Panel Strands & Sessions

Building audiences

Session 1: Lets go find our audiences: embracing the diaspora and finding our audiences across the world

Manuscripts by writers of colour are often rejected by publishers because, apparently, the writing is not ‘universal’ which simply means that it does not appeal to the mainstream. We have read, listened to anecdotes of rejected writers and discussed this for a long time now. But like most things, writers of colour cannot sit back and expect the market for their writing to just happen. It is time to come up with strategies on how to awaken existing markets for our writing, create new ones and sensitise those that seem to be out of our reach. We must do it ourselves – so come on fighters!

There will be a short audience exercise as part of this session.

Panellists: Jennifer Makumbi, Shivanee Ramlochan, Charlotte Maxwell

Session 2: Minding the gap – strategies for reaching new audiences

How do you find your audiences and once found how do you develop them? We will be sharing our experiences and ideas of building audiences locally, nationally and internationally.

Panellists: Jennifer Makumbi, Yvonne Battle-Felton and Naniso Tswai

Writer Journeys

Every writer has a story to tell, rarely do they tell their own. What got them into writing, what kept them going and how, eventually, they achieved success.

Session 1: Reading between the lines

Poets Keisha Thompson and fukudapero (Hirohisa Fukuda) in conversation with Desiree Reynolds on their debut collections of poetry, Lunar and flowers like blue glass. Included in the discussion will be their particular routes to publication, what interests and inspires them and their work, and where their poetry is located in the literary world.

Panellists: keisha Thompson, Hirohisa Fukuda and Desiree Reynolds

Session 2:  The long and winding road…

Personal journeys and writing journeys intertwine. As black writers these journeys are rarely straightforward, often frustrating and with more lows than highs. Even to call ourselves writers is sometimes a struggle. So what keeps us going? How do we take strength from rejection and learn from our mistakes. Rajeev Balasubramanyam, Anjum Malik and Masimba Musodza are your guides as host Jennifer Makumbi leads them and the audience in discussion, anecdote and storytelling.

Panellists: Rajeev Balasbramanyam, Anjum Malik and Masimba Musodza; hosted by Jennifer Makumbi


AfroFuturism as a genre focuses on speculative visions rooted in the black imagination. From Wakanda to Wondaland, sonic fiction and graphic novels alike have transported us to new ways of seeing blackness, whilst questioning our perceptions of reality and society.

Session 1: Where the Griots gather – creating an Afrofuturist platform in real and cyber space

One question for us is, what are the spaces we can create to encourage the practical flourishing of creatives who want to explore this genre, or simply have a space to call their own? During this panel, we’ll be discussing our attempts at creating such a space, in the form of AfroFlux and it’s spin off mini con, FluxCon, which prepares for its third year in 2019.

The session will begin with a discussion about the ways in which black thinkers have engaged with speculative fiction to critique existing racist hegemonies and imagine news ways of being. The speakers will give examples of how this process has not only informed their work and practice but also what it means for future generations as digital creative technologies and avenues for self funding become more accessible.

Juice Aleem will discuss his journey creating AfroFlux as a part of the Birmingham Hip hop and street art festival, how it has developed and expanded to include conversations from black history to black health. We will then be outlaying our plans for FluxCon 2019, the culmination of several years worth of experimentation and community building in Birmingham and beyond.

Session 2: Afro futures and the zine

We’ll be spending time with Charlotte Bailey, comic artist and chief organiser for Laydeez do Comics Birmingham, who will host a workshop on creating and distributing zines. Through this session, we’ll get another perspective on how zines can be the place where Afrofuturist thought finds itself embodied in form of print and ink, where speculative imagination meets real space practice.

Panellists: Florence Okoye, Juice Aleem and Charlotte Bailey

Digital Literature

We all know what literature is but what exactly is digital literature, what does it do and how can you engage with it as a writer and a reader?

Session 1:  Meet the Makers – Digital Commissions Showcase 

Meet the makers of:

  • Bringing Poetry into Code Generation – Quick Response (QR) codes and poetry
  • Erebus and Aether: Twin Cities– visual novel where outcomes are affected by the player’s choices
  • Heritage Carrot’- a site-specific Augmented Reality (AR) poem

Panellists: Maya Chowdhry, Kooj Chuhan, Mahboobeh Rajabi
Host: Clare Ramsaran

Session 2: Digital Literature – what’s in it for you?

Meet other writers in an ice-breaker activity. Are you already producing digital literature? If so, please come prepared to share what you have learned. New to Digital Literature? Discover ways to enhance or promote your writing via:

  • Twitterature
  • Instapoetry
  • Book trailers
  • Literary blogs and author websites

Panellists: Mahboobeh Rajabi and Clare Ramsaran

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

Session 1: Bad – crime fiction

This will take the form of a mock Magistrates Court session. Herded into the dock, writers who contributed to the Shots In The Dark anthology will be cross-examined. Are their works subliminal confessions that they have committed foul acts? Their work features crimes, from murder & manslaughter, to breach of parking regulations. What research or experience informed these stories?  The chief examiner will also assess and  interrogate them on whether or not they have breached the Most Important Rules of Literature!
Panellists: Vijay Medtia, Kenya Sterling, Heena Patel

There follows a further session at Crown Court, dealing with heinous crimes of the utmost seriousness. In the dock will be two of Britain’s foremost crime writers, Jacob Ross and Patrice Lawrence. We will interrogate their artistic choices, their aesthetic techniques, their themes and the language they use.
In the dock: Jacob Ross, Patrice Lawrence
Chief Interrogators: Anjum Malik, Pete Kalu
Jury: you, the people!

Session 2:  Mad – literature and mental health

How is our sense of self and our mental health affected by the stories a racialised society projects onto people of colour? Is a significant cause of mental illness among black communities an internalisation of such stories? Is mad a sick alternative to bad? What stories do writers of colour choose to tell that address (or transverse) mental health and why? How do we all maintain our mental well-being as writers and artists?
Panellists: Desiree Reynolds, Kei Miller, Muli Amaye

Interviewer: Col Bashir



Session 1: Whose text is it anyway? DIY and the art of Publishing

Getting into print is a difficult journey, sometimes it’s better to do it yourself. Tips and experiences on what to do, what pitfalls to avoid and how to make your publishing journey work for you.
Panellists: Deanne Heron, A D Starrling and Martin De Mello

Session 2: Over here! Zines as Activism

What role do zines and zine-making play in activism? Why are they relevant and important for people identifying as BAME/Black/Asian/POC? Join our panel members as they talk about their experiences of cut-and-paste, taking up space within activist communities and providing an alternative to the mainstream.
Panellists: Heena Patel, Humaira Saeed, Melissa Steiner and Nazmia Jamal