MELANIN BOX FESTIVAL RETURNS TO CELEBRATE BLACK BRITISH ARTS, THEATRE, MUSIC, FILM AND DANCE
Initiative.dkf Set To Take Over Theatre Peckham On August 4-5
After its sold-out debut at the Bussey Building in 2015 as the first ever UK festival dedicated to showcasing the multi-disciplinary work of Black British creatives, Melanin Box Festival is back for a two-day celebration of all things Performance Art, offering the very best new talent across arts, theatre, film, music and dance. Created and curated by collaborative arts duo initiative.dkf, whose vision statement is to ‘normalize Black British narratives and a typical storytelling’, Melanin Box Festival aims to increase visibility and artistic opportunities for BME creatives in the UK, while bring the many diverse Black British experiences and subcultures to light.
Following on from its launch in 2015, by Wofai, DK Fashola and Tristan Fynn – Aiduenu who make the collective Initiative.dkf; the Melanin box is festival brought us another year of talent, openly celebrating Black-British arts, theatre, music, film and dance! Taking place south of the river in the Peckham Arts Theatre, the 2-day festival showed unique content, bringing forth some of the best black up and coming creatives. Although I missed some of the event I’m going to try and share some of the best bits (bear with me there was so much greatness!).
Firstly, a special mention to the hosts, Zeze Millz and David Ajao! They did a great job hosting and making the festival an amazing interactive experience throughout the whole event. High energy, lots of laughs and impromptu beat-boxing from the dynamic duo made you feel as though you were a part of the event, rather than a simple spectator. I would love to see more of them. The atmosphere they brought to the crowd even encouraged an impromptu monologue from one of the audience, which was just as great as the planned talent so shout out to her and them!
Outside of the competition, the fresh content kept flowing with screenings from award winning Christopher Chucky with False men, which is a modern-day adaptation of the Shakespearean Classic Othello. Hoodies and bomber jackets mixed with Early Modern English, brought the tragedy from 1603, to life in 2018 and was a great experience. Other fab pieces also graced the screen including; Figure by Lanre Malaolu, The Right Choice by Tomsin Adepeju, Imprint by Ovie and finally Scalped by the hosts themselves Initiative.dkf!
It was a tight competition but Bitchcraft written by Nkhanise PhirI just edged out its competition to win the Pandora prize on Sunday. The short play focused on the individual strengths and personalities of the witches. Reading between the lines, this play was all about the showcasing of black girl magic and I was here for all of it! The actors did a great job showcasing the different elements of black women and spoke to the heart of the event.
My personal favourite was All the Girls written by Atlanta Green. The play showed the craziness that goes on in the club toilets, especially when auntie with the lollipops and tissue paper gets involved. No spoilers, but this is definitely something you’d love if you ever been in the toilet at 3 am and looked at yourself thinking how did I get here!
Afraid of the Dark written by Ashley Panton, walked us through the cycle of dating apps and Be/Come Written by Andre Bright, highlighted the difficulty of knowing who you are in the UK when you have hail from a different cultural background. This piece showed a different element of the plights and pleasures of being a young Black-British person in the UK. With Tell Me More Lies written by Joy Mbakwe tackling the dark side of YouTube couples to The Third Eye written by Ana Peralta addressing stealing and spies (I know a recipe for awesomeness) all did well in voicing their stories, and it was great witnessing the beautiful products of their hard work.
Unfortunately, I missed out on all the greatness of Synergy that took part on the second day of the festival, but if it was anything like the first, the high calibre actors were nothing short of fantastic. Gail Egbeson took home the Synergy prize and from the clips I managed to see she killed it. Other performers on the day were Christopher Quagraine, Ruth Gail, Paul Brown, Raymond Sichilima and Rosemary Akinola!
All in all, the Melanin Box Festival was a celebration that expanded the narrative and brought alive the fabulous Black-British film, plays and monologues that otherwise may be overlooked. This festival called us to look at new narratives outside of the norm which is exactly what an industry full of formulas, and repetitive stereotypes needs.
Stay on the lookout for next year’s dates as this is a festival you don’t want to miss!