UNTITLED: A REBELLIOUS EXHIBITION THAT’S NOT TO BE MISSED

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untitledAs I walked toward the New Art Exchange, an audible buzz was bursting from the building. Despite being one of the first to arrive, the scene was set; DJ Nwando Ebizie was mixing by the bar to propel the party atmosphere, and the room was full of people excited to see what the gallery had to offer in “UNTITLED.”

This exhibition showcases works in several medias by African diaspora artists in the UK, and it aims to look at various issues being considered today, from gender to culture to identity. The exhibition also seeks to look at the less obvious connections between art and culture, and where they’re found in our communities.

Barby Asante, for example, has created an interactive map that marks out cultural hubs that help young people in Nottingham. And I was captivated by The Art of Black Hair, a series of portraits that wound up the stairs, culminating in a video of people talking about their Afro-hair related stories. This was paired with pieces from The National Caribbean Heritage Museum, which provided a fascinating context and glimpse into another world.

untitled_2Having followed these portraits upstairs, I began to marvel in the mezzanine gallery. Pieces from Cedar Lewisohn – writer, artist and curator – particularly struck a chord. He has created wood carving prints (Wood Cuts) and large, hand bound books (Black Drawings) that use figures resembling those found in tribal art as a reflection on how modernist artist has appropriated tribal images to create their own pieces.

Downstairs, a whole range of pieces demonstrated the vast range of work on show in the main gallery. The pieces drew from a wide range of mediums, but the most anticipated piece was Gaiden, the video by Larry Achiampong and David Blandy. These two artists take inspiration from psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, who examined the impact of colonialism and decolonisation on mental health.

As a whole, the exhibition had an almost tangible feeling of rebellion. Even visually gentle, warm pieces such as Barbara Walker’s Attitude forces you to question the unique obstacles that African Diaspora artists continue to have to face today.

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The exhibition is beautifully curated and excellently laid out, and is sure to provoke your interest, forcing you to question the role of culture, heritage and race in art today. It is certainly not to be missed.

Sophie Franklinos

Click here to find out more about NAFN’s Medecin Sans Frontieres fundraiser.

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The Watermelon Woman

Past event

The Watermelon Woman

Saturday 10th December, 6pm
The White Lion, Beeston
Tickets: £10

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Our final film screening of the year will see us team up with the mighty Reel Equality to bring Cheryl Dunye’s groundbreaking The Watermelon Woman – the first feature film ever to be directed by a black lesbian – to Beeston.
Cheryl works part-time in a video shop (remember those?!), and is an aspiring filmmaker. After becoming interested in old films which feature black actors, she embarks on a mission to find the real ‘Watermelon Woman’ – the name given to an actor who played roles like Hattie McDaniel in Gone With The Wind. Full of 90s galore, The Watermelon Woman playfully and smartly critiques the way black women have been represented by Hollywood films.
Local poet Serita Bake will also be reading a selection of her works. As ever we’ll also be treating you to a lovingly cooked vegan meal, so do come hungry! Expect Philly cheese steaks, hot dogs and doughnuts, all included in the price!
Dressing up is encouraged (think everything from The Fresh Prince to the Spice Girls); but all nostalgic styles are welcome, so dig through your wardrobes for all your forgotten 90s treasures!
This screening is in aid of Equation, a local charity working to prevent and reduce the harm caused by domestic and sexual violence, and Kairos a volunteer-run group that support lesbian and bisexual asylum seekers and refugees. Thank you for helping us to support them.

Book now.

Thanks to

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What I Learned from Johnny Bevan: Deep, Poetic and Funny

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As the play’s title suggests, this story considers playwright Luke Wright’s relationship with Johnny Bevan. But as with most poetry, there’s more to it than that. This stage production cleverly begins by exploring modern London and its uncouth everyday life, through rhyme, rhythm and relatable humour.

This hilarity grew throughout the play, but it also incorporates Luke Wright’s emotional and somewhat melancholic considerations of class. After meeting and seeing the downfall of the political and boisterous character of Johnny Bevan, this slowly leads to tragedy. This piece was very different to what I normally associate with more traditional multiple-character theatre performances, however.

I immensely enjoyed the fact that a single actor was so able to hold my attention throughout this compelling one-hander. The actor’s dramatic ability to take on different personas with just the aid of dramatic devices such as repetition, changes in accent and lighting/sound effects was impressive, and it cleverly made it possible for the audience to gain understanding and entertainment through just one human canvas.

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Now, you may be asking, how much can one man do? Well, much entertainment can be derived from the down-to-earth humour and stereotypes played with throughout the narrative. So this play actually became very relatable to viewers, and it achieved a light-hearted feel that you might not expect from a piece based on political angst and unbreakable class structures.

Both the hilarity and literary devices drew me in, creating a fast pace experience and keeping the audience consistently on the edge of their seat. And although politics does seem to be a major theme of the piece, it is subtly entwined within the narrative through its effect on characters’ lives. This cleverly allowed audiences with little political knowledge, such as myself, to understand and gain a new perspective on the effects politics.

Similarly, Luke Wright was able to relate to audiences both young and old, as he simultaneously considers both older historical patriotic values and the mental impact of more modern technologies, like Twitter. This diversity of perspectives encouraged audiences to see today’s class structures and age groups through a new light, and it prompts them to consider other perspectives while Luke keeps you on board with a bit of colloquial humour to lighten the mood.

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But after the interval, the second half of the evening delved more into the actor’s personal anecdotes and poetry. This gave us even more of an insight into Luke Wright, while also linking back to the previous societal and political ideas of the piece. This was particularly enjoyable as it opened my eyes to new forms of poetry and expanded my artistic horizons.

So if you’re looking to be amusingly entertained, while also being encouraged to gain new perspectives on literary form, class status and politics, I would very much recommend this piece. Its dramatic, fast-paced and multifaceted characterisations grab your attention straight away, and take you on a rollercoaster journey through the lower, middle and upper classes of British society.  It’s an experience not to be missed.

You can find out more about What I Learned From Johnny Bevan at the Lakeside here.

Tara Wright

What I Learned from Johnny Bevan Changed My Perspective

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To say the least, I’m a fan of the theatre and West End shows like Mamma Mia! or Wicked. There are endless examples on my list that I’ve seen. Although I have to say, if you go into What I Learned from Johnny Bevan thinking it’s a theatre show like one of those, then you will be very much mistaken.

However, don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing! Not at all. They are two different types of theatre that both give you a highly enjoyable experience. Besides, you’re not reading this to get the drift that West End shows are amazing – you’re reading this to find out about a different kind theatre; one that can be watched more locally, at that! What I Learned About Johnny Bevan is by playwright Luke Wright, and could be described as a combination of passion and poems.

Early on, you are entranced into the performance. What you see is one man on a blank stage, the only props being a stool and a microphone. The first half, roughly an hour long, is captivating – there are moments of laughter, but also moments of tense emotions. I’ve never seen an audience so still and wrapped into the performance in my life; there’s always that one person who gets up to go to the toilet or checks their phone, but not one this time. Turns out Luke Wright is amazing, and you can tell he has a lot of passion for what he does. He really crystallises the crux of his story well.

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So what is the story? Well, What I Learned About Johnny Bevan is pretty much what it says it is. We experience the story of a young guy going through life. His experiences covering many social problems, often significantly political ones. So if you don’t know a lot about politics, you might find this a bit of a tough one to relate to. But it also covers social issues, such as class or race.

There are many clever links into life now-a-days, which makes this play seem so personal and relatable for contemporary audiences. For example, a student such as myself, can empathise with recent school changes or university experiences. The play is very cleverly written to link to popular culture today, so the audience becomes even more involved and engaged.

In fact, the story was so vivid, it didn’t matter that multiple characters were being voiced by the same person. Wright was telling a searing story, and we felt every emotion of it. What’s more, the second half had even more of a personal tie into Luke’s life, and his poems clearly showed his dedication, wit and comedy.

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Now you might be thinking… poems? But I tell you something, I’m not the biggest fan of poems, but I was captivated in these performances. So please go into the theatre with an open mind, because I guarantee you will not be let down by this piece’s poetic twist. They are executed so well, and they put such compelling topics into a brighter light, that it is hard not to be enjoyed by the audience.

For a heart-felt, engaging, humorous night, this is one play I would recommend you see. The audience is brought in its different style and the results are captivating, whether you’re laughing along or tense in this story he is telling.

You can find out more about What I Learned From Johnny Bevan at the Lakeside here.

Bethan Strike (NAFN blogger and Striking Film Reviews writer)

Black History Month: Miles Ahead

Past event
Sunday 30th October, 5pm-9pm, New Basford Community Centre
Free

Join us this October, as we team up with The Pythian Club to celebrate Black History Month with a free showing of Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead UK at the New Basford Community Centre!

Starring Don Cheadle as jazz legend Miles Davis and Ewan McGregor as a cheeky journalist, this exciting crime thriller races across New York as friends and strangers all try to steal the great musician’s latest mix-tape. Pulling no punches, Miles faces his demons and fights to prove he’s still a world-beating artist.

To make this showing extra special, we’ll also have live music from members of the Pythian Club and a lovingly cooked home-made food!

On the night, we’ll be launching a workshop scheme to teach young people how to put on their own film events too. We welcome all 15-17 year olds who might be interested or want to find out more about the Nottingham Alternative Film Network.

Scalarama Special: Notes On Blindness + Q&A

Past event
Saturday 26th September 2016, 4pm-9pm,  The White Lion, 4pm-9pm
Tickets: £10, meal included, in aid of My Sights Nottinghamshire

Join us this September as we team up with My Sight Notts to bring two of Britain’s best new directors to Beeston for a Q&A showing of the critically acclaimed documentary Notes on Blindness.

This beautiful film focuses on the experiences of blind theologian John Hull, who revolutionised the types of audio books available to visually-impaired people. Drawing on original recordings from John’s diaries, the whole film is expertly lip-synced by the cast, and the glimpse they give of his journey into blindness is truly captivating.

To make this event extra special we’ll also have VR short films about John’s experiences and a blind tasting vegan menu. There’ll also be a visually-impaired themed exhibition, all included in the price of your ticket!

What’s more, every penny of profit we make will go to My Sight Notts – so join us as we usher in an exciting new wave of innovative British cinema! Hard-of-hearing subtitles and a described video app will be available.


Thank you to everyone who came and took part in this screening! Thanks to you, we raised £250 all of which will be donated to My Sights Nottinghamshire and help them with all the wonderful work they do. Find out more here.

Sleuth Is Sharp, Smart and Not What You’d Expect

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On the 12th of September, I was drawn into the mystery story of Anthony Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning Sleuth (directed by the talented Giles Croft). Making up part of Nottingham Playhouse’s ‘Sweet Vengeance Season,’ this play was a real twist on the traditional crime thriller, and oh, how vengeful it was!

Not being familiar of the original 70s play or film, I was completely bewildered when I came into the theatre and saw on stage a life-sized laughing sailor dummy. I was instantly absorbed in the mystery of Sleuth’s staging (done by designer Barney George along with lighting designer Alexandra Stafford), and was astounded to find that it included a mansion, a revolving stage and projections of a casino-like scale.

The gamble the actors were about to play was instantly enthralling and I could not look away. That’s because the play appeals perfectly to the playful detective (or ‘sleuth’) side of the audience, and its plot intricately follows a successful, game-obsessed mystery writer by the name of Andrew Wyke (played superbly by Miles Richardson). Before long, a tricksy love rival Milo Tindle (James Alexandrou) is introduced, and Tindle and Wyke are getting wrapped up in manipulative gambits like the ultimate game of cat and mouse.

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With twists and turns at every stage, the audience is left on the edge of their seats waiting for what might be discovered next! While the actors captivate your attention and keep up the pretences of of ‘crazed mystery writer’ and ‘young impressionable rival’ flawlessly. I’ll refrain from giving away anymore, though – to ensure you can enjoy the play as much as I did (#KeepSleuthSecret).

What I do have left to say, however, is that Sleuth is a fantastic play that I would highly suggest to any lover of crime dramas, mysteries or a bit of comedy! It will be performed at the Playhouse until the 24th of September 2016.

Grainne Pearson Cockrill

DRAG BECOMES THEM 

Past event
 Sunday 10th July 2016, 6pm, The Malt Cross
Tickets: £5.50
In aid of Nottinghamshire Pride
SOLD OUT

Read Grainne Pearson Cockrill’s verdict here!

Join us on the 10th of July THE UK premiere of Alex Berry’s Drag Becomes Him, a wonderful documentary about RuPaul’s Drag Race’s superstar Jinkx Monsoon. The film follows Jinkx’s journey to success, and we are very happy to be presenting this event with Divergence Nottingham.

Doors will open at 6pm, at which point we’ll kick off with an informal exhibition made up of beautiful LGBT art by local artists, where originals and prints will be available to buy throughout the day.

From there we’ll open the nights cinematic entertainment with a carefully curated selection of short films and poetry readings by popular local LGBT author Gregory Woods before moving on to the main attraction, Drag Becomes Him.

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Finally we’ll top it all off with a one woman show by Nottingham’s best alternative drag performer, Riley Vyrus. She promises us it’s going to be one of her biggest performances yet, and you can be a part of all these things for just a fiver!

What’s more, we’re doing this in aid of Nottinghamshire Pride to help them prepare for what’s going to be an extra special celebration this year!


A CELEBRATION OF LGBTIQA ART

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We’ll also be displaying beautiful work from the following local artists, and almost everything on show will be available for you to buy (with 20% of any sales going to Notts Pride):

Martin Sanders (Photographer)

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Martin is one of the most exciting local photographers we’ve come across, and prints of his work will be available to buy. He has an extraordinary talent for experimenting with his medium and tapping into Nottingham’s Zeitgeist. On the 10th he will be displaying work that handles sexuality and gender in ways both humorous and stunning.

Juliana Loveluck (Paper Artist)

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An absolute magician with a pair of scissors, Juliana creates almost incomprehensibly intricate and delightful art out of paper. For our exhibition she will be creating captivating pieces that pay tribute to the victims of the tragic Orlando attack and celebrate LGBT love.

Lee Henderson (Stencil Artist)

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Lee is a fantastic British artist who creates very visceral and emotive art using stencils and spray paints. As part of our event he will be selling commemorative canvases that pay tribute to musical genius and great gender pioneer David Bowie.

Cherie Buxton-Barnes (Painter/Illustrator)

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Cherie is a gifted, full-time children’s book illustrator who runs painting classes locally and has been involved in exciting events with organisations such as Waterstones. She has had around 100 books published, and on the day she will doing live painting as well as selling lots of captivating paintings that showcase both the joyful and the darker sides of her art.

Michele Lee Anne Buxton-Barnes (Painter)

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Michele is a very passionate artists who co-runs painting classes across Nottingham with Cherie. She specialises in watercolour paintings of animals and the vibrant colours and fluid style of her work takes on a life all of its own. On the 10th of July, she too will be doing live painting and selling a selection of their work.


Our audience were also able to send beautifully crafted messages to Jinxy on the night – see them in all their glory here.

Drag Becomes Them: A Riot of LGBT Culture

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DBH_03On a warm Sunday evening this July, I witnessed a night of poetry, film, drag and of course PRIDE at Nottingham’s glorious Malt Cross.

At 6pm the event kicked off with poetry by Gregory Woods, a former professor for LGBTQ studies at Nottingham University. Eloquently, he performed poems like ‘May I say nothing’ and poems from his book An Ordinary Dog. He also sent us on a journey of giggles and tragedy as he introduced us to a new unfinished poem titled ‘Pulse,’ which paid homage to the victims of the Orlando Shootings. Though unfinished, this poem gave me shivers throughout as it expressed the horrors felt by the victims’ loved ones.

This was then followed by Toby Fell-Holden’s captivating, BIFA-nominated Balcony. This short’s story felt immensely relevant given all the events that have struck England in the past couple of months, and in the wake of all the post-Referendum racism and hate crimes we have seen, its message of not judging people based on a preconception of their race or culture really struck home!

BALCONY_web_2Talking about his short film project, Toby said he wanted to “tell a story that captures the daily injustices, individual and institutional, in an environment like the estate I grew up on, a place that struggled with racial tension” and you definitely can’t help but feel he’s captured a slice of tensions which are probably going on all over the UK right now, so his mission to point a finger at the viewer to say “this is what happens when we avoid reality and allow discrimination to dominate” feels so important.

What’s more, the film proved a real roller coaster of emotions for the audience, and it had impeccable production values considering it was from a director at such an early stage in his career. The film centred on an uneasy story of lesbian intrigue between a troubled British girl and a character we’re told is originally from Afghanistan, and this cross-cultural frisson made it quite unlike the kinds of LGBT films we’re normally used to seeing in this country.

Balcony was also wonderfully written and beautifully filmed, meaning it really sticks in your memory long after you’ve seen it. The attention to detail on the short’s intricately layered soundtrack was unbelievably atmospheric and the performances by Charlotte Beaumont and Genevieve Dunne in their complex roles were so compelling.

DBH_13After a short break, the night of movie magic then continued with Alex Berry’s feature documentary Drag Becomes Him. This film follows Ru Paul’s Drag Race legend Jinkx Monsoon for several years as she storms to the height of her fame – something I was naturally very excited to see this as a big fan of the series and a supporter of Jinkx herself.

During the documentary, we get up close and personal with everything from Jinkx’s family upbringing to her life in the public eye, and the thing that made this particularly wonderful was the way Jinkx’s story encapsulates perfectly an LGBT take on the American Dream, something I have rarely (if ever) seen. Through a rich assortment of clips we race right across Jinkx’s rags-to-riches career, and various moments often brought hearty laughs and giggles from those in the room.

This wide mix of footage was also expertly stitched together, meaning spellbinding footage of the drag artist transforming herself sat faultlessly side by side with intimate, revealing confessions about what drives Jinkx. Effortlessly gliding across years’ worth of Monsoon moments and a plethora of family perspectives, Drag Become Him definitely demonstrated Berry’s prodigious skill for getting to the heart of a person’s story and making it a film that people from all kinds cultures and sexual orientations can celebrate.

This made Drag Becomes Him an ideal film to show as part of a Pride fundraiser, and the cheering and grinning clearly showed the audience’s enjoyment of the story behind one of the most talented performers of our times.

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Following a humid seventy minutes of filmic fun downstairs, festivities continued upstairs, where the gallery’s walls had been transformed with beautiful art by local Nottingham artists, almost all of which was on sale to raise extra money for Pride. In the performance space between the two floors, drag queen Riley Vyrus then took centre stage.

Performing hilarious lip syncs and live songs, Riley paid a heart-felt tribute to Jinkx with songs such as Everybody’s Girl and ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. Other wonderful performances were delivered by fellow fabulous queens Dusty Crevis and Scarlet Fever. The latter performed Eartha Kitt’s ‘Champagne Testing,’ and the dramatic embellishments she acted out left the stage covered in beer and the crowd in hysterics…

The night was one to remember and it left me with a smile on my face and hope in my heart! Following the tragic events in Orlando that left the LGBTQ community and the world in fear and mourning, events like this – which put Pride, family and friends at their heart – feel more important than ever.

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This event even sold out, creating a great atmosphere, so do keep an eye out for their next Scalarama screening of British indie Notes on Blindness and come down to show your support!

Grainne Peason Cockrill
Event images by Dani Bacon

Cause Celebre: You Be The Judge

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On a scorching hot day, where better to hide than in a shade of a theatre? Well, on the 22nd of July I enjoyed an evening of drama at the Lace Market Theatre to watch a sold-out production of Terence Rattigan’s Cause Celebre, directed by Gordon Parsons. I had heard great reviews, so naturally I was intrigued and excited – and fortunately, I was not disappointed!

This play plunges you into the real life 1930s trial of Alma Rattenbury (played by Tamzin Grayson) and her teenage lover George Wood (Aaron Connelly). Their case revolved around the murder of Alma’s elderly husband Francis Rattenbury (Geoff Longbottom), only the play also adds a sub-plot of Edith’s Davenport’s (Sarah Taylor) failing marriage and separation to husband John (David Dunford). Edith fears the trial will influence her impressionable son Tony (Sam Howitt), something not much helped by her “friend” Stella Morrison (Kay Haw).

Originally a radio play, Cause Celebre was wonderfully adapted for the stage and brilliantly executed by a talented team of actors and crew. All performed in one main set, a living room designed by Peter Hillier, the scene also included courtroom furniture in foreground, but this by no means disrupted or broke the steady transition between each scene. The script’s movement between flash-backs and flash-forwards was also smartly executed, and wonderfully allowed the audience to peep into the case and apply their own conclusions.

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The acting definitely left an indelible impression too, with memorable performances being generously offered up by Tamzin Grayson as Alma and Aaron Connelly as George. The former showed a brilliant range, repeatedly shifting from fun loving giggler to a heart-broken abject and breaking the audience’s heart (depending on their ultimate verdict of course). Similarly, Aaron’s rapidly changing character left the audience questioning the jury and themselves.

However, as with all good dramas, there was also a need for comic relief, and the cast did not fail to provide it! Especially characters such as Randolph Browne (played by Sophie Owen), who filled in as the young friend of Tony Davenport (Sam Howitt). These two’s quick-fire duologue never failed to leave the audience in giggles, and we also cannot forget good old O’Connor (Piotr Wisniewski), whose memorable defence and passion as a lawyer in the case created some great moments within the play.

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Their joint performances definitely left me intrigued and asking, ‘Who murdered Mr Rattenbury?’ And what’s more, director Gordon Parsons also cleverly used the audience as the jury, which really made you feel intensely involved in the drama. All in all, I think I’d have to go as far as to say that this was a highlight of all the Lace Market Theatre productions I have seen this year! It left me feeling entertained yet curious to find out more! This production of Cause Celebre runs until the 24th of July, and was a triumph!

Grainne Pearson Cockrill