Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day…

I try to avoid cliches, but this particular cliche is having a resounding impact on me for two reasons…

The first and obvious reason being that I am having the good fortune of experiencing Rome first hand (‘grazie mill’ to Language Link & CESFOR, bless up y’selfs); it’s opulent architecture with it’s totally unnecessary flamboyancy decorates every crevice and corner (‘borrowing’ heavily from Egypt). Italian’s are in love with beautiful things. You won’t travel too far without seeing a piazza adorned with a fountain (or two). The fountain  will be encircled with sculptured figures re-enacting some dramatic scene, and a grand building will be imposing it’s beauty over it all! Not forgetting the ruins (which still look pretty good) The Colosseum, The Pantheon, The Basilica Di San Pietro, The Fontana Di Trevi etc etc etc. This level of swag takes centuries to design, build, demolish, re-build and then perfect!

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The second reason is having much more of a life changing (please excuse this cliché too) impact on me. I came to Italy armed with only the very basics of the language, simple phrases and a limited vocabulary were my only defence. Being totally submerged in this complex foreign language has made me realise how much I love talking, communicating and expressing my opinion- willy nilly! I’m accustomed to having words sprint out of my mouth with a couple hundred more lined up in my mind and multiple subjects competing for air play. Having to think about each word, how they are pronounced, the correct tense, the correct gender, having to translate from Italian to English- think of my answer in English and then translate this into Italian has rendered my brain into mash potato.
CESFOR have arranged for me to attend an intensive Italian language course Monday-Friday 9:30-1:30 for the first five days, with five other students from Spain (who are on a similar travel scholarship to me), me being the only British person in the class. I have never felt so stupid! Four hours in school has never left me so tired, frustrated and overwhelmed- even my Maths & Physics GCSE didn’t have me twisted like this week!!!
Last academic year I was working with a group of EAL (English as an additional Language) students in a secondary school. Students originating from all parts of the world with very limited knowledge of the English language. Many of them would play up or zone out in their regular class (not in mine because mine were fun and inclusive just checkout the photos of their work below), and I can now fully appreciate why. When you’ve got words, which you have no understanding of, being hurled at you at 50 miles per hour day in day out, you sometimes just switch off- if the teacher gets angry with you it doesn’t really mater because you can’t understand what they are saying anyway!! Big up the EAL students- you had my full respect but now I feel your pain!

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Some work from the EAL student i was teaching last academic year…they made me so proud

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Some work from the EAL student i was teaching last academic year…they made me so proud

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A list poem from one of my EAL students about the things she left and things she packed to come to England

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More list poems and bags written and designed by EAL Students i taught

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I am glad to report that I learned quite a bit over the past five days and had a rewarding conversation with a four year old on the tram yesterday! It was this conversation with the extremely cute child that sparked a mini epiphany… As children, it takes us a good 5 years to be able to fully communicate, express our opinion and convey meaning with words. For the first year or so we listen and make all types of cute noises- this is preparation. We then progress and are able to say a few words badly, leading onto sentences until we are then able to talk fluently. All this is ok because we are cute, we have our parents/guardians supporting us and the whole of society knows this is how it goes down. But when your thirty-one, you’ve lost your cuteness and society wants answers!
An abundance patiences, practice and hard work is needed when learning a new language- I’m grateful that I don’t have to learn a new alphabet and that the English language has taken many of it it’s words from Italian (or Latin), other wise my brain would now be broccoli soup.

12 Things to consider/remember when learning a language whilst living in the country!
1. Be Prepared to sound like a fool. Understand that making mistakes is like that early stage of childhood when you made those cut gurgling noises.
2. Remember that you are not a fool.
3. You will feel isolated, frustrated, overwhelmed, lonely and a whole manner of other emotions- especially if you are in the country alone.
4. Be aware that number 3 is just a phrase and will pass with time.

5. At some point you will cry, but it’s ok to cry!!!
6. Realise that everybody learns differently, and try various ways to learn the language. Language CD’s, books, dictionaries, private tuition, class, listening to the radio, writing lists of words on the walls they all help.
7. Learning the grammar will give you a head ache.
8. It’s tempting to ask people to speak in your language- especially if you speak English, don’t do this, it wont help you speak the language you are trying to learn. The best thing to do is take your time and try to speak to as many people as you can.
9. What you are doing takes guts!
10. When you are able to communicate with a native- no matter how basic the conversation is, it truly very rewarding.
11. Don’t give up.
12. Give yourself time- Rome wasn’t built in a day

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Ciao, tutti bene?…

So my Italian adventure has begun! I landed today, Sunday 14th September and will be based here for the next three months thanks to the Leonardo Di Vinici (LDV) scholarship provided by Language Link and CESFOR.
This scholarship shares similarities with the Nottingham Roosevelt Travel Scholarship that I was awarded earlier this year (I travelled America for three months) as in my flights are paid for, I will be away for three months and it’s a great opportunity!
The differences are, that this scholarship has an emphasis on language and encourages professionals working within the creative and tourism industries to learn a European language. The first week or so I’m here I will be having intensive Italian lessons- and I need them. I have had some private Italian tutoring in the month leading to my departure but hard as i tried, the words went in one ear and came out mangled in the other!The LDV scholarship also sends people to Spain, Portugal, and Belgium (I think!) and those lucky people will have the opportunity to learn those languages.

Another exciting feature of the LDV is that each scholar has a (unpaid) work placement for the duration of the stay. This work placement is linked to the industry the scholar is already involved in, in my case it’s film. I will be based at a film company that specialize in making high end commercials, for companies such as Fiat,BMW and Ford to name a few! They have offices in Rio, Dubai, London, Spain and here in Italy! I’m looking forward to soaking up knowledge and offering some of my Ioney-isms!

I arrived at my quaint humble yet cosey and clean Italian abode where I was met by Gloria, the CESFOR representative who will be mentoring me while I’m here. After a warm welcome she handed me a folder with a map and directions to her office which I will have to find, all by myself tomorrow! (and arrive there nice and early for 9:15) Wish me luck!
Buono notte!

Sinking In New York…

During my three months in America traveling as a Nottingham Roosevelt Scholar, I enrolled myself onto a professional development film making course at the famous New York Film Academy (not funded by the scholarship). My main objective was to gain experience with 16mm film cameras as all my previous projects have been shot on HD cameras- usually a Canon 5D Mark II. Shooting on film is a whole new experience, using film is like painting with oil pigments and filming on HD is like using Adobe Photoshop. Where with Digital HD cameras you can press a button and adjust the focus with film it’s a whole drawn out affair; using a tape measure to measure the distance from camera to object, reading the light source with a light meter, calculating what this means to adjust the aperture accordingly and then hope for the best, because there no way of knowing if Its in focus until you process the film and view it!! And before you get to the stage of focusing theres the challenge of loading the film. I was delighted to discover that the years I spent assisting my Grandma thread her sewing machines proved to be quite useful, the technique seems to transfer over to threading film through the cameras!

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I found the 4 week course truly insightful, exhausting but insightful. I was a part of a small class of foreign students, who had traveled from Germany, Brazil, Romania and The Philippines. We quickly became a closely knit team dedicated to each others projects and rotating the various roles so that we each could experience different aspects of the crew. We became firm friends who I hope someday to work with again. Over 4 weeks my class/crew filmed 15 short film projects in 4 weeks ranging from 30 second muse-en scene films, to 3 minutes music videos and short films all shot in and around New York. My final project was a short film that adapted from one of my poems and is called Sinking. I made two versions, one using a 16mm Arri Flex film camera and another using my Canon 5D Mark II. I’m current in the process of submitting to various festival but in the mean time check out these stills from the film.

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Washington DC

Washington DC is known for being the the US capital and for it’s museums, most of which are free. So last week I took it upon myself to visit as many museums as physically possible. As well as being a documentary maker, performance poet and currently a Spoken Word Educator I am also involved with Nottingham Black Archive (NBA) and have a keen interest in the history of Africa & it’s diaspora.

NBA is dedicated to researching, collecting and preserving black history, heritage and culture in Nottingham, from the earliest time to the present day, we have recently completed a project “No Tears For Me My Mother’ that celebrated Black service personnel in WWII, which resulted a number of resources being produced; a book, an exhibition, a website, a learning resource and a documentary, that I was tasked to produce.
I used my time in Washington DC to visit various archives and museums to explore how they present their artifacts & resources to the community and feed what I have seen and learnt to the NBA team.
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A highlight from my museum tours was the Museum of African Art which is celebrating 50th anniversary. I enjoyed the ‘Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa’ exhibition that included works and a documentary exploring the career of Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow.
National Museum Of African Art
Other museums I visited include, The Museum of Asian art, The Native American Museum, The Air Space Museum, the Botanical Gardens, The American History Museum and I also visited Capitol Building, The White House.
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Museum of Native American
I spent most of mu time inside museums so don’t actually feel like i really got to see and feel the city, unlike Chicago where I was able to immerse myself in various communities I was unable to do this in Washington DC. My only real opportunity to interact with Washington Residence came from Servas. I stayed with a wonderful, welcoming and very busy Russian family in the suburb Rockville, who won a green card and came to live in the States two years ago. I became quiet close to their cat, who has a Russian name I have know idea how to pronounce- the names translates to red wine. Red Wine is a hunched backed, deaf, 18 year old cat with the loudest meow I have ever heard, who must of thought my sole purpose in life was to stroke her…at any time of day or night. I slept quite comfortably on an inflated mattress, until Red wine decided it was time for a stroke- her meow sounded like a 3 year old child screaming- quite intense!!!
Red Wine
I also stayed with a young woman woman, Abby who lived closer to town near to the Georgina Avenue area, usually Servas hosts are retired, but my Servas host was 28 so it was a real pleasure to be shown around by some close to my age. Abby invited me to join here at a monthly trivia night organised by a friend in a book shop called Politics and Prose. I was amazed to see how many people came to take part in a trivia night, people from all age groups and ethnicities. I had my reservation at first but throughly enjoyed myself. It was a great event to have in a book shop.
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On my last day in Washington while iI was hunting for a bunch of thank you flowers for Abby, I stumbled across the greatest thing I think Washington DC has to offer (me, at last) …Sankofa the book/film shop that specializes in African book and films. Sankofa not only sells film but makes them, with the post production suit located downstairs. I spent about an hour looking through the vast collection of films and books my purse got lighter after my trip to Sankofa- but it was well worth it. I spent so much the shop keeper gave me a hot chocolate and slice of banana bread for free- there is also a cafe located in the shop. Unfortunately the film maker wasn’t around for me to talk with plus i discovered Sankofa 2 hours before I was due to fly to Boston.

Things i will always remember from Washington DC…
Museums,
a crazy hunch-backed deaf cat with an operatic meow,
a trivia night in a book shop.
Sankofa.
The first time it was warm and I was able to wear something other than my Dr Martins!
...and so to Boston!

Poetry in Chicago…

Apologise it’s been a little while since my last post, I’ve been busy being a full time traveling poet!…

I am fortunate to hold an unique and amazing position within a secondary school back in Nottingham, as the the spoken Word Educator. A position that was created by my involvement with the Mouthy Poets, a position that was cut from a pattern set in America by Peter Kahn who works in Oak Park River Forest.
A Spoken Word Educators remit, in short, involves teaching poetry within English lessons, facilitating after school spoken word activities and generally empowering young people via words. Peter created this role in 1999 after working as an English teacher and realizing that creative writing and poetry had the power to resonate with young young people in a way that no other subject could. In 2012 Peter came to England to develop a MA course with Goldsmiths university. This course embeds poets in various secondary schools in London where they teach poetry and also develops their own creative writing, a programe that Pete has also been successfully running at Concordia University in Chicago.
Monday
Peter invited me to shadow him for one week at Oak Park River Forest, an opportunity that I gladly accepted. I arrived on Monday and was instantly swallowed whole by the vastness and personality of the school- I have never experienced a school on this scale. Peter is currently working along side the English department delivering sessions on the masterpiece ‘Macnolia’ written by A Van Jordon, a book I had previously no knowledge of but now each page has me enthralled.
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I must admit that I am confused by American system of classes. If I am correct High school begins at age 14 and this year is named ‘Freshman’, proceeded by ‘Sophomore’ (aged 15-16), followed by ‘Junior’ (16-17) and the final year are called ‘Seniors’ (17-18). The first two lesson i shadowed were “Sophomore’ classes, the student were lively, thoroughly engaged and spiced with a little cheek and personality, as you would hope 16 year olds would be. I listened and observed as Peter introduced various poetic devises and soon became totally integrated into the class, sitting with the students at their tables, reading sections of the book to the whole class and truly enjoying myself. Tuesday was my day off to explore Chicago but I must admit I missed the energy of the school and young people and it seems the feeling was mutual; Peter told me that I had to come back because the students were asking for the “English Poetry lady’. So I returned to school on Wednesday.

Wednesday
Wednesday evening I sat in on Peter’s Concordia University Spoken Word Educator class and met other poets who are currently working in various high schools across Chicago. The class consisted of 9 poets who take it in turns each week to ‘test out’ session plans, write, examine poems, share experiences and generally support each other. It felt more like a group of friends meeting up rather than a university course.

This was an extremely busy week for the Spoken Word Department and the young poets, at Oak Park River Forest, as they were gearing up for the Winter Showcase. They have a show case each term, where students who have been attending the after school spoken word club invite family, friends and poetry lovers to watch their carefully crafted group performances. This is a big deal. OPRF has the largest and longest running After School Spoken Word Club in America. There are about 60 students who meet after school to write, share, edit, choreograph poems and performances. Every day after school the students would meet to refine their performances and I would go around to give my humble feedback.
Thursday
Thursday 13th Feb was the Winter Showcase and I was the special guest poet. I sat through the Showcase in awe of these young people, baring their soul, sharing their dreams, fears and disasters so freely- they were truly amazing and it just reiterates the power of poetry. It was an honor to share the stage with such young brave people.

Friday

Dave Stieber is one of the poets on Peter’s Spoken Word Educator course at Concordia, he has also been working at Englewood High School facilitating the After School Spoken Word Programme, and invited me to meet his students on Friday. Englewood is on the opposite side of the city to OPRF, located in an African American area which is currently threatened by the Mayor to be bulldozed to make way for ‘new developments, a topic explored in one of Team Englewoods group poem. This spoken word group is much smaller in size than OPRF but equally powerful I and a delight to experience.
In the evening I met up with film maker, make up artist and actress NK Gutierrez, who had seen me perform at the OPRF winter showcase on the Thursday. We drank tea’s, ate desserts and discussed our experiences as black female film makers (plus other things which i shall not divulge!). I think I have made a lifetime friend.

Saturday

I met up with my Servas host, who invited me to a ‘bike swap’ event, intrigued i went along, but the event was basically as described, bike fanatics meet up to discuss bikes and swap bike related items. I was however pleased to see that some of the balaclava that i made at the balaclava making party on the previous Sunday were being given away as a welcome present! I felt as though I have left a mark on Chicago, their will be cyclist battling through the harsh winter wearing my balaclava- my work is done!

Sunday
NK was filming a promo for a musical artist in the morning and I thought it would be great to tag along- so I did. Not only did I tag along but also ended up being the 2nd camera operator!
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NK Gutierrez, film maker, actress, make up artist
Monday
On Monday I experience a new type of weather…Thunder snow. It snowed so heavily that I couldn’t see to the end of the street plus there was dramatic thunder which was quiet unnerving. I over heard a woman say that 60 inches of snow had fallen in Chicago. I had planned to fly to Washington, the only problem being was that I didn’t confirm my flight so didn’t actually have a seat booked. Ironically my flight was one of few that were actually leaving Chicago.

Chicago…full of surprises!

Chicago greeted me with it’s coldest winter in 50 years, thankfully I was prepared- my ‘no playing’ Dr Martins showed no mercy against the 9 inches of snow. Encased in my purple duffle coat, my shawl refusing entry to the hostile conditions, I was sufficiently armored.
On arrival, my first port of call was to find a toilet to dispel the bottels of water that i had been drinking on the flight. I was met with a quirk piece of technology in the ladies; a toilet seat that had a plastic cover that replaced itself. The clear instructions advised me to wave my hand in front of a green button, then, tho my amazement the plastic cover (a little like a plastic bag) rotated. Usually in public toilets i place sheets of toilet paper onto the seat before placing my delicate self onto the seat. If the toilet is offensive I levitate over the seat. No need for that here!
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Chicago Toilets
I navigated my way from O’Hare airport to my hotel Chicago Essex Inn on South Michigan avenue using the very efficient Chicago subway.
The security at the airport seemed to think my shea shower gel and apricot facial scrub had potential to cause harm and were confiscated- what was i going to do, have a ferocious facial scrub on the plane??? So I went out looking for replacements and for hot meal after Miss Flora and the rest of my baggage team were put to rest.
Early Saturday Morning I met up with 2nd Servas host, Kathy who invited me to go along to an event at the Pritzker Museum. I met Kathy at the venue as it is occupies the same road as my hotel. The event was unveiling a painting by Kay Smith. she was commissioned to paint a piece that commemorated the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII. I have particular interest in this topic as for the past 18 months I have been working on a documentary about Black Servicemen in WWII as part of the Nottingham Black Archive Heritage Lottery funded project “No Tears For Me My Mother’. The Tuskegee Airmen were a fleet of Black pilots who served in the American air force in WWII, largely unrecognised and unknown by the wider American public. As well as the painting being unveiled, a short documentary was screened about the process Kay Smith under took and interviews with a few ex Tuskegee pilots. I approached the film maker and the Pritzker Museum Events Manager to inform them of the project I had been working on. To my delight they asked if the Nottingham black Archive film could be donated to the museum and vise versa. The Nottingham Roosevelt Travel Scholarship (the reason why I’m able to be traveling America for 3 months) encourages it’s scholars to connect with industries that they are involved in and to promote Nottingham in the process and I really feel by connecting with Pritzker museum and sharing our resources would be one way for me to do this.

Black Ex Service from ioney smallhorne on Vimeo.

Artist Kay Smith and film maker Steve? at the Pritzker Military Museum

Artist Kay Smith and film maker Steve? at the Pritzker Military Museum

Kay Smith with her painting commemorating the Tuskegee Aircrew

Kay Smith with her painting commemorating the Tuskegee Aircrew

Kay Smith at Milliatary Museum

Later that same evening Kathy invites me to the DePaul University Theatre to watch a play, ‘A Free Man Of Colour’ byJohn Guare. A play set in New Orleans, Louisiana 1801 and cleverly intertwines many historical personalities and events such as the story f Hernando De Soto, Le Code Noir, Toussaint Louverture’s sugar revolt, France and Spain fighting to control the state. It was a fascinating play, but at 3 hours I found it a tad long. Jet lag mixe with a dark warm theatre could only have one result. Yes i ashamedly fell asleep, I felt so bad as I was sitting in the front row. It had no reflection on the play whatsoever and was purely down to sheer exhaustion.
Kathy, my Servas host is an amazing woman, a marathon runner, cyclist & film editor she is deeply embedded into the community and frequently appears in local news advocating cycling in the city, for various charities & carrots. Kathy has the most impressive collection of carrot themed things in her kitchen.
Kathy Schebert with Suzi

Sunday, visited her friend Barbara car crash victim. Barbara was left unable to talk, walk and has limited control over her body. She does however have control over her thoughts and uses an alphabet board to communicate; pointing to letters on the board to spell out what she has to say. I was interested to meet her as i have a good friend, poet Maresa MacKieth who also uses alphabet board to communicate. Last year I translated one of Maresa’s poems into a short film and Kathy wanted me to show Barbara, with the hope that it may inspire her to also write. Barbara was delighted to learn of Maresa and said that she would think about writing.

Hands from ioney smallhorne on Vimeo.

After visiting Barbara Kathy took me to the a The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which has a beautiful tropical butterfly garden. You are invited to walk through the garden and meet butterflies of all sizes, colours & breeds who flutter freely- it was a magical experience.

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

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While walking through the garden I received a phone call from Peter Kahn, a spoken word educator who works at Oak Park River Forest High school. I met him last year through Deborah Stevenson, the founder of Mouthy Poets. Peter mentions that there is a poetry event later that evening and invites me along. I accept the offer, Peter and informs me that I am actually the headline act. Surprised, confused, amazed, horrified and excited I agree to doing the gig. I find out that the gig is actually at the famous Green Mills, the home of slam poetry infamous for being Al Capones hang out. The gig is at 7pm so i had a few hours to gather my thoughts and poems.

Kathy then invited me to join her and her cyclist friends a a balaclava making party, which happens to be 5 minutes away from Green Mills. Kathy’s friends some how find the most ugly fleecy fabric (a lot of it donated) and make balaclavas with the intention of giving them away free to homeless and cyclists or anyone who needs to keep warm in these severe conditions. Having basic sewing machine skills I was soon put to work and made about 20 balaclavas before heading to Green Mills, where I meet Peter.
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a wild balaclava making party in Chicago!

a wild balaclava making party in Chicago!


I take to the stage at about 7:45 after the open mic set. My nerves do kick in and prevent me from performing to my best, luckily I had a very supportive audience and get through a 15 minute set.

New York To Chicago…(and everything in between)

On Wednesday I explored what Manhattan had to offer on foot. From Lower East Side I put my Dr Martins to good use & walked to the Empire State Building. It wasn’t exactly a direct route, in fact I was walking n the wrong direction for about 10 minutes, but this is all part of being a tourist! The sky was hiding behind duvets of clouds which prevented me from seeing the summit of the Empire Building so I didn’t go up but took photos from below.

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

From there I got on the M3 bus north bound to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an expansive imposing building that houses thousands of artifacts collect from around the world. A building of this size requires regular visits if you want to see everything. I focused on the African, Greek and Roman artifacts on this visit. It always annoys me when museums separate the Egyptian collection from the rest of Africa- as if Egypt is not apart of Africa. Majority of Africa was represented at one end of the buildings and Egypt at the opposite end. When I asked one of the guides why this was, he stumbled over his words as if he had never pondered over this. He then said with a cheeky grin “Oh, your one of those intelligent trouble makers aren’t you?”.
I felt proud and replied “ Yes I am”. That has been the best compliment I have had since I’ve been here!
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Harlem…
I boarded the M1 and continued north, I noticed that the white middle class people began to filter off the bus and more and more Black and Brown faces boarded- I needed no map to tell me that I had arrived in Harlem.
So far Harlem has been a highlight for me. Walking through Marcus Garvey park, along the Malcom X and Martin Luther King boulevards, the beaded jewelry in shop windows, then hundreds of black and brown faces- I felt at home. I was happy to discover Manna’s Restaurant along Martin Luther King Bouelvard, offering a variety of Caribbean and African cuisine. You are invited to fill up your box which is then then weighed and you pay accordingly. It’s the best food I’ve had so far; seasoned rice, rice and peas, yam, plantains, grilled fish, spice pumpkin, stew aubergine and courgette, macaroni cheese, callaloo, Oh my belly rejoiced! There was a whole heap of meat dishes there too which i didn’t partake. If your hungry in Harlem get yourself down to Manna’s- they are not rampin!!!
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Wednesday was also the screening of ‘Celica The Queen’, a docu-film that celebrates the unique Cuban Salsa singer Celia Cruz. I have heard of her music but admittedly didn’t know much about Celia. The film was screened at the El Museo Del Barrio and the event was supported and greatly appreciated by the Cuban, Puerto Rican New York community- it was a pleasure to be their to absorb the atmosphere. This event was part of the Caribbean Cultural Centre’s winter programe, I’ll be look out for more of their events while I’m in New York.

Thursday 7th…

I began the day with an early morning yoga class at the local community centre. New York offers free exercise classes in various community buildings to residence and visitors- so I took up the offer! The class was a good representation of the local area, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, African’s, Irish eldery, students and me! Refreshed and relaxed I went about my travels…
I’m slowly getting to grips with the New York Public transport. I tackled the buses again, caught the M9 from Lower East Side (or Lousida as Fred my Servas host prefers to call it) through China Town to Downtown. From there I ventured onto the free Staten Island ferry, which I was told the best way to see the Statue Of Liberty.
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Down Town Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry

Down Town Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry


I headed back up to Harlem in the afternoon and discovered Baba the Senegalese tailor. Baba’s personality and customer service mirrored the the vibrant West African wax prints that adorned the his shop. He explained that he has been a tailor all his life, and this profession has served him well in various African countries before he landed in America 11 years ago. While i was in his shop numerous customers, all local residents, came in to collect garments and share the events of their with Baba. It took me 30 minutes or so to decide on a beautiful yellow and red print that will be tailored into a skirt designed by Baba, which I will collect in March when I will return to New York.
Baba the Senegalese Tailor in his shop in Harlem

Baba the Senegalese Tailor in his shop in Harlem

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The New York people whom I have met so far have been eager and wiling to extend and helping hand and a smile to a lost British woman, ad have made me feel quite at home.

Friday 8th…Off to Chicago
I feel so proud of myself…I managed to utilze the subway all the way to LaGaurdia Airport in Queens and not get lost once…

LaGaurdia Airport, New York

LaGaurdia Airport, New York


On Plane Chicago bound...

On Plane Chicago bound…

First Day: Subway- Which way???

So me and Ms Flora set out from the Holiday Inn to meet my first Servas host Fred who lives in South East Manhattan in an area called Alphabet City aka Loisaida. Fred gave me very clear directions to his apartment and I set out at around 11:30am on a journey which should of took 30 minutes.
I lived in London for 6 years and was an avid Underground user, so I was confident that I could navigate my way through the metro network…

2 hours 30 minutes later Ms Flora I still hadn’t left the confusing knot of coloured lines and numbers which is the NY Subway. Dizzy with numbers, East, West blah blah (and a few tears) I’m ashamed to say that I got gave up and caught a taxi. After spending $10 on a metro card and then forking out on a taxi it proved to be an expensive journey. I just couldn’t get my head round it. When I asked for help everyone seemed just s confused as me, they would say ‘Maybe try F to 42nd,” or “ B to 7th, then L, will probably get you there!!!” I wanted definite answers but instead I got T47HT895B6DBF4N which makes no sense. One colour line splits off into various branches and the whole map looks like spaghetti Bolognese, the stations are multi floored (which i didn’t know at the time) on London Underground you are continuously kept informed with what station you are next and which is next, but this isn’t the case with the NY subway.

Flustered I was relieved to arrive at Fred’s house. That sense of relief soon turned into nerves, as it dawn on me I will be staying in a mans house whom I have never met, only spoke to briefly, alone in a foreign country where I had no chance of escaping. My Mum appeared in my head and her worried voice ricocheting inside my jelly brain.
But when I exhaled everything was completely fine. Fred is lovely a retired man who has traveled the world and enjoys sharing everyone of his stories. He has been a Servas Host for 25 years and has had many guest in his quirky apartment which could easily double up as an art gallery. Miss Flora was happy for the warmth and rest and so was I.

A corner Freds Living room

A corner Freds Living room


So now is a good time to introduce Miss Flora. Miss Flora is my lovely loyal bag who will be with every day, traveling to every state seeing all my tears, smiles and dirty laundry! I spent a good 3 hours packing her with various combinations of clothes. I found it quite difficult yo decide what to bring as I will be away for 3 months visiting the Northern states in winter and then the southern states. So I had to bring a little of everything. I hope our friendship will strengthen with everyday of my trip!

The area where Fred lives has had many names over the years. Fred explained that it used to be a poorer part of town but has been redevelop and branded in a trendy place with bars popping up every minute, hence the name being different on maps over time. Alphabet city (due to it’s avenues being called A,B, C, D, etc). The area was christened Loisaida by a Puerto Rican Poet Bimbo Riveas who chopped up bits of it’s previous name ‘Lower East Side’ & gave it a Puerto Rican twang. It also has been used by various film producers/directors as locations for scene. This bar & street was used in the Godfather 2 & Crocodile Dundee 2.

Poet Bimbo Riveas greta neibourhood poet who renamed the Lower East Side Manhattan.

Poet Bimbo Riveas greta neibourhood poet who renamed the Lower East Side Manhattan.

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After a cup of Korean tea (a gift from one of Fred’s previous guests) we visited the library which a 2 minute walk away- or as the American say “ a block away”. Fred gave me a bus map which is proving much more useful than the Subway mess. I used the map to navigate my way to New York Film Academy, which was a 10-15 minute walk (probably closer for natives who know where they are going) I had to show them my Degree certificates before my course I plan to attened in March when I revisit New york.
On the way back I picked up a few groceries and a slice of pizza and made my way back to Fred’s cosey abode.

I will try and visit some galleries or famous land makes tomorrow (Wednesday 5th) and then the film screening of Celia The Queen in the evening. This is of course weather permitting- we are experiencing some heavy snow fall which is threatening to disrupt internal flights. This is a sight worry as I have made plans to fly to Chicago on Friday…

My American Adventure Begins

Last year i was awarded the Nottingham Roosevelt Travel Scholarship, which offers people with a connection to Nottingham aged between 21-30 an unique opportunity to explore America for up to 3 months. The NRTS  (http://www.rooseveltscholarship.org/) encourages it’s chosen scholars to investigate/research an industry that they are involved in. I was absolutely thrilled to be awarded this opportunity and intent to explore three areas; Film making, performance poetry and Black Cultural organisations.Image

I arrived in New York JFK yesterday, greeted by 8 inches of snow, a warm smile from a taxi driver from Guyanna called Ombré. I shared the taxi/shuttle bus with a welcoming couple Peter & Leigh returning from three week holiday Israel who live about 7minutes away fromt he Holiday Inn Where i spent my first night.

Today I will make my way across to Manhattan to my first Servas host, Fred. Sevas is an amazing orgainisation that promotes world peace by encouraging people to accommodate travelers in their home. The hosts and traveler both have to be vetted, interviewed and checked out before joining Servas to ensure each parties safety. I plan to stay with many Servas families during my 3 month stay in the states.

Tomorrow I plan to attend the screening of a docu-film “Celia The Queen” by Joe Cardona (http://cccadi.org/01/celia-the-queen-a-film-screening/) at the Caribbean Cultural Centre. The CCC (http://cccadi.org/) founded by Marta Moreno Vega, is part of the African Diaspora Institute and organises various events and curates exhibitions that celebrate art and culture from the Caribbean. I also hope to connect with the founder or director of CCC to find out more about the organisation. 

I’ll be posting regular updates of my American Adventure, so look out for them!

Hands

Premiered at the Mouthy Poet event ‘Say SumThin 5′ fetauring Lemn Sissay as the headliner at Nottingham Playhouse on 15th June. Written by Maresa MacKeith.

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Hands

Performance poet Maresa Mackeith has commissioned me to translate her poem ‘Hands’ into a short film.
Maresa hiding copy

Maresa copy

hands

Hands1 copy

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For Maresa it is imperative that she finds alternative ways to express her poems to her audiences, she is unable to talk and has no control over her body, but she certainly has control over her mind and a universe of determination and drive to have her voice heard.

One of the things I love about making films/documentaries is that each project offers a chance to absorb a new culture or look at life from a new perspective each project is totally different form the next… With this project I’m learning a lot about disability and what it’s like for them when they are marginalised by main stream society. Maresa invited me to join her at a Quiet Riot conference where she was asked to deliver a speech and a creative writing workshop. Quiet Riot (organised by Joe Whittaker) is a gathering of people who use facilitated or ‘assisted’ communication. They have a number of objectives, a few of which are: to give people who can’t talk a public profile, to share ideas and to make the public aware that just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean they have nothing to say! (here’s a link for more info onQuiet Riot: http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/news-item/2011-quiet-riot)
flier front

Design by The Pickyheads, design for thr choosey mind

Design by The Pickyheads, design for thr choosey mind

So with Quiet Riots objectives in mind, Maresa has commissioned me to translate her poem ‘Hands’ into a poetry film that will be premiered at Nottingham Playhouse as apart of the Mouthy Poets spoken word extravaganza, Say Sum Thin 5 on the 15th June. If Maresa’s poetry film or the Mouthy Poets are not enough to entice you to the Playhouse, Lemn Sissay will be headlining- three unmissable reasons to buy a ticket!

Black Ex- Service Personnel & Their Families In WWII

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WWII Community Capsule

I’m currently working with Nottingham Black Archive to produce a documentary highlighting the efforts & achievements of Black service personnel who served in WWII.
Press release flier

Mr Powe ex-servicemen who served in the RAF in WWII

Mr Powe ex-servicemen who served in the RAF in WWII

The film will be interviewing WWII Ex Sevice Personnel and their families revealing untold stories and providing a richer and fuller picture of life of that time.
The finished documentary will be screened at various locations in East Midlands and also be available as part of a school learning resource.

Tadpoles

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Escape To Venus

Premiered at the Mouthy Poets event Say Sum Thin 4 at Nottingham Playhouse

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