Artists adore Autumn’s allegory
An image apt, conveying change.
Stale? Played out? Overused?
Autumn is antithesis of stale
Its metaphor is ever open-armed
And embraces all who embrace the fall.
Each year, you may fall
And be you anew.
In mid-July 2018, after much discussion with those closest to me, and five years of putting the majority of my mental, emotional and physical energy into a very demanding line of work for a social enterprise, I emailed my Regional manager and HR manager with my letter of resignation.
This was obviously not a decision I took lightly. It came after much deliberation on the pros and cons of staying in that job. Pros included the fact that I was good at it, I was making a difference and that numerous people (colleagues and service users) depended on me and would miss me in several ways, as I would them. Cons included an extremely high turnover of colleagues leaving which had a demoralising effect, a poor rewards package including low pay and other elements that signalled a chronic undervaluing of our work.
All of the above lays the context for this post which, rather than a lament, is a celebratory thanksgiving for the changes I have experienced in my life, personally, professionally and artistically since taking that decision.
In April 2018 I was accepted on to Free Radical’s BAIT programme for socially engaged artists at the emerging career stage and I must say that it has been a transformative experience in many ways. In the months since then we have had the privilege of being mentored and guided by the master dub poet and all-round arts sensei that is Roger Robinson as well as the multi-talented fireball Amerah Saleh, with support from the whole Beatfreeks Collective.
Among many things, Roger helped me to realise that one can only make real progress if one recognises and addresses the ways in which one is sabotaging one’s own endeavours. We spent time as a group identifying the areas in which we were sabotaging ourselves, of which there were many, and I left that session with a realisation that the most significant thing I could and needed to do to free up energy to create and grow as a person and artist was to leave my full-time job.
I acknowledged and was grateful for having enough flexibility and leeway in my personal circumstances that I could make that decision and leave my job within a month, without being compromised financially. Firstly, that job was not well paid anyway, and I soon realised that I had enough opportunities available to me from several years of building skills and connections, that I would be able to replace my income in the short and medium term. This was not only a relief but also a huge realisation for me, seeing that I could receive and was worth more than what I had accepted for years in different jobs. Not only that, but I suddenly found myself in the world of freelance and a pattern of work that suits me well. It is a world I have watched from the fringes for many years, which I suddenly realised that I could inhabit also.
Since August, I have been earning as an artist and freelance practitioner in various roles, all of which allow me to be true to myself, breathe and have a chance to reflect at regular intervals which is something I value, all while receiving a good recompense for the work I do. I have been able to travel for work and to attend various shows and events and actually show up which for me is markedly different from times past when I have lacked the energy to get myself there or give my best. Roger even said that it was like he had met “two Tariks, di worn out one an di present one!” Maintenant, j’ai plus de joie de vivre!
I want to hold up and share particular highlights from what I am calling the Season of Change, an Autumn that extends back to July and right up to the time of writing.
- Punch Gallery 37 2018
- An incredible extended programme of multidisciplinary arts collaboration, performance, development and momentum-building
- After participating as an artist in 2016, I returned this year as Creative Associate on the Spoken Word Camp working with John Berkavitch and Olivia Winteringham as well as 6 uniquely talented young artists (Mayday, Amara, Lerah, Tarju Le’Sano, Remiah and Esther)
- I had the privilege of meeting and compèring for one of the poets I respect most in this world, Lemn Sissay, who did not disappoint with his keynote speech
- I had my Commonwealth poem addressed to Queen Elizabeth II filmed and released by Punch (courtesy of Click Visuals)
- Thanking Amanda, Ammo and everyone at Punch for these blessings and opportunities to see and be a part of Birmingham’s creative future
- Festival of Audacity
- Fresh from the final event of Gallery 37, I was one of the 10 BAIT artists who performed to a moving audience around the venues of the inaugural Festival of Audacity, performing while we moved around Birmingham city centre
- Tasked with leading the first leg of the tour, I levelled up my story-telling skills and also spoke two brand new poems
- All the BAIT artists, the South Side Producers and the whole Beatfreeks team came together strong over the three-day festival, some beautiful August days that will live long in the memory
- Birmingham Live ‘All Change’ Poetry Competition
- After submitting my Letter to the Queen/Commonwealth poem, I was chosen as one of three winners of the competition along with Naomi Minto and Nicole Murphy
- We accepted the Train Challenge and were filmed and interviewed as we took a train journey between Birmingham New Street and London Euston
- We each wrote original poems about the journey and what travel means to us
- The video profiles and poetry are all available to watch over at: birminghamlive.co.uk/allchange
- Be Internet Citizens
- Alongside colleagues from Beatfreeks, ISD Global, Google and YouTube, we have been up and down the country
- With the Be Internet Citizens programme we’ve been helping hundreds of secondary school pupils explore important ideas including Fake and Biased News, Free Speech and Hate Speech
- I have met some amazing new colleagues and we all inspire each other to be the best facilitators and mentors that we can be
- Special shout out to Ms Efe the Mentor (UShineIShine) one of the most positively infectious people I have ever met, I have been blessed to work closely with her
- BAIT Industry Showcase @ BOM Lab
- Performed with fellow BAIT artists Chloe, Ahsen, James, Sophia, Sammy, Milga, Tom, Pan and Elle Chante, we are soon to form a brand new art collective…
- The culmination of the BAIT programme, which has seen all the artists grow and push the limits of their creativity and develop the mindset needed to sustain our artistry in the long term
- Brilliantly co-hosted by Roger and Amerah, we put on a magnificent show featuring poetry, music, dance, film screenings, calligraphy, monologue and theatre
- I performed a piece of poetic theatre entitled ‘The Name of the Game’
- I received the best post-performance feedback I have ever had from the audience and fellow artists whom I have such respect for, which I feel I must absorb deeply and use as fuel for further creative and expressive output. I am currently in a period of reflection and consolidation, and that absorption is taking place
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"🎤I remember when last past November when 🎤 #BAIT artists came through left the place trembling…" That's what they gonna be saying @bomlab 😏 Monday was really something #special that is still to be properly reflected on 🙏🏾🎙️🎵🎤💓✍🏾🎭🙌🏾 #thestartofsomething #artcollective Thanking @freeradicaluk & @voiceofthepoets for BAIT, for the opportunity, the guidance, the space, the focal point, the belief 🙏🏾 & @rogerrobinsononline the #artdad, the #mentor, the #motivator, the straight-talking #artiste keepin it 💯 with us since April 🙏🏾 Every #artist pushed their #talents all the way and it told 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 and the audience gave us incredible energy and love 🙌🏾💓 DJ Wolvameme @fabiojthomas didn't miss one beat, spun records that kept the atmosphere charged and by the end the whole place was in a #euphoric state, with no substances involved in the reaching thereof 😂, just pure artistic #hunger and #dedication and the #power of #liveperformance 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 More life, more art, bless your weekend 🙏🏾🙌🏾 📸: @curious_rose
- A sit down with Benjamin Zephaniah
- Last but not least!
- I was fortunate enough to meet up with Benjamin in early December
- It was a surreal moment for me as he was reading my poetry and smiling
- He is a down-to-earth person and a legend all-in-one, who spoke animatedly and gave me great advice and food for thought
- Jah willing, it shall not be the last time we meet!
Along with several personal challenges, inevitable ups and downs, things learned, relationships ended and begun, connections lost and made, I am in this period of reflecting on it all.
I must say, I have met many artists last year whose work rate only inspires me to do more. Yet at the same time, I must acknowledge and give thanks for the progress and changes that I have made. I would not even have been able to attend, perform at, work on or otherwise be involved in the above highlights had I not acted on my conviction to leave my job. I did not move onto anything concrete, I just knew that the time was right and trusted that I would be alright. More than that, I would begin to thrive in as I moved through this season of change. Thinking back to then, I see how my actions and vibrations then led me to where I am now.
Make the decision. Feel the feeling. Begin the actions. Trust in the Most High. Give thanks to the Most High.
It is therefore with an Attitude of Gratitude, a Vibration of Salutation and a Riddim of Thanksgiving that I end this post and enter 2019 transformed and transforming, with great expectations of the work, art, love and growth that lies ahead…