‘Tangled roots – writing mixed race Yorkshire’ had received funding from the Arts Council. The project would commission 9 writers to creatively explore the experiences of people of all colours who have grown up in mixed race families in Yorkshire, or were currently part of a multi-racial family.
It would lead to a publication, two readings, an exhibition and a website, all launched to coincide with Black History Month 2013. These elements would enable the project to interrogate what meaning ‘race’ has in today’s multiracial Yorkshire.
The written work was collected into an anthology which was published in early 2014. The brief called for a series of portraits of the commissioned authors which could be enlarged and form the basis of an exhibition to both launch and publicise the project.
Sai Murray is a writer, poet, spoken word artist, graphic designer of Bajan/Afrikan/English heritage.
His dramatic performances employ a fusion of techniques varying from reggae-rhythms to hip-hop flow to stand up comedy. He has performed his ‘seriously playful and playfully serious’ poetry on stages throughout the UK, across the US, Afrika and in the Caribbean for over a decade appearing at international festival.
He has been a finalist in several slam competitions including: Mo Juice (Barbados), Ilkley Literature Festival and Superheroes of Slam.
Seni Seneviratne is a writer, poet, performer, singer and creative artist born and raised in Leeds, Yorkshire and of English and Sri Lankan heritage.
Her poetry is published in the UK, Denmark, Canada and South Africa. Seni’s first collection, Wild Cinnamon Winter Skin (Peepal Tree Press) offered a poetic landscape echoing themes of migration, family, love and loss and reflecting her personal journey as a woman of mixed heritage.
In 2007, she was one of six poets commissioned to respond to the bi-centenary of the Parliamentary Act of 1807 to abolish the slave trade. The work was showcased in Yorkshire and then taken on a US tour. She currently works as a freelance writer, trainer and mentor and is particularly interested in the relationship between therapeutic healing and creative/expressive arts.
We were given creative control over the final look of the portraits, with only a few restrictions on location, we opted for a minimalist, low key approach.
We decided that the final portraits should convey something of the subjects cultural background which would also tie in with the theme of the final published book of writing from each of the authors and poets. So we asked each of the subjects to bring with them a photograph of their parents, one that meant a great deal with them.
The portraits were all shot in one day at the project managers home, with each sitting we spoke about each of the subjects personal stories and their motivation to write about their cultural heritage. It was a relaxed and informal session.
Emily Midorikawa is a half-English, half-Japanese writer of fiction and creative non-fiction.
Emily has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, and now teaches writing at City University London and New York University London.
Her work has been published in, among others, the Daily Telegraph, the Independent on Sunday, The Times, Aesthetica and Mslexia.
She was the winner of the 2015 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and was previously a runner-up in the Yeovil Literary Prize, and the SI Leeds Literary Prize.
Adam ‘Beyonce’ Lowe is an award-winning writer, publisher and creative producer from Leeds, who now lives in Manchester.
Adam’s poetry ranges from traditional forms (sonnets, Sapphic verse, couplets) to more experimental forms, taking in classical and contemporary influences. He is as much inspired by ancient Mayan eschatology as by Manchester’s Polari revival, and writes from a unique standpoint as a mixed race, genderfluid young person living in the city. He comes from a working class Caribbean-Irish-British family in Leeds, where he grew up in the inner-city parishes of Chapeltown and Armley, and this informs both his politics and his poetics.
His life writing encompasses prose memoir, theatre and poetry, and his performances are often intimate, confessional and playful. He often incorporates queer and Caribbean performance elements into his work.