Molly Prentice ran around to ensure that the Debating Chamber was set for the Creative Writing Workshop. It had been a gloomy day and not the kind of atmosphere to start any session with. Hot water, tea, biscuits and some other snacks later brought by Workshop facilitator, Su’ur Su’eddie Vershima Agema plus music, the Debating Chamber changed.
Participants settled in, diverse in their disciplines as in their worldviews. The general expectations were laid down: to get inspiration to write again; to learn new forms of writing; to learn new things; to make connections; to explore folk lore; and importantly, to express creativity, writing in history without inhibition.
Su’eddie led the conversation with amazing contributions from all the participants as everyone threw in their bits about the reasons for writing, the historical connotations of Negro spirituals, post-colonial writings, and much more. There was light soothing traditional tunes playing in the background. Three poems were listened to and everyone set to write. For 15 minutes, everyone wrote what came to their mind, then read out their lovely pieces. Onyinye read an untitled piece of two intense lines which everyone encouraged her to continue. Hauwa read ‘Black, Muslim, Woman’, Jennifer followed with ‘Dreams’, then Gaia read ‘Words’ (her first English piece since she writes primarily in Italian). Following was Graham who read ‘This dim fall on the chalk downs’, Nichola wrote ‘Rhymes for the Time’ (a first poem!), Rasat read ‘Writing Struggle’ while Monica rounded it all with her piece, ‘What is history?’ The reading session had earlier been started by Su’eddie.
After this, Michelle Okpo, one of the founders of the African Writers Society of the University of Sussex presented her session on ‘Using Writing to Save African History and Folklore’ to applause.
In all, it was an intimate affair where every voice was heard with new experiences gathered all around. Participants agreed it was a great experience and would want more of it. There were assurances that more of the kind would be arranged in the coming weeks.
With some people gone and a new group coming over to use the Debating Chambers, those around took some pictures. Conversations among new friends continued as everyone trooped out…the end of another fine day celebrating Black History Month at the University of Sussex.