loud smile: “who do you think they are not?” and help them in finding the answers.’

Lynne Blackwood performing ‘The Lesson in Dhansak’
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz8ymWV_2g4]

Lynne’s piece is based on a short story called “The Lesson in Dhansak”, which is the only piece of Lynne’s writing to be drawn from a personal experience. Her story powerfully combines her Anglo-Indian community’s loss with being different in a hostile country and her father’s valuable lesson to her as child about life and how to overcome difficulties.

Lynne Blackwood says: ‘Working with Stuart has been a liberating experience for me. His nurturing brought out talents I wasn’t yet aware of and allowed me to express myself in a confident way, despite the physical limitations. His observations also allowed me to look at my work in a different manner and to see where improvements to the original short story could be made. Thank you INCUBATE, Amy and Stuart!’

Priti Barua at Nightingale Theatre
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBaLlCTDSBU]

Priti Barua says of her experience on the residency: ‘I have been positively inspired by the INCUBATE residency, the insights and guidance of Stuart Silver and the support of fellow writers and mentorship is invaluable. As a result I am becoming more conscious of the power of the spoken word and my deeper desire to connect with the audience in effective dialogue, both silent and spoken. It is both daunting and exhilarating to think that the words written in silence will take on new meaning in the theatrical space and I hope give me the courage and confidence to keep writing!’

INCUBATE 2012 promo video
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVdBwJiFam8?list=UUQRLPA7Jyb1ZcuWLrkVe14g]

Listen again: a recording of our Asian Voices night in Crawley

Photo courtesy of http://black-history.org.uk/pavilionindian.asp

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFzpvIgfsVU&w=420&h=315]

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/64247536″ iframe=”true” /]

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/64343234″ iframe=”true” /]

Enjoy footage and audio recordings from our recent Asian Voices. It was an evening of writing inspired by the historic Brighton Pavilion and India, held at Crawley Library this past Saturday.

Despite the rain, the modern library held a sizeable local audience, with former soldiers and people of different Asian backgrounds in attendance. We were really pleased to see so many people arriving early, and quickly fill in while we had teas, coffees and biscuits and everyone go to know one another before the night had begun.

Bert Williams MBE from the Sussex Chattri group gave a lively talk about the Indian soldiers stay in Brighton during World War I, when Hindu, Muslim and Sikh Indian soldiers were treated at the Brighton Pavilion, a make-shift hospital, and their now famous letters home. This was followed by a dramatic reading from actors Rez Kabir and Richard Sumitro and Uschi Gatward, who brought to life a play based on the Indian soldiers letters, called Through the Flames by emerging Asian LGBT playwright Sonya Roy. Lastly, writer and creative writing tutor Umi Sinha read from her new historical novel in progress about Indian soldiers and a new think piece that reflected on the relationship of her Indian heritage and with this place England she calls ‘home’.

The night was presented in partnership with the Crawley Black History Month group, with support from the brilliant Crawley library service.

Here’s a review written by Sonya Roy of the event:

On Saturday evening on the 20th October at Crawley Library a wonderful event took place. INSPIRE was an evening of history and writing inspired by the Brighton Pavilion and its links with India. In the early days of the first World War, many Hindu, Sikh and Muslim soldiers were bought to Brighton which had been turned into a hospital town. For nearly two years thousands of Indian soldiers were resident in what was at that time a small seaside town. And in that time there was a shortage of English men as most had joined up so there were a lot of lonely English women who were drawn to the “dusky warriors” from the East.

INSPIRE took fact and fiction and created a fusion of fact and fiction in the guise of a talk from the Chattri group and two short readings, one from a play called Through the Flames and a novel entitled Belonging. Bert Williams gave an informative talk about the Indian soldiers and their contribution to Sussex during WWI and two writers, Sonya Roy and Umi Sinha put forward their interpretation through fictional accounts of relationships forged in war.

Two London actors Rez Kabir and Richard Sumitro did an amazing reading of two of the characters from Through the Flames helping to create a haunting atmosphere that spoke of a world at war and a love that dared not be named in a racially intolerant Empire. And Umi Sinha’s book Belonging though not yet finished, will hopefully be on the shelves of Sussex Libraries when finally published.

The evening was very well attended with some and Uschi Gatward did a brilliant job of compering the evening’s educational entertainment that was so popular it overran as there so many questions and comments from the audience.

Crawley Black History Group were the hosts for the night and Amy Riley from Writing Our Legacy was the linchpin which enabled this event to happen in the first place. I really hope that this will be repeated next year with more Asian literary talent and even more history on offer.