Performance poetry

Representing Refuge: The Role of the Arts in Mass Displacement, on Thursday 7th June 2018

I got to have some fun at UCL last week, having been asked to perform at one of the events held during the Festival of Culture.

Hanna Baumann, the organiser who invited me, and I had discussed beforehand that although I would be mentioned in promo material, I shouldn’t have any attention drawn to me at the event. I wagered that people would forget that I was billed to perform, further adding to the disruption. I turned up at the event incognito, replete with a university hoody (from my days at KCL) to try and better blend in. No-one paid me any attention until they suddenly had to.

It worked! People were unsure how to react to poetry suddenly being pushed on them, without warning, and in a style that they were not used to – my hope for performances like these is that it forces people to lose their existing notion of poetry and to just experience my poem for what it is.

My first poem, which was just one part of a larger poem I have called ‘No Dogs’, reflects on my Nana’s experience leaving Ireland as a young girl to come to England and the impact that has had on my identity and sense of self. What I hope, by performing in this manner, is to represent the sudden impact that a migrant population has on an existing community. The community, ignorant of the wider context to explain the interloper’s arrival, are unsure how to react but feel they must respond quickly and they will take their cues from those around them.

You can see me perform the second poem, ‘We are mostly bark’ in the video below:

For more about the event, visit the RELIEF Centre’s blog.

Performance poetry

First performance as IGP poet-in-residence

This was quite exciting – I think this is the first time my name has been up on a projector behind me!

I was performing at the BP Lecture Theatre at the British Museum to help launch the RELIEF Centre [I had to stop myself from doing a performance where I poured oil on myself as I spoke, the oil making it more and more difficult to speak].

No-one had thought to tell me that the Lebanese ambassador to the UK would be sat 3 feet away from me and I only found out about 5 minutes before going on when I realised the speakers kept addressing someone in the front row as ‘Your Excellency’.

This poem was written especially for the event and was called ‘Ghazal for the newest refugees in Lebanon’ after June Jordan’s ‘Apologies to All the People in Lebanon’.

Performance poetry

Rich Mix Takeover Launch

I had a lovely time on the panel, got a chance to talk about mental health and how London has impacted on that – made some lovely new friends and we already had mutual friends from the poetry!

I did a short set of 2 poems and although I had to make a swift exit due to fatigue, I had lovely feedback from people.

Super excited about the Takeover festival – I have several of the events in my diary. Do you?


Event: Panel Discussion 21st July – FREE TICKET LINK BELOW

This Friday, I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion to mark the start of the Summer 2017 Takeover Fest at Rich Mix




#ShahlaaDiscovers presents the TAKEOVER Launch, bringing urban music with a message to East London.


TAKEOVER Launch will use art to provoke, critique and question all of the current issues in our society. These are indeed interesting times, and after the recent events, young people are now actively being more engaged with the ideas that affect the world around them.

What does it mean to be a young woman in 2017?
Can anybody call England “Home?”
Is London bad for our health?
Are young people scared of a Revolution?

These are some of the questions that we’ll be looking at & discussing with a panel of young artists, musicians, theatre directors and spoken word artists, hosted by Mr Gee. By exploring our problems we seek to give voice to our solutions.

We will celebrate the beginning of TAKEOVER festival with live music set curated by #ShahlaaDiscovers featuring the freshest unsigned talent out there. Artists on the night will use music to express their concerns on revolution, home, identity, health and wellbeing. This is your chance to hear some soulful, futuristic RNB and Hip Hop from local urban artists who are destined for greatness.


Panel discussion & artistic provocations in response to the TAKEOVER themes featuring some of the TAKEOVER artists. Short debate with the audience members hosted by Mr Gee (poet laureate, co-founder of Chill Pill) and Rachel Long (poet, founder of Octavia).

Live music performance featuring 4 acts back to back, supported by a DJ. All of the artists are diverse, ranging from acoustic, to a group of 4, or a one-woman band. These artists style vary but they have been selected because they compliment each other’s sound and all have a strong message to share.

  • From the Rich Mix event page

If you’re interested in seeing me talk about my art, my new position and how I see my work incorporating the themes of mental health, then book your ticket NOW!

Tickets are free but must be booked in advance

Performance poetry

Walthamstow Garden Party 2017

Another year, another Walthamstow Garden Party. It’s always a delight to be able to perform here as we are usually very lucky with the weather.

I was performing alongside a long list of amazing poets, starting with the latest crop of Barbican Junior Poets. The work these young people do is a credit to themselves and to those who work with them – they really blew us all away!

I went on representing the Barbican Young Poets, joined by friends and peers from Octavia and Poets’ Platform.

This performance saw me trying something a little bit different. I went down into the audience and sat among them, picking one person to perform each poem to, to help bring poetry away from a stage and less about being observed in a particular format.

The evening was rounded off by an incredible set from Kayo Chingonyi, who was one of my first poetry mentors, and Clean Shirt.

Personal poetry

Exciting news!

So, completely unexpected, I’ve been asked to be the first Poet-In-Residence for UCL’s Institute of Global Prosperity – I’ll be writing a poem a month on the themes and work that the IGP grapples with.

This all came about through the Barbican – the head of the IGP, Professor Henrietta Moore, wanted someone to perform at her birthday party and, while that gig fell through, she did recommend me for a performance at a Summer School run by her department. The top pic on this post is from that performance and I had a lot of fun. Apparently, so did the IGP and I’m proud to be representing them through my words.


The Body Sonata – A Collaboration with Post Everything

As promised, you’re getting the podcast! You can listen/download to it here.

From the Post Everything website:

Combining the sonic signature of the Barbican with the unique voices of the young creatives making work inside the building, The Body Sonata podcast deals with borders and scale. From the barriers between blood vessels to the line we draw between earth and space, the Barbican Young Poets discuss their own relationship with the world around them in collaboration with Post Everything, whose members are Barbican Young Poets alumni. Featuring poets, Megha Harish Gabriel Akamo, Cameron Holleran, Anna Kahn and Eleanor Penny.

Find out more about the Barbican Young Poets and read anthologies of the poets’ work:


Podcast Update

So, a LOOOOOOOOOONG time ago, I took part in a podcast recording with the fantastic Post Everything that seems to have been delayed as it’s taking the Barbican Centre a long time to give its official seal of approval to something that will bear its name.

One half of the PE duo emailed today saying that he was finally getting around to chasing it up and putting pressure on the Barbican (a small amount of pressure) and could we all please answer the following 2 questions

How did your writing adapt to the podcasting process?
What is one thing that you learned from the workshops?
Straightforward enough yet they’ve been keeping me busy.

St. Paul’s Round Table Discussion

As mentioned in this post, I was asked to take part in a discussion about reclaiming London landmarks through art and how we can make young people feel like the city is their own.

It was great to be in a room with so many different groups, about six or seven collectives from around London were represented in total. There was a lot of discussion about the role of the Cathedral in London life and how the intersecting factors of race, religion, class and gender (to name a few) have conspired to keep London’s famous places out of the hands of its citizens.

We talked a lot about community engagement – how do we get people from the local area (ie. Hoxton/Shoreditch/Bethnal Green/Mile End, not the City of London) to use St. Paul’s as a venue for their cultural performances and exhibits?

I don’t have an easy answer except to say that whatever it is will require a lot of work. I hope something constructive will come of these discussions. Before I left the Cathedral, I got chatting to the chaplain who was on duty that day – she was an elderly vicar from Hackney who does one day a month helping in the Cathedral. We chatted for almost an hour about theology and art and how the two can and should come together to shine a light on injustice and hold up examples of goodness in the world. I am not religious but we found a lot to talk about and her views on many things surprised me – she was of the opinion that the Church had failed to act as Christ would have acted by shutting the doors to the Occupy protesters. She proceeded to tell me that the Cathedral walked a fine line between remaining spiritual and remaining open (it receives no government funding so relies entirely on donations and ridiculous entry fees). We discussed how art that presses on those cracks might be useful.

She’s invited me to her parish church to have a look around, chat some more and maybe even do an artistic project within her community!

Personal poetry

An Invitation to St. Paul’s

The inbox today had a formal invitation for me to take part in a special round table poetry discussion held at St. Paul’s by Poet In The City. As with most of these things, I shall be attending as an ambassador of BYP.

I’m not entirely sure what form that is going to take but I accepted mainly because it gets me free entry into the Cathedral – I’ve long admired the building but have never been tempted enough to pay the extortionate entry fee.

The topic is going to be reclaiming London spaces. Given the Cathedral’s relationship with the Occupy movement, it’s an interesting forum for this discussion to say the least.