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q&a with writer yomi sode on taking British African art to Latitude

tiata fahodzi: Tell the tiata fahodzi audience a bit about yourself: who are you?

yomi sode: I’m a writer. While the ongoing discussions around spoken word vs poetry are as never ending as “plant-in” vs “plant-ain”, I’ll neatly bunch it up and say I thoroughly enjoy both the process of writing and performance. Also! 2017 will mark my tenth year in this field. The time has whizzed past.


TF: And you’re working on a spoken word show at the moment?

YS: Yup. The show that I am working on at the moment is titled COAT; I wanted to explore identity and displacement as a Nigerian man growing up in England. That was the original idea anyway, and over the best part of three years it has developed into multiple, beautiful narratives. The show has scratched at venues such as the Bush Theatre, the Southbank Centre, and The Roundhouse, and it has sold out every time. The post-show conversations I have with people really resonate with me, as well as the obvious demand for stories like the one in COAT.


TF: What effect does being British and African have on your work?

YS: Again, this thing of identity is important; I feel no shame in letting people in regarding the relearning of my culture. I have learnt that I should be comfortable in making cultural mistakes and learning from them. This directly impacts my work, as I have been a lot more confident in discussing these narratives. What right would I have to talk about something that I have not experienced first hand? And this is what I am doing at the moment: righting these ‘self-inflicted’ past wrongs.  


TF: tiata fahodzi’s last show was called i know all the secrets in my world, a silent play about (black) fathers and sons. How does being a father (particularly a British African father) affect and/or influence your work?

YS: There’s a lot more patience and thought in the writing. [My son] may read it in the future and know what Daddy’s thinking was like at that time. I don’t write with him in mind at times as it could sway where I am mentally, however, he is always around me one way or another.


TF: tiata fahodzi’s new production bricks and pieces is at Latitude Festival this year. You’ve been at Latitude before – what is going to be different about this year in comparison?

YS: I was at Latitude in 2015. I did not perform, but I hosted The Last Poets [in the Poetry Arena]. This is the first time [I will be] on that stage performing my own work, and it will be the longest poetry set of my career so far. Nervous much? Yes.


TF: What can artists expect when they go to Latitude?

YS: From me? I am rubbish at the whole selling yourself thing. I think what’s important is that I touch on themes with a view of a discussion in mind. I don’t go in with a cape like I’m ready to solve stuff. I talk about Nigeria in the same way I would talk about mental health: it’s personal and it matters to me. People can expect sweets probably, bribery if things don’t go to plan. “At least the chocolate was good.”


TF: Why are festivals important for emerging artists?

YS: For someone like me it’s important. Even though next year will be my tenth year performing, it’s technically my first performance year at Latitude. When I look at things like that, I am literally learning this landscape, the people, and the vibe it all brings. Hopefully it will all go as planned and my confidence builds, hopefully new people will be aware of my work, and, hopefully, I’ll be there again in 2017.


TF: What do you like about the audience at a festival like Latitude?

YS: From what I experienced last year? They are up for anything! And that’s never a bad thing. It can be as weird or as political, and they are ready!


Writer/ Poet yomi sode aka GREEdS (Generating Rhymes to Engage the EnlighteneD Soul) fuses culture, music, humor and faces harsh realities in his work. Highlights include opening for Saul Williams and The Last Poets, with appearances at Yahoo! Wireless Festival, Lovebox, and Sadler’s Wells Theatre, as well as working with Channel 4 and BBC Radio 1Xtra. He currently runs a successful monthly Poetry night in Shoreditch and has had work commissioned by The Mayor’s Office and BBC World Service/BBCAfrica. In 2014 he won a place on Nimble Fish’s RE:Play programme to begin developing his one man show COAT. Following three sold out scratches, Yomi will be performing at Latitude Festival this year. 

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