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Coventry’s Shop Front poets @Theatre Absolute

Read all about it! Five city poets will be sharing their work in the windows of Coventry's Shop Front Theatre over the winter months. Stop and read if you're walking passed.

Five city-based poets will put their words centre stage at the UK’s first Shop Front Theatre in Coventry from mid-October to February 2021 with a series of new commissions.

Commissioned as part of Theatre Absolute’s two-year project Humanistan, which was paused earlier in the year due to Covic-19, Shahnaz Akhter, Laura Nyahuye, Andrea Mbarushimana, Lanaire Aderemi and Raef Boylan have responded to the project’s central provocation with new work which will be exhibited in the Shop Front Theatre windows.

A different poet’s work will be featured each month. Shahnaz Akhter’s work is the first to appear this month. Having just gained her PHD from the University of Warwick, Shahnaz’s work looks at the discourse of British Muslims.

Theatre Absolute’s artistic director Chris O’Connell said: “We’re really pleased to be able to feature five Coventry based poets over the next five months, and present their words to people through our Shop Front Theatre windows.

“We asked each of them to respond in their own way to our Humanistan provocation and we are looking forward to sharing their work. These poems are for the people of Coventry (and beyond if you are able to stroll passed the shop), because we are one, and now more than ever we should support artists and our community, and aim to connect, inspire and bring people together through sharing culture.”

Funded through the Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund, this new project has enabled Theatre Absolute to continue to provide essential support to independent artists.

Humanistan takes inspiration from the thoughts on nation and society from writers such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Francois Matarasso and Ben Okri. The definition of ‘istan’ means land, country, of place. ‘Humanistan’ means Human Country.

The idea behind Theatre Absolute’s provocation is to create a critical mass of work that forges meaningful connections, challenges division and isolation in society, and celebrates our humanity.

Humanistan returns in full from 2021 with a poetry performance by Stephen Lightbown at the Shop Front Theatre in March, to be followed by performances of new work by Theatre Absolute’s own Chris O’Connell in June, and Sharron Devine in the Autumn. The full programme will be shared via theatreabsolute

Who are the poets?

November – Laura Nyahuye – Zimbabwe-born Laura lives in Coventry and is an artist, storyteller, creative writer, community worker and activist. She makes handcrafted body adornments and her work challenges perceptions around migration, women, community, marginalisation and tokenism.

December – Andrea Mbarushimana – has been published in two chapbooks The Africa in my House from Silhouette Press and the V20 competition winning Air Show. Andrea’s poem For My Husband recently featured in the BBC’s Upload festival. She is in the current cohort of the Room 204 mentoring programme with Writing West Midlands. You can find out more here: andrea-mbarushimana.com

January – Lanaire Aderemi – a playwright , poet and performer whose work mainly explores the politics of memory while challenging the marginalisation of black women’s voices, histories and stories. She graduated from the University of Warwick with a 1st Class in Sociology and the Best Dissertation in her department in 2020 and is currently on the Warwick MA Writing Programme.

One of 30 artists in Coventry selected by the Coventry City of Culture Trust to produce a commissioned poem for #HumansofCov. Her poetic film change your style explores the hair journeys of black women around the world and was part of Tate Modern’s ASSEMBLY – a programme exploring protest and autonomy among 1500 young people. You can check her out @lanaire_aderemi on social media.

February – Raef Boylan – a Coventry-born wrier who writes poetry – for both page and performance. Over the years, he has won first prize in the CU Short Story Award and the inaugural Frederick Holland Poetry Collection Award, and was shortlisted for The Big Issue Short Fiction Award.

Find out what’s coming up with Theatre Absolute and the Shop Front Theatre via twitter @theatreabsolute and the website:

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