Photos from Writing Our Legacy literary showcase

Our first literary event for this year took place on Friday 7 October at Unitarian Church in Brighton. A wonderful evening with amazing writers: Olusha – Femi Hughes, Stephanie Lam, Neela Masani, David Nwokedi, and Fawzia Kane. The photographs were taken by Paul Jackson, photographer and lead on Legacy Film Festival.

Thanks to all who came down to make it a special and enlightening event. Catch our next event on Friday 14 October at Sticky Mikes, Middle Street, Brighton – Countdown Social Club takes over the bar as part of Unity Community Dance – advanced tickets can be bought here.

Fawzia Kane reading at Writing Our Legacy literary showcase, 7 October 2011
Neela Masani, Stephanie Lam and David Nwokedi at Writing Our Legacy literary showcase, 7 October 2011
Olusha-Femi Hughes and David Nwokedi having a laugh, Writing Our Legacy literary showcase, 7 October 2011
Q&A at Writing Our Legacy literary showcase, 7 October 2011

David Nwokedi: “Biscuits from the 70s”

Biscuits from the 70s

By David Nwokedi


‘Pass me a bourbon’
Elbows off

Charley Farley
Piggy Malone
Oooh, lickety lips

Rich Tea
Stand up for the Queen
Richer than
Steve McQueen
Rich and soggy
Soggy and
Dunk them in
My tea

Too much UNI-GATE
Gold top
Silver top
School top
Co-op stamp
Green shield

Custard creams
Coffee fingers
Malted milks
Lincoln, Gary Baldy
Raisin bar
Twice as nice
Friday night









I woz




David Nwokedi was born in Nigeria in 1965 to a Nigerian father and a British/Irish mother. He grew up in Newhaven and Brighton. A qualified social worker, David lived in London for 10 years and now lives back in Brighton and works in social work management. Read his full biography here.

David will be reading from his first novel and extracts from his current work in progress at a literary event called Writing Our Legacy on Friday 7 October at Unitarian Church, Brighton. You can get tickets for this event here:

Olumide Popoola: “this is not about sadness”

Excerpt from novella this is not about sadness (2010)

By Olumide Popoola


Experiences come in all manners. They spread and engage, tug and pull, question and challenge. Much longer than you desire. My name is Tebo. Tebogo. I arrived yesterday. It is spring, they say, but I wasn’t prepared for this. What a strange city. It looks nice outside with the sun shining, the clouds sitting fat and well-fed underneath the blue of the sky, but when we stepped out of the cab it was not as I had expected it. Eish, the wind is too cold! It hits from the west, drops sharply south, then spreads into all directions. Everything shivers. It is cold but I’m glad I’m here. If not for Lucky and his broad smile I would be crying right now. But I’m glad I’m here. Really. I’m here to forget what happened on the corner of Koma and Potch. That stretch of red earth before the tar begins. Where the fine dust is whisked up by speeding cars. Where the soil is hard but layered with the finest, the finest of dust.

Three months and 15 days ago I stood on that corner. Zanele and Pedita were having one of their usual arguments so I had left the party. Not to disappear, not to smoke – I don’t, not even dagga – I just wanted to catch some air, think about what to do and if this was going to be one of those nights and I had to make the long way to Number 36 by myself. Although it was going to be Sunday I had work to do, finishing the set at the Windybrow where I was doing my internship in stage design. It was my final month and it had gone well, very well, mainly because I know how to stay out of trouble At least I used to. I was standing on the corner thinking about how I would make that long journey from Soweto while Zanele and Pedita were still at each other’s throats, filled to the rim with cheap booze like a vat of freshly brewed beer, with no one else around that cared. We hardly knew anyone at that party, but had thought better go than wonder about what we had missed. Now I was stranded there. Those two always found a reason to fight and then make up; it was their pattern. One time they had driven off without me, still shouting, and only in the morning did they remember that they had left their best friend to beg for a bit of space in other people’s overcrowded cars.

I stood on that dusty corner, only for a few minutes. When your life changes you cannot foresee the impact, but when it does, the things that happen are unstoppable. Like the dust, they get carried away with the current; like the wind, it buries itself deep in your bones, and slowly from the inside out you start peeling away. Your old self stripping off, all that was truth, one layer at a time. Never to be innocent again.

My name is Tebo. Tebogo. I arrived yesterday.

Well, she came one day. Small and fragile. Pretty little thing but yuh tink she a tink she can carry bricks so. I neva waan talk to her. Me ah just sit inna me front room looking outta de window. Me no need no young little thing ah tell me how de world must run. Nuh! She always got sumting fi sey. Asking, always asking. Den her eyes look pon me like sey she neva gon’ see me again. Her big eyes. Like she waan find sumting pon de bottom of de well. Me well, very well but no well, nuh so? Chups. She work hard, man she coulda work hard. Drag all dem old things outta de house, clear de garden, all by herself. It was an accident. Everyone sey so.

Everyone comes with a past. That’s where the story lies, naturally. She came in a cab. Motor running, cabbie leaning against the black roof, smoking. Lucky running inside to get more money for the fare. His step, heavy from the weight of his belly, absorbed by the asphalt. Inside the vehicle, the girl. If frailness was a measurement, she would have scored a six out of ten. Evenness is what best describes how she seemed. Small, slender and very polite looking but somehow you thought she’d call you out if need be, very matter-of-fact, straight away. Then the dragging of a suitcase. Lucky smiling, cab driving off. The girl freezing, looking for the first time at her new environment.

The grey house – not Lucky’s – but inside it his dark ground floor flat, wedged between others, snug and tight. A mid-terrace Victorian house. This is how she arrived on Corbyn Street. The next morning routine starts. Lucky off to work, as usual early shift, London barely lit by a hopeful sky. […] Lucky returns in the late afternoon. He smiles, always does and a few minutes later they both stroll to Tesco’s. She’s chatty now, alive. Her face remains un-creased and well arranged but her eyes awake now, travel and extend to the distances between houses and corners, street signs and shops, local pub and butcher. Attentive, she asks questions, holds Lucky’s hand like a friend does. On their way back she points to the house, laughs again.

“They all look the same.”

“Yeah,” Lucky replies.

The woman tending to her front garden next door is a familiar fixture on the street. Bent over, she is big boned and hunched permanently. They speak. Lucky introduces the girl but the woman’s lips hardly move. In her hand a small scoop, she keeps her eyes on the bit of soil between the pavement and the flagstones in front of the entrance to her house. The tool grips the earth she watered, like it’s making an incision. Metal drives itself into soil, she doesn’t look up long enough for the sun to make her eyes blink. The girl looks at Lucky, startled. He shrugs. These are the peculiarities. There are many. Like everywhere. […]The gardener has moved on already. Her thoughts carried away from the dirt and much further than the girl a few meters away. Leathery her face, a thin type, and smooth like fine suede, of course without the fuzz. The girl can’t pull herself away. In the bubble created by the confusion of her internal body clock and the new impressions, she’s stuck. Glued to the very spot she’s standing on. The woman’s hands are moving, scraping, tugging. Weeds are piled neatly, the flagstones framed on all corners by brown alone, almost a third of them cleared of vegetation. Lucky calls from inside. The girl follows him then turns around again.

“A beautiful flower bed you have here”.

Immersed in her work there is a faint “uh huh”.

“So well cared for. I can see.”

The woman is returning to her work, her back square and solid, warding off.

“… you must be…”

But there won’t be an answer. The girl’s eyes linger for another second then she follows Lucky into the house. Their door shuts and there is laughter again. Pots rattle. Later there’ll be food and friends, the table set in the kitchen, guests arriving. The girl meets many, Lucky a smiling host. Music from an iPod hooked onto an old-fashioned stereo that came with the flat, and more laughter, which sticks to the walls like condensation.

Next door the woman, the gardener, the one with no speech for the girl. She’s on the bed, her feet dangling slightly in the air. Her day has been divided between the front yard and the inside of her flat. The washing neatly folded on the chair in the bedroom. She will put it away another day. Tomorrow perhaps, when there are more hours of the same week broken by the visit to the church, she herself won’t make. Her night is restless on the single bed, her ears distracted by the young voices next door, crawling through the air like a racoon’s touch through a tent wall. Soft, almost dismiss-able but with a faint imprint of certainty. People.

She tosses, right and left, her gown tangling with each move. Her eyes squint now in a way they didn’t in the afternoon, when the neighbours passed. Now they stare into the dark room, asking for the lid to temporarily close on her consciousness. She sleeps lightly, scurried dreams keeping her always just above the surface. In the morning when she rises there is a sore spot on her lower back. There the mattress left an impression. The unrest.

I neva know how she come sit inna me garden. She always talk. Always! Me neva have nutin to sey. Whey me ah sey? Little thing she is, why she gon’ have to talk to me? Me just mind me own business, harm nobody. I know all a dem think me crazy or sumting. Mek dem talk. Me no do nutin to nobody.

Olumide Popoola is a Nigerian German performer and author whose work extends and crosses genres. Her poetry and prose has been published in magazines, memoirs and anthologies in Germany, Slovenia, South Africa, USA, Sri Lanka, UK and Nigeria. Her novella this is not about sadness was published in 2010 (Unrast Verlag, ‘insurrection notes’ series). Read her full biography here.

Neela Masani: Extract from “Ancient Songs”

Extract from Ancient Songs

By Neela Masani

Old Woman wakes with the first sounds of the dawn, when everything is possible and songs are as yet unsung.  In her cave upon the hilltop she eases her aching bones up from her cot and lights the fire for the morning invocations to the Goddess.  She watches the flames as they grow and she starts to chant.  Ancient songs containing ancient wisdoms.  Songs that go back to the Beginning.  She sings and rubs the Sacred Stones together, closing her eyes, communing with the Ancestors.  The air vibrates around her.  She remains still, feeling the weight of the Stones in her hands.  She opens her eyes and in the flames she sees a young woman grown old before her time.  She watches and weeps for her.  She watches, sings and waits.

Sunita is freezing when she gets home.  She didn’t mean to stay in the park for so long but nowadays time is an irrelevance.  If she is outside she can hold herself together.  Inside she comes unstuck.

She blows on her hands and puts them on the radiator as she waits for the kettle to boil.  Condensation on the inside of the window drips down the glass.  Sunita watches the descending beads as if they can somehow give her the answers she needs.  She jumps as next door’s cat starts mewing outside the window, wanting to escape from the cold.  She lets him in and curls up with him on the floor holding him close.  In the past, she’s always had her music.  Her voice.  But even that is eluding her.  Now all she can hear is the cat purring.  She gathers him in, feels the warmth of his fur and wills herself to disappear.

Old Woman stares into the flames, quietly humming to herself.  She watches the young woman so full of sorrow and she sighs.  She stirs the ashes and sighs again.  This sorrow is as familiar to her as the songs themselves.  She watches and she sings, knowing that she has to wait some more.  She watches, sings and waits.

Neela Masani was born in Sussex and is of Indian origin. A psychotherapist and writer of fiction, drama and poetry, she has a keen interest in how we construct the narratives of our lives and the world around us, defining our history and our future through the stories, myths and fantasies we create. Read her full biography here

Neela will read from her novel Beyond The Tamarind Tree, which is set in India and Britain, on Friday 7 October at a literary event called Writing Our Legacy next Friday 7 October at Unitarian Church, Brighton. You can get tickets for this event here:

Fawzia Kane: “Kala Pani”

Night view from our front porch in Mon Repos, San Fernando, once part of a large sugar estate, now a State of Emergency "hotspot" under curfew. See

Kala Pani

by Fawzia Muradali Kane

Just over a hundred and twenty years ago, a woman walked along a railway track from Peshawar, at the foothills of the Himalayas, to a port, hundreds of miles south. She was pregnant. With her husband, they waited in line to be asked their name, had it misspelt when written down, and with their small bundle of belongings, they were ushered onto a ship.

Kala pani, black water, these are still sinister words when spoken today, here in Trinidad, thousands of miles away from my great-grandmother’s first home. These indentured labourers were told eldorado stories: they would be given a job sifting sugar, easy work, new homes, a good salary, and return passage. This was a promise from the people who represented the Empress of India herself, the Queen of England, that pure and truthful lady. She offered a dream and it was believed.

But we know the reality was different. Slavery had just been outlawed in 1838, but the workers were not allowed to leave the plantations for another 7 years. Once this “apprenticeship” period was up, the freed people left, preferring to live as subsistence farmers in forest clearings or fisher folk on the coasts.

So my great-grandmother’s ship landed on a strange island, and four days later she gave birth to her first son. The family were put on carts and taken to a sugar plantation, and these new faces were slotted in where the earlier slaves had lived.

Perhaps there can be no comparison between East Indian indentureship, here in the Caribbean, with the African slave trade. There were no violent abductions of entire communities, lines of shackled people forced to move and sleep in their own shit, sometimes for months on end. There were no auctions where humans were displayed and bought, like choice cuts of meat. The names of the East Indians were not removed, their families were not split up, they were allowed to keep and practice their religions. They were not separated and sold, treated like livestock, to be bred and discarded once their usefulness was spent.

But this was small comfort to the new people. They were herded into long rows of wooden “barracks”, each family‘s space was a small room with a sink attached to the rear window. Cooking and washing was communal in the yard behind the barracks.

And the easy work of “sifting sugar” never happened. The plantation owners demanded from their government, and got cheap labour who now in their turn had the back-breaking tasks of planting and cutting cane from dawn to dusk. Indentureship turned into a new form of slavery. The wages were low, and deductions were made for room and board. Workers were not allowed to leave the boundaries of the estate that employed them, or face legal punishment. There were the beatings and horsewhipping for the slightest of misdemeanours. In 1871 a woman Labjadee was horsewhipped and kicked over 3 days by Mr. Ache, the manager of the Bronte Estate. She had complained about her food rations being cut. Labjadee died in hospital, and Mr. Ache was fined 5 pounds for assault.

The stories of my great-grandparents were told to me by the elders in my family. This is what we were told in our turn, by those who remember first-hand, those with nothing left to give, to pass on, except their memories. But this legacy of memories is a fallible thing. We were told our great-grandfather had another wife, nothing unusual, after all he was Muslim. There were other children, four, almost grown. The other wife chose to stay I was told, and kept the children with her. So my great-grandparents made the choice of a new life, in a new country.

My great-grandmother was first married at six, to a nineteen year old solder, a mercenary for the British, who was sent to South Africa. These were well-to-do Pathan families, and the marriage contract was drawn up as a business arrangement. She was sent to live with the husband’s family- despite the marriage ceremony, consummation was not allowed until after puberty. But her husband contracted cholera, and died a short while after. So my great-grandmother was returned to her family, a widow before she was ten. Despite her beauty, it seems she was considered damaged goods by other suitors. She was thirty when she married my great-grandfather. My mother married old, said my grandmother.

But some things do not quite fit in these stories. We wondered about the first wife. How could an Indian Muslim woman in the mid-nineteenth century choose to be independent from her husband? How would she have supported herself?

And my great-grandfather himself- he spoke several dialects including Urdu, but was also literate- in English. Because of this he was given the job of leader of work gangs (driver) at the sugar plantation he was assigned to. Why would an educated and cultured man choose to leave what must have been a comfortable life, to risk becoming an indentured labourer, thousands of miles away? Things don’t fit indeed.

It grew more obvious to us that the couple had run away together. My generation would find romance in all this, but did the older folk see nothing but shame? I asked my Uncle Farouk, my father’s youngest brother, who said “Nani was fair skinned, her family didn’t want Ashraf [my great-grandfather] who was brown skinned. Ashraf’s wife didn’t want to go to the West Indies, and he was in love with Nani anyway, so he made arrangements and eloped.”

And I discovered more. Uncle Farouk explained, “Nani came over on one boat with her husband. Her younger brother was distraught when he heard that she had left, and he took the next boat to Trinidad to take her back to India.” Nani’s brother Hasmat, came as a paying passenger, not indentured.

“But he couldn’t locate her,” Uncle continued, “so he decided to stay on and took work in the fields. When Ashraf released himself from indentureship, he was asked to work in the Bronte area. Ashraf was now in a senior position. He met Hasmat and they became close friends, unknowing of their connection. Then Ashraf invited Hasmat home to meet his family. When he came, Hasmat and Nani recognised each other. I was told they cried and hugged and hugged. So even Hasmat, who had rejected Ashraf originally due to his skin complexion, became his friend. Skin complexion didn’t matter so much here, working in the cane fields, as back in India.”

Fawzia Kane was born in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago and came to the UK to study architecture on a scholarship. Her debut collection Tantie Diablesse is due out in October 2011, published by Waterloo Press. Read her full biography here.  

Fawzia will be reading and talking about her work at the Writing Our Legacy showcase next Friday 7 October at Unitarian Church, Brighton. You can get tickets for this event here:

Olusha–Femi Hughes: “Legacy: On Becoming A Full Human Being”

Legacy: On Becoming A Full Human Being

By Olusha – Femi Hughes, August 2011

Writing the legacy of my family history, based on my own experience, has been an illuminating and a painful journey of enquiry. For it is difficult to write about oneself when there’s an emotional turmoil, a disaster that turned upside down, a people, a history and a culture. For second generation African /Asian /British kids, like our family, we were like branches without a trunk, with no roots, no reference point to the earth or to the four directions, no frame work from which to begin a life.

How does one begin to tell one’s story? One needs to have a narrative that belongs to her cultural traditions, a people with a history and a voice. One needs a person who is the author of her own story, a map of a place she belongs to, someone who has a self that is free from another’s definition of what and who she is. How does one make sense of a self’ or the world, when stories of one’s ancestors were of strange barbarians with eyes in their stomachs, who ate others, who were, early European’s decided, ‘non human? Sub human’s, who apparently, had no history before that fated meeting.

To begin to write, I needed to be free. Free from a ghost, a barely audible whisper that clouded my first 40 and more years – a whisper that became the air I breathed, had pervaded my inner world. A ‘mental slavery’ mirroring, what had been and something yet to be undone. For the ghost of slavery had not been exorcised in me or in the world. It had taken almost a lifetime to convert the murmuring whisper that dominated my world over this time into a coherent mantra: “We tolerate your inherent deficiencies, we turn away from our entangled histories,
Just stop storming, conform to our norming”

Where did this jarring dissonance come from? It leaked from every crack, every orifice, every medium of news speech, it hung in the atmosphere and often turned the temperature to zero. Only when I began to wrestle with and explore the intangible, could I manifest its form, it’s felt sting and sour smell. Giving the ghost of the ‘slave master’ a voice and shape has helped to grapple with its years of torment, its untruth and then to unravel and exorcise its chains.

And now, there is gaggle of voices that want to speak at once. They are fighting for air. Voices, bursting to break the spell of silence, but searching for how to tell many complex truths that stand between us and the truth of our interwoven wholeness. For truth is often shaped in the eye of the teller, yet has a spectrum of colors, of tones and felt textures, some are like music to the ear, and others hurt deeply. Truths can have a rhythm that is specific to a person, a culture and yet one that is wholly universal. In life, much of the difficult and holographic truths are left untold. Only in rare situations and extraordinary moments do they find voice.

For many truths are ineffable, they reside in the underworld of longings, unspoken hopes, broken dreams, and emotions barely able to speak. They are in the vision yet to be described, dreams yet to unfold, but trying to emerge. What will they speak of? Of reconnection and longing for embrace? of a warrior’s dance? Maybe our vision will sing the devotion to Yemanja, our ancient Orissa’, or tell of African Griots, boldly weaving astonishing stories, that burn our souls with love: Stories turning into melodies that find expression, in a chorus of justice and mercy across continents. And so Olusha -Femi is born, as a writer to tell the astounding story that started with Lorraine, whose voice was muffled, and of Olusha, whose voice is set free. – A voice that tells of a mysterious underbelly, dreams of enchantment and becoming a full human being…..

Olufemi Hughes (Olusha) is a Brighton-based poet, writer and sometime storyteller. Born of a Nigerian Father and Indian mother, she was brought up in Scotland. Read her full biography here.  

Olusha-Femi Hughes will be reading and talking about her work at the Writing Our Legacy showcase next Friday 7 October at Unitarian Church, Brighton. You can get tickets for this event here:

Brighton & Hove Black History Month 2011

Tickets now on sale

Great news everyone!

Tickets for our upcoming October literature events are on sale – the first event is on Friday 7 October at Unitarian Church. All of the authors and extracts of their writing are featured on this website.

To buy your advanced tickets for this event and others, go to

We have events from 1 to 31 October across Brighton and Hove, and our friends in East Sussex and West Sussex are also doing some great work too.

Tickets are also on sale for all of the events in this year’s programme, including Legacy Film Festival, music events and more.

Even better news, this year’s Black History Month programme brochure has been published, and the team are working hard to get copies out all around Brighton’s libraries, cafes, venues and schools. So look out for them!

For more information on all events, please visit the Black History Month website:


This is the site for Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) literary community group Writing Our Legacy. We run events across Sussex that showcase emerging and established Black* writers and provide professional development and networking opportunities. Our site aims to keep you informed about our literature and spoken word programme, which is open to people of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

*Writing Our Legacy employs Mosaic’s definition of Black to be ‘Black people’ and ‘mixed-parentage people’ including all those people whose ancestral origins are African, Asian, Caribbean, Chinese, Middle Eastern, North African, Romany, the indigenous peoples of the South Pacific islands, the American continents, Australia and New Zealand.

Unknown-1Museum logo




Mine is many colours of the same.
It is light, dark, caramel and cane,
Melodious, ever-undulating waves
Of rich, smooth, café-mocha shades.

Chili cocoa, sweet and tan amaze,
Terra cotta, ruddy reds ablaze;
An ebony cacophony of ways
To fade to walnut latté as it plays.

Pale, white chocolate swirly-whirls always
Soothe copper browns and tawny peats and maize;
Mahogany, deep coffee beans on staves
Glissando into marble-fudgey glaze.

Many, many colours of the same …
My Legacy.

—Jodi Stelzer, Rottingdean, UK