To celebrate the launch of its new website on 2 March 2021, the George Padmore Institute (GPI) has produced a new exclusive film about the New Cross Massacre Action Committee archive collection. Writer Jay Bernard and playwright Rex Obano are among five speakers on the film. Along with GPI Trustees Roxy Harris and Linton Kwesi Johnson, and academic and photographer Vron Ware, Jay and Rex share their experiences of using the GPI archives to create their artistic responses to the tragedy that unfolded in January 1981.
As the GPI’s first Writer-in-Residence in 2016, Jay Bernard spent time researching archived materials on the New Cross Massacre Action Committee. The poems that Jay was inspired to write were published by the GPI in Beacon of Hope: New Beacon in Poetry and Prose (2016). They developed the poetry further into a multimedia performance which took place at the Roundhouse in Camden, London, produced by Speaking Volumes. That performance won the 2017 Ted Hughes Award.
In 2011, Rex Obano co-curated a commemoration of the New Cross Massacre, the 30th anniversary of the event. Held at the Albany Theatre in London, the evening was hosted by Kwame Kwei-Armah and featured spoken word, film, discussion and Lovers Rock music. Contributors included Black Londoners broadcaster Alex Pascall, Professor Gus John, filmmaker Menelik Shabazz, spoken word artists El Crisis and Zena Edwards, novelist Courttia Newland and musicians Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson.
In 2019, Rex Obano was the dramaturg of a multimedia show of Jay Bernard’s poetry at the Albany Theatre in London. Using archive film and audio and told through the voices of those who died in the New Cross Massacre, Surge asked what could be learned from the tragedy in an age of Brexit, Trump and the resurgence of the far right.
Jay Bernard is a writer from London and uses the pronouns they/their. Bernard was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year 2020. Their poetry collection, Surge, published by Chatto & Windus, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award in 2019; and the Dylan Thomas Prize and the RSL Ondaatje Prize in 2020.
Rex Obano has written for the stage, television, radio and film. He spent a year in the United States on placement where he read Playwriting at City College of New York. His plays have twice been shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award and he was awarded the Roland Rees Bursary in 2018. His theatre includes Slaves (Theatre 503) and The Door Never Closes (Almeida Theatre). His radio plays include Someone’s Making A Killing In Nigeria, Burned To Nothing, Lover’s Rock, As Innocent As You Can Get, Oil On Water and The Moors of England. He is part of the writing team (with Roy Williams and Winsome Pinnock) for the long-running radio series tracing three Windrush families from 1946 to the present day, Faith, Hope and Glory. He is on the writing team of the television series Southwark (BritBox/Silverprint) based on Black Tudors by Miranda Kauffman. Rex has a number of other radio, theatre and television projects in development including commissions for BBC Radio 3, BBC Drama and Pencil Trick Productions.
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