Diverse Sussex – Eastbourne

Diverse Sussex – Eastbourne

Join us for a free community event to bring everyone together for a fun evening of music, food, art, children’s activity and literature.

Come have a taste of:
* Spoken word & poetry performance – Umi Sinha & Oluwafemi Hughes-Jonas
* Live African, Latin & reggae music – DJ Fever2Ray (African Night Fever)
* Jamaican food – Bready Delights
* Oral history & creative writing taster- share your story
* Children’s arts & craft
* BME heritage displays
* And more exciting things to be announced shortly

Our event will take place on Friday 31 August 6-8pm at DC1 Cafe & Gallery, 67-69 Seaside Road, Eastbourne BN21 3PL.

Contribute your stories & memory to a community anthology about Hidden Sussex.
Bring a photo of your earliest memories of your life in Sussex and share your stories and memories.


* You must book a free ticket to receive a plate of food. Max 30 plates, first come first serve.
* Pay bar available (cash/card).
* The venue is fully accessible – there is a lift to both floors and there is a wheelchair accessible toilet.
* Please contact us if you have any special mobility, dietary or language needs. Please contact us if you need more than 2 tickets. Our email is  info@writingourlegacy.org.uk.



Book your free place: eventbrite.co.uk/e/diverse-sussex-eastbourne-exploring-celebrating-sussex-heritage-culture-tickets-48893058454

Join the event on Facebook: facebook.com/events/2137213606521057/

Produced by Writing Our Legacy in partnership with African Night Fever

Supported by East Sussex County Council Stronger Communities Fund

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Sharon Otoo UK Tour – 24 & 25 February 2017

Sharon Otoo UK Tour – 24 & 25 February 2017

We are thrilled to be working with London literature organisations Word Factory and Spread the Word to bring British Black author Sharon Otoo to the UK for a series of readings in Brighton and London in February 2017.

Last year, Sharon won the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann prize (€25,000) with short story “Herr Gröttrup Sits Down”, which she wrote in German and tells the story about the rocket scientist who worked for the Nazis, then the USSR. 

The readings will take place on the following dates:

Friday 24 February, The Old Market, Brighton,  7.30-10pm

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Sharon Otoo UK Tour – Brighton

Sharon Otoo UK Tour – Brighton

Writing Our Legacy is delighted to present British Black author and former Brightonian Sharon Otoo. Last year, Sharon won the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann prize with short story “Herr Gröttrup Sits Down”, which she wrote in German and tells the story about the rocket scientist who worked for the Nazis, then the USSR.

Sharon will be joined by authors Colin Grant (A Smell of Burning, Vintage, 2016) and Umi Sinha (Belonging, Myriad Editions, 2015).

Come enjoy an evening of readings, discussion and after party social by African Night Fever.

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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

There’s No Place Like Home – free creative writing workshop with Umi Sinha

Umi Sinha with former student and author David Nwokedi. Photo: Jodi Stelzer
Umi Sinha with former student and author David Nwokedi. Photo: Jodi Stelzer


We are delighted to bring back the talented and inspiring storyteller, writer and creative writing teacher Umi Sinha to lead a series of free creative writing workshops in partnership with Brighton & Hove Library Service called There’s No Place Like Home.

The workshops will be held on Saturday 12 October at Jubilee Library, 12-1pm and 2-3pm in the library Conference Room and are based on the themes of Home and Displacement.
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Watch renowned Jacob Ross reading from his long-awaited first novel, Pynter Bender (4th Estate/Harper Collins). He was the only Caribbean nominee on the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize short list (Canada and Caribbean Best Book).

Jacob will be joining us for a talk and reading at Brighton’s legendary venue The Old Market on Friday 26 July and at Jubilee Library for a writers workshop on Saturday 27 July. Don’t miss this exclusive chance to hear and learn from one of our most legendary Caribbean authors. Get bargain tickets for Jacob Ross’s talk at The Old Market here!

Pynter Bender summary:

Set in and around the cane fields of Grenada in the Carribean ‘Pynter Bender’ is about the conflict between the world of men and women, men who walk away from their families and from the cane fields and their women who forbear. It brilliantly describes the birth of a modern West Indian island and the shaping of its people as they struggle to shuck off the systems that have essentially kept them in slavery for centuries.

Read a review here: www.jacobrossonline.com/The_Books/Pynter­_Bender/Pynter_Reviews/pynter_reviews.ht­ml


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

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

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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.

INSPIRE: Asian Voices – Saturday 20 October – Umi Sinha, Sonya Roy, Chattri Group – Crawley Library

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

INSPIRE: Asian Voices is an evening of writing inspired by the historic Brighton Pavilion and India.

The night explores connections made during World War I, when Hindu, Muslim and Sikh Indian soldiers were treated at the Brighton Pavilion, a make-shift hospital, as well as the wider connections between India and England.

There will be  a short dramatic reading of a play from emerging Asian LGBT playwright Sonya Roy called “Through the Flames” by two Asian actors, who will bring the play to life.

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

The night will also feature a talk about the Indian soldiers stay in Brighton and their now famous letters home from the Sussex Chattri group.

Lastly, writer and creative writing tutor Umi Sinha will read from her new historical novel in progress about Indian soldiers – and reflect on the relationship of her Indian heritage and the relationship with this place England we call home.

Presented in partnership with the Crawley Black History Month group.

INSPIRE: Asian Voices takes place on Saturday 20 October, 7.30-9pm (doors 7pm). Crawley Library, Southgate Avenue  Crawley, West Sussex RH10 6HG.  Tickets £5 advance from http://writingourlegacy2012.eventbrite.co.uk

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