Anthology of black and Asian North-East poets launched

By Tamsin Lockwood (Reporter for the Northern Echo)

A North-East writer has put together an anthology of black and Asian poets in the region in a bid to give diverse voices the attention they deserve.

Teesside-based Dominic Nelson-Ashley was inspired to put together a collection of works from North-East artists after hearing Leeds-based poet Zuva, who performed a poem about hair.

Mr Nelson-Ashley hopes the anthology, called Our Place Our History, which features a transporter bridge and the Angel of the North alongside a Black Lives Matter sign on the cover, will help to jump start the careers of black and Asian writers, who, he says, often need to be published to be given opportunities.

The former careers advisor, who lives in Middlesbrough and currently runs a social enterprise called Tomorrows Leaders North East, said: “I would go to poetry or spoken word events and there would be just one other black artist there, but then they would disappear. It was a different person each time.

“They would be fantastic but there is no avenue for other people to hear. So the point in the anthology is to highlight the great work of black and Asian aratists.

“The only criterion we had was that the writers were from or lived in the North-East, so they know what it’s like to be a black person in the region.”

While a collection from eight poets is included in the anthology, Mr Nelson-Ashley, who moved to Teesside in 1995 from London, worked with around 25.

“People are just at different stages,” he added.

“One person pulled out because they got a better offer – and that’s great. That’s what I want. This is a tool for recognition.”

Poems included range extensively, from politics to putting the bins out to ‘black’ hair, in a bid to highlight different ideas within black and Asian voices.

He added: “I live my life by a few phrases, and one of which is ‘change the black narrative; challenge accepted’.

“Publishers are looking for very specific things from black writers but each artist has their own voice – black people can write love stories, don’t just love music and all have their own way of expressing themselves.

“There are a multitude of voices. The perception of black people in the media is frankly annoying.”

“This anthology is not just for black people but for the whole community to help them understand.”

The anthology will be available as an ebook on the Kindle Store on September 1.