Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Mental Health & Me is back!

Writing on the Wall and the Liverpool Mental Health Consortium are proud to announce that Mental Health and Me is back for the third year running with 2016 bringing a fresh new twist to this ground breaking writing competition. Faces, Places and Spaces is the theme for 2016. The competition is open to anyone who has an experience or interest in mental health, whether this is based on a true story or entirely fictionalised. If you have an interest in mental health and you’d like an opportunity to become a published writer, this is your chance!
Competition Deadline: 5pm, 1st September 2016

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Behind The Red Door

If 2016 was summed up in one all encompassing, dividing political and social issue it would be this: Immigration. Due to the seriousness of the Syrian refugee crisis this has become the make-or-break issue in many political campaigns throughout the year, spanning from the UK’s European Referendum to the United States’ Presidential Election to name but a few. It is a heated topic that sparks almost-furious debate from both sides of the political spectrum. Everyone has an opinion on the subject but few really know the consequences from personal first-hand experience what it is like to actually be a refugee.

Writing on the Wall have organised an event in reaction to this: Behind the Red Door. It is a panel consisting of Syrian Poet Maram Al-Masri, academic Linda McDowell CBE and Gambian exiled journalist Pa Modou Bojang. They will lead talks in exploring western societies response to the current refugee crisis use their own personal experiences to contextualise it. In turn they will ponder the question: What can history teach us?

In Middlesbrough asylum seekers have had their doors painted red. As a result of this a number of immigrants have been attacked, some repeatedly. Whether or not this action was intentional to single out asylum seekers from the rest of the community can be hotly debated, yet, intentional or not, the action begs the question: how has this affected the community at large? This type of ‘mark’ seems similar to the Jewish yellow star in the heyday of the Nazi party. A way to create an apartheid within the community.

When the Guardian is reporting that Britain is becoming more segregated than fifteen years ago we have to stand up and take notice. If segregation rises in line with immigration then surely this will breed mistrust and alienation between communities, if we cannot live with each other then how can we begin to understand one another? There seems to be an increasingly apparent objective by some to create a scapegoat for the problems within communities. Labour MP Chuka Umunna said it best: people respond to the challenges of the 21st century not by asking “how can we solve this problem together?” but by asking “who can we blame?”

Join us on 24th May at Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre
Tickets only £4/2 Available on the Door

By Tom Chivers

Friday, 13 May 2016

An Interview with Christopher Lutterodt-Quarcoo: FUTURE|JOURNEYS

In the run up to Future|Journeys on 21st May, we thought we’d do some quick takes with the various artists and hackers who will be joining the event. First up is Christopher Lutterodt-Quarcoo, a London based artist who will be leading the ‘The Second Coming‘ workshop, an exploration of memory, slavery, genetics and how our past can interact with our futures…
AfroFutures_UK: So let’s start with an introduction to yourself and your work.
Christopher Lutterodt-Quarcoo: In short, I’m a ‘Cult Storyteller’ born in London, but I spent my early years growing up and traveling throughout Africa…
I find disregarded or lost perspectives and make them relevant, through time travelling. As a result I’m a Designer / Artist / Director & Writer and much more to come.
AF: How did you get started with your art? 
CL-Q: I wouldn’t  quite call what I do ‘art’ probably closer to ‘design’ but my work is somewhere in between those fields.
My interests are pretty broad in terms of topic but the themes are quite common; intensely personal (spiritual & emotional) experiences typically using a single psyche to bring awareness to a larger sample of people.
To be honest I’ve always been an academic but it’s only been within the past 5 years I’ve been able to really fuse the creative side of things with my academic interests. 
AF: Who are your inspirations?
CL-Q: I always struggle with questions like this, because the people who inspire me change from project to project. I’m more inspired by literature…quotables from books or speeches as a starting point then push beyond the poetics of it.

AF: Tell us all about your workshop and what we should expect?
CL-Q: I don’t want to give too much away, but expect to be challenged morally, and to understand views or agendas that you may not necessarily agree with and advocate for them.
AF: What do you look forward to the most about Future|Journeys?
CL-Q: I’m hoping for controversy; in the form of challenging truths or necessary lies. I’m looking for the beginnings and confliction of the audiences realisations… admittedly for selfish reasons. It keeps my mind as well as others searching!
By Florence Okeye - AfroFutures 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


What does the Future mean to you? What do you want to see happen? How can we make it happen?

These are the central questions we will be exploring during Future|Journeys, a collaboration with Writing on the Wall literature festival featuring a range of speakers and activities on May 21st at District, Liverpool. As part of the speculative fiction themed festival, we’re bringing our style of AfroFuturism to Liverpool, with our assorted gang of radical misfits, techies, hackers and storytellers.


Throughout the day, we’ll be hosting a variety of workshops. James Medd will be leading the Arduino workshop where you can learn how to create interactive electronic creations, combining code and LEDs! Want to learn how to code, create a website or program your own game? Join the MossCode folk who will be running informal coding sessions – they’re friendly and welcoming of all skill sets, but you can contact workshop leader Ikem Nzeribe in advance for more information.

Perhaps more suitable for maturer audiences, we’re very honoured to host the fantastic Christopher Lutterodt-Quarcoo who will be leading ‘The Second Coming‘, a workshop which asks how past traumas can impact our ability to imagine and create the future. You can check out our ‘preview’ interview with him here.

Parallel to this is the Storybook workshop led by AfroFutures_UK sister, Nikky Norton Shafau which is an invitation for us to recreate our stories of the self. We’ll be using our imaginations to envision how this can be used to inspire and channel new ideas about what we can achieve both on an individual and a community level.

Last but certainly not least, our special guest panellists who will be speaking during the day about AfroFuturism, it’s origins and how we can all become AfroFuturists in our own communities. First up is Jon Daniel, an artist whose exhibition ‘Afro Supa Hero’ is on display at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, having been shown at prestigious museums and galleries like the V&A Museum of Childhood. Ytasha Womack, author of Afrofuturism: the World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture and founder of iAfrofuturism will also be speaking at the panel which will kick off the event.

The event is open to everyone. Whether you’re an AfroFuturist aficionado, funked to Clinton back in the day or just want to find out a bit more about it, everyone is welcome to come along, learn and share together.

Want to find out more? Follow the conversation on #futurejourneys16 or send enquiries to afrofutures.uk@gmail.com. Remember, its the 21st May so don’t miss it. We’ll see you there!

By Florence Okeye


Friday, 22 April 2016


Legendary film and television director,
KEN LOACH comes to WoWfest 2016...

Ken will join the panel of...
Does Television Represent Us?

4th May at The Black-E. £5/3 - Students: FREE ENTRY

Film producer and Labour Peer Lord (David) Puttnam brings his Inquiry into the Future of Television to Liverpool with a lively panel discussion event, open to the public, which he will chair. The event will also discuss interim findings from a new study looking into at how TV has contributed to political debate in Liverpool, carried out by researchers at the Hansard Society.

Speakers including Ken Loach, Phil Redmond CBERuth Fox (Chair, Hansard Society) and Cat Lewis (Nine Lives Media and Nations & Regions rep for indie producers’ association Pact) will discuss whether TV reflects the lifestyles and opinions of people across the UK, or if it just a mouthpiece for the ‘London bubble’. To what extent does TV offer a space to talk politics or express the different lifestyles of people across all the regions of the UK?

The Inquiry event wants to hear from producers and writers committed to making TV more relevant to people wherever they live as well as from viewers themselves. It is one of seven events across the UK that will inform the Future for Public Service Television Inquiry which plans to report in June 2016.

The Inquiry, www.futureoftv.org.uk, which is based at the Media and Communications department, Goldsmiths, University of London, is set up to consider the nature, purpose and role of public service television today and into the future. It aims to address ways in which public service content can be most effectively nurtured taking into consideration a growing range of services, platforms and funding models, continuous technological development and audience fragmentation particularly amongst younger and diverse audiences.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Specials and Afrofuturism

Back at school some years ago, and then some, my mate accused me of returning his copy of The Specials first LP ‘The Specials’, scratched. Not guilty m’lud, then and now. If he’d complained of the grooves being almost worn through to the other side of the vinyl, I’d have been bang to rights, because wear it out I did; the memory of first listening to it is still clear today; the impact and sharpness of this bright, modern Ska sound that, along with Madness, The Beat and The Selector seemed, to my ears at least, to have come from nowhere to utterly transform my musical life, along with the social/cultural/political outlook I still carry today.

The Jam were my first love. Lyrics have always been my thing, and Weller’s curious mix of youthful anger, desire and alienation in the city, chimed somewhere within – his was a working class England I understood. But The Specials, and Two Tone generally, opened my eyes, took me out into the world, and put into words backed by a beat you couldn’t ignore, a feeling of internationalism, anti-racism, and introduced a culture and world-view I wanted to be a part of. I didn’t know much back then of Ska, but I could tell The Specials carried a sound laced with history, which also sounded modern – Terry Hall’s deadpan delivery resting on Horace Panter’s solid bass backing - and ready for my generation to learn to dance to. The opening of Gangsters to Guns of Naverone, Too Much Too Young (live), Longshot Kick de Bucket, and all the rest, are still irresistible.  A very drunken Ska dance with my Co-Director Madeline at a Women in Business awards ceremony a couple of years ago, much to the amusement of what attendees could bear to watch, is testament to that!

I knew nothing then of Jerry Dammers, although the toothy grin on Top of the Pops did make him stand out. Who doesn’t know about him now? Ok, plenty I guess, but they should; it’s his hand behind the song that defined the bleak backdrop to the late 70’s/early 80’s - Ghost Town, and one of the greatest protests songs ever - Free Nelson Mandela. I went to see The Specials at The Olympia last time they toured. What a gig. The place was stomping all night. Funniest sight, though quite defining, was the audience camera shot on the screens above the stage of the crowd dancing – virtually all 40+ year old men; from above it looked like a floor full of gyrating worn out tennis balls, showing that our hairlines haven’t stood the test of time the way the music has, as the band transported us back to the 1980’s for the couple of hours they were with us.

Yet the main man, Jerry Dammers, wasn’t there, and won’t be with The Specials any time soon either. Next time I saw him he was a million light years away in the Philharmonic with The Spatial A.K.A Orchestra, his tribute to all things Sun Ra, and more. I love Bob Dylan too. I remember, among one of the many Dylan gigs I’ve been to, one night in Birmingham about ten years ago where a young lad, who in fairness had clearly had a few too many beforehand, shouting at the top of his disappointed voice ‘This is a travesty, this isn’t you, this isn’t Dylan’. As I said, he’d had a few, was younger than me, and I’m not sure I could’ve out run him, so I didn’t want to point out to him that he’d missed the ‘Judas’ shout by forty years, and by the way, who are you to tell Dylan who he is?

I don’t digress, here’s my point: I could imagine someone feeling a bit the same turning up to a Jerry Dammers Spatial A.K.A Orchestra gig expecting wall to wall Two Tone and Ska, and being a bit put out. But not me, I was delighted, even though I didn’t really know what to expect. It was a far cry from a Specials gig – Egyptian and futuristic costumes, masks, surreal music and beats, jazzy fusion type stuff, and all manner of weirdness.

But it really was something to behold, and amidst the weirdness was something that felt a lot like familiar, because it was Jerry Dammers at the helm, and I mean at the helm; a crew of eighteen musicians needs a conductor, albeit one without a baton. Dammers says it’s ‘not so far from Ska to Ra’, and when the Spatial A.K.A Orchestra play a beautifully funky and dreamy version of Ghost Town, renamed for the occasion ‘Ghost Planet’, it feels as though one breath blows right through it all. In an interview with Paul Morley in 2015 Dammers called The Spatial AKA Orchestra a tribute band, also a tribute to tribute bands, but even before the addition of new material in their repertoire it felt like so much more than that at the gig I went to. Dammers looks more like a jazz hound these days than the sharp Two Tone suited Ska boy of the 70’s and 80’s. He reminded me of Dr John hunched over his piano (also seen at the Phil recently), but he wears it well – both the look and the sound.

The comparison to Weller is an interesting one. I saw ‘From The Jam’, which features The Jam’s original bass player Bruce Foxton, when the Matthew Street Festival was still on the streets. They played a great set, but again, weird to watch them without the main man, although this is less of a thing with The Specials as Terry Hall is still his outstanding centre-stage self. Weller broke up The Jam just when you thought they were about to go global. You could tell there was something different going on, lots of funky guitar on the last album and their final Trans Global Unity Express tour. Weller was straining at the bit, against a perceived straitjacket and wanted to move on, or move on up…

Without Weller, From The Jam are never going to quite cut it, but I respect them doing their thing, the songs belong to all those who lived the life in the studio and on the road that helped create them. But where would we be without the musical pioneers, those who insist on breaking up, breaking hearts, and moving wherever-so their own heart and musical desires may take them? I’m so glad I wasn’t around going to gigs in the ‘70’s when Dylan insisted on playing live only his latest set of evangelical songs amidst the wails of his audience begging for the old hits. Music is often at its best, and most infuriating, when the radical artist faces down their conservative audience. I’m glad now he did it; I’m not religious, but Every Grain of Sand is a personal favourite from the work Dylan created back then, and Slow Train a Coming is way up there as one of my mood albums.

The Specials then and now are brilliant. I met their bassist Horace Panter a couple of years back when he appeared at our festival. Lovely guy and a true artist – check out his paintings, some of which were displayed in Liverpool last year by Next Stop New York. When The Specials initially reformed Horace Panter said that within minutes of them being in the same room as Jerry it was clear it wasn’t going to work. Jerry Dammers says he wanted to be a part of it, but wanted them to also try something new and add to what they were doing. I really don’t know the truth of it, but it’s not of any concern. The Specials now play their back catalogue without Dammers, but only Dammers could have created The Spatial AKA Orchestra. And that’s what marks out this musical pioneer.

I confess, prior to Dave and Richie of Next Stop New York proposing an event on Afrofuturism, I knew very little about it (to be honest, I’m not sure they did either!).

Through a friend in Manchester we were introduced to a wonderful woman, Florence Okeye, who organised an Afrofutures event in Manchester in late 2015. Florence is at the centre of this growing movement in the UK, and with her we have put together an incredible line up, which includes the US based filmmaker, futurist and author, Ytasha Womack, who is flying in from Chicago for the event. Ytasha is the author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture (Chicago review press, 2013), which delves deep into the many areas that make up Afrofuturism; sci-fi in literature and film; music – think Sun Ra to the Black Eyed Peas; and explores the present day experience of black people and the alienating effect upon them of present day society.

The term Afrofuturism first appeared in 1993. The wikipedia entry descibes it thus:

Afrofuturism is a literary and cultural aesthetic that combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of people of color, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past.

It can be difficult to cram in a sound-bite, and I wonder whether the struggle to understand it, or pin it down, is in attempting to do precisely this; we’re all so tuned into advertising and snappy sound bites and pitches that we never feel comfortable with something that is baggy round the edges because it is still evolving and expanding, is an organic movement populated by people with the talent, time and imagination to both interrogate it and allow it time to grow. But, when you consider all the elements churning within it, what’s not to like?

Mike Morris 

Future|Journeys After Party - 21st May

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Writing the World

When I saw that the theme for this year’s WoWFest was Science Fiction, I knew I had to get involved. There are a lot of fascinating events and workshops on this May (I’m particularly looking forward to A History of SF in Ten Objects, The Changing Face of Girls’ Comics and Afrofuturism), and I'm excited to be part of Continuing Education’s first collaboration with WoWfest, Writing the World. WoWfest’s programme provides the perfect opportunity to showcase the work of CE students, and to prompt us all to create some fantastic new writing.
Another world waits behind the pages of any book, but science fiction shows us a world with unexpected rules, with its own assumptions and taboos, its own geography and biology and society, just different enough from ours to show us something new about ourselves, or to set the familiar in a new light. What I want to add to WoWfest is a day for writers to think about how the best Sci-Fi writers build their worlds, the processes that go into those careful constructions, and a chance to experiment with those processes and see what emerges.
My own writing centres on collaborations and interactions online, using social media to turn readers into co-writers, influencing and adding to my fictional worlds. I want to bring that process into the classroom, and create a collaborative science fiction world together, from the ground up, in one day of readings, discussions and workshop exercises. Then comes the really fun part: just how stable will our world be? Will we all see it the same way? What will happen when we begin to set stories on it, to take little pieces of it for ourselves and develop them in our own directions? After the Writing the World CE Saturday, the details of the world we've created will go online, onto a website that will showcase the stories we set there, each adding new facets, settings and characters.
This won’t be quite like my other classes for Continuing Education. There will still be reading and discussion and workshops, but I don’t know what the conclusions or outcomes will be. I don’t know what the world we create will be like, who will inhabit it or what kind of stories will take place there. It will be as much of a surprise for me as for you. I’m looking forward to exploring our planet’s landscapes, meeting the people who live there, discovering how they live and what they call their home. I hope you’ll help me find out.

Emma Segar
Emma Segar teaches CE courses in Writing Novels and Short Stories and Writing for Children. She has recently completed a PhD in Blog Fiction.

Writing the World will be held at 126 Mount Pleasant on 23rd April, from 10am to 4pm. Lunch is included in the £15 fee. During May, there will be two free follow-up sessions to revisit the world, to see how the stories have changed and developed it, and to decide where to take it next.