Local residents and students are being invited to produce creative writing and poetry on colonialism at two upcoming events in North London.
These events, co-organised by Middlesex University and Poetry vs Colonialism as part of the Being Human Festival, aim to increase understanding and awareness of Britain’s colonial past using creative mediums.
A poetry writing workshop called ‘The Imperial Souvenir: Colonialism at the Museum’ will be held between 5.30 and 7.30pm this Thursday (November 9) at Brent Museum in Willesden. Poet Carinya Sharples and historian Dr Pen Woods will explore fascinating souvenirs and materials from the 1924 British Empire Exhibition which was held in Wembley Park in London at a huge new specially designed stadium that became the national football stadium. These items include souvenir mugs featuring lions and Union Jacks.
A back to school creative writing workshop at Hendon School on Saturday November 18 - led by poets Laila Sumpton and Michelle McMahon with Middlesex University Professor Victoria de Rijke - will look at education before and during British rule in India and Ireland, including subjects such as hedge schools and elephant lore.
The Poetry vs Colonialism initiative aims to ‘unravel the complex nature of the British empire’ and discussions often focus on trade items such as sugar, gold, cotton or tobacco and the journey they have taken. Co-founder Laila Sumpton said: “Poetry versus colonialism brings together poets, artists, museums and schools and together we investigate colonial history through the means of poetry, which offers us the opportunity to go in there and really unpack the layers of history that are hidden within objects.”
In recent years, Middlesex University has been taking steps to decolonise the curriculum. Prof de Rijke, who co-founded Poetry vs Colonialism, said: “Policymakers tend to resist decolonizing the curriculum because they fear that things will be taken out. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what decolonialising the curriculum would actually do, which is to add things in to complete our knowledge of all our world’s understandings.
“Classrooms now have children from all over the world, and it is striking to see how positively they react to talking about this subject – along with some adults – because they have not fully discussed this subject in their education. Our aim is to bring a wider and fuller understanding of colonialism through creative poetry.”