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Brim with melanin

PERFORMANCE ART: The ‘choreopoetic’ collective Silhouettez In The Dark will bring their theatrical experience to Theatre Peckham this year

FOLLOWING ITS seminal, critically acclaimed and sold-out debut at the Bussey Building in 2015, Melanin Box Festival is back this summer at Theatre Peckham.

The first ever UK festival dedicated solely to spotlighting the multi-disciplinary work of black British creative returns with a two-day celebration of Performance Art, offering the best new talent across theatre, film, music and dance, on August 4-5.

Created and curated by collaborative arts collective initiative.dkf, whose vision statement is to “normalise Black British narratives and atypical storytelling”, the focus of Melanin Box Festival is to increase visibility and artistic opportunities for black and minority ethnic (BAME) creatives in the UK, whilst highlighting depictions of black people beyond preconceptions.

The festival aims to bridge the gap, break down stereotypes and bring the many diverse black British experiences and subcultures to light. The 2015 three-day debut was the first of its kind to provide such a long-coveted platform for BAME creatives to showcase their work at that level.

Its participants have now gone on to achieve greatness in their arenas, including Seraphina Beh (EastEnders, Bush Theatre, West End), Kayode Ewumi (Hood Documentary, Enterprice), and 2015 Synergy award winner Tobi Bamtefa (National Theatre, Sky Atlantic).

Now supported by Arts Council England, this year’s festival is spread over two days of competition and celebration.

It aims to discover new narratives, and ways to tell old ones; bursting with emerging musicians and performances across disciplines including poetry, comedy and much more.

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Already confirmed for the festival is none other than Laurence Olivier Award-winning playwright and screenwriter Bola Agbaje (Sky Atlantic, ITV, Royal Court Theatre); a screening of short film The Right Choice by award-winning director Tomisin Adepeju, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, as well as powerhouse vocalist Ruth Brown, semifinalist from the first series of BBC One’s The Voice UK.

Also confirmed across the two-day festival is artist Babirye Bukilwa, left, award-winning poet Yomi Sode, British Soul rising star Kadeem Tyrell, and guest speaker Seraphina Beh, among others.

The unique ‘Competition’ element of Melanin Box will run across both days of the event, with day one focusing on the Pandora Award Competition, where the winning theatre piece is awarded a £400 development bursary and staging; while day two is all about the Synergy Competition for actors, with prizes including professional masterclass from Monologueslam creators TriForce, a professional showreel from awardwinning filmmaker Sebastian Thiel (BBC Three, Illegal Activity, Friday UK), and quality headshots by acclaimed photographer Kwaku Kyei.

Speaking about the inspiration for Melanin Box Festival, Damilola DK Fashola and Wofai, of initiative.dkf, says: “This is an opportunity to tell our varied stories from our own mouths and celebrate black British talent in Britain – not once they’ve blown overseas – there has always been a scarcity of roles and opportunities for black creatives in stage, television and film, as well as roles, which convey the same narratives.

“When you look at the British industry especially, we see our most known artists only being truly recognised once overseas. Melanin Box Festival is our response to this.”

Melanin Box Festival 2018 takes place on August 4-5 at Theatre Peckham.

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