Archie Backhouse is an actor who has been performing in a variety of shows for the last two years; mainly stage but some short films. This is a link to an extract of Richard III that he did last year. It combines Shakespeare with the East End.
He is currently applying for drama school and is looking for a both a modern and classical monologue (Shakespeare or Jacobean) that he can perform as part of his application. The process for applying to drama school is a long, grueling process. He has applied before but he didn't feel that his monologue choice was good enough. He is therefore looking for suggestions of plays that explore mixed race identity or struggles. He feels that it would support his application if he could find some work that he can really connect to. Unfortunately there isn't enough mixed race work out there so if you have any suggestions he would be happy to hear from you. Follow Archie on Twitter or contact him by e-mail with any ideas that you might have.
Tangled Roots is an exciting Arts Council funded project which records and celebrates the experiences of multi-racial families in Yorkshire. The project will publish a book featuring the experiences of ordinary mixed families, alongside memoirs from professional writers commissioned by the project. Tangled Roots is looking for contributions from mixed race people and /or their families who live in the Yorkshire area.
Tangled Roots started as a conversation between a group of friends who were all mixed race or bringing up children as part of a multiracial family. They talked about lots of things, including the thoughtless things people say to them when out and about. For example one member of the group who was out shopping with her light-skinned, blue-eyed daughter was asked 'Are you babysitting for the day?' But one mystery alluded them: Why didn't they see families like theirs in the media or read about their experiences in books?
Tangled Roots has commissioned experienced and talented writers (including Seni Seneviratne pictured right) to explore their experience of racial mixture. This project will uncover the stories of those families whose ethnic heritage cut across racial divisions, to reveal compelling narratives which are missed by the common tendency to divide the population into separate racial groups. So Tangled Roots is an answer to this question. It is a project which explores the experiences of people who have grown up in mixed race families in Yorkshire, or are currently part of a multi-racial family.
The project has kicked off with an exhibition of photographs of Tangled Roots featuring local writers who all have experienced growing up in a multi-racial family. The exhibition, with photography by Anthony Farrimond will be displayed at Seven Arts, Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds from 18th September to 13th October 2013.
Check out the The Tangled Roots website for more information about the project and the book which will be published, based on the stories collected on the website. There will also be a series of events in Leeds in 2014 where professional and amateur authors who have contributed to the book will read their work.
If you would like to share your experiences, (there is a payment for the best stories) your inspiration or simply register your interest in the project, please contact email@example.com
Individuals with mixed heritage are the fastest growing minority group in the UK. More than one in ten one in ten children now live in a mixed family and this figure is rising steadily. However there is little understanding of how mixed individuals perceive and use their identity in a diverse British society. Coventry University is therefore carrying out a survey about individuals of mixed ethnic heritages. The aim of this survey is to gain a better understanding of the identity of mixed heritage individuals in the UK. If you take part in the study you will be asked various questions about your mixed heritage and your experiences about your mixed identity. You should only take part in this study if your parents are of different heritages. The survey should take between 15 and 20 minutes, and you can enter a prize draw of £10 Amazon vouchers with a 40% chance of winning.
If you agree to participate in and complete the study, all responses will be treated confidentially. Data will be stored for a maximum of five years after the study. Once the data is analysed, a report of the findings may be submitted for publication.
If you would like to receive more information or are interested in taking part in future studies, please contact the researcher, Dr Carola Leicht: firstname.lastname@example.org
This week's mixed race voice is Joanna Robinson. Joanna has a number of strings to her bow. She runs her own business called Rhythmicality which combines her love of children with her love of music. The benefits of music making for young children was recently shown by research to benefit children's behavior and their language skills. She is also an advocate for Care Leavers and spoke in Parliament for the 'On our own two feet' an Action for Children campaign and two weeks later the chancellor announced that the Government would create a new system of savings accounts for children in care to help them plan for the future. Joanna graduated Edge Hill university in 2008 with a Social Work Studies degree (Children and Young People). For the past 10 years she has worked with children and young people, volunteering in local primary and secondary Schools and as a Youth Worker and has worked within local authorities since, specialising in Child Development and Children with Disabilities. Throughout this time she delivered many positive parenting groups which offered advice and support to families with young children. She continues to work with Action for Children and the Care Leavers Association on campaigns for looked after children and in 2011 spoke in Parliament for the 'On our own two feet' campaign and two weeks later the chancellor announced that the Government would create a new system of savings accounts for children in care to help them plan for the future. Music and Children have always been a huge part of her life. She is from a family of musicians, her father now sings with the American Drifters after a long career singing alongside Edwin Starr, The Three Degrees, The Realistics and many more Motown Legends. As a child she gained distinctions at Grade 8 in voice (ABRSM). She went on to study GCSE Music and Drama and A Level Performing Arts. She has continued her music and theatre journey in her home town Chorley, taking on parts as 'Maria' in West Side Story and singing at the Bridgewater Hall Manchester 'Gospels & Galaxies'. In 2010 she had first child Melodie and decided that she wanted a career which it fuses together her two passions 'music and children' and also the concepts she has studied for the past 10 years.
Joanna's journey hasn't been without struggles. Her mother had serious health problems and Joanna became a carer to her younger sisters and spent significant time in foster care, living in 9 different homes and attending several schools. Her career reflects her life experiences and she hopes to achieve further success with her business Rhythmicality by releasing an album later in the year focusing on Bonding Families. If you want to contact Joanna to find out more about Rhythmicality or you would like to enquire more about her work with Care Leaver's, please contact her via www.rhythmicality.co.uk or www.facebook.com/Rhythmicality. Follow her on Twitter
My mixed heritage is Black African-American and Ecuadorian. However, I also identify as Jewish Canadian and spent my formative years in Asia.
I was born in North Carolina to my Catholic Ecuadorian mother and my African American birth father. They divorced when I was just a year old and I did not see my birth father or any of the relatives on that side until I was almost 30.
My mother and I moved to Ecuador after the divorce where she met the man she would marry, who would legally adopt me and who would be the only Dad I've known. He is Caucasian-Jewish Canadian. My Mom and my Dad then had my younger brother David.
Due to my Dad's job as a Diplomat our family was required to move every 2-4 years. As such I lived in North Carolina, Ecuador, Trinidad, San Francisco, India, Hong Kong, Ottawa, Sri Lanka and Nova Scotia before I turned 18! Since that time I have bounced around between Canada, the UK and New York City where I have been for the past 6 years - something I find to be a remarkable feat!
My parents were posted in London for 4 years and I visited often while they were there. The longest I ever stayed was for 4 months in between acting gigs in my early twenties. In December 2009 at the Limmud Conference in Coventry I performed Anna Deveare Smith's Fires in the Mirror. If you're not familiar with this outstanding show here's some info: Fires in the Mirror
My Dad had also been previously married and had three children from that marriage. One of these children he and his Caucasian-Canadian ex-wife had adopted from the Philippines when he was posted there. These siblings of mine did not accompany us on our international postings and as such I am not as close to them as I am to my younger brother.
The family photo at the bottom of the panel I have attached show me and my four siblings as well as my mother and father. It's from the 80's and it looks like the flash was quite bright but you can kind of see that not many of us are quite the same colour - one of my favourite aspects of our extended/blended family.
Though we don't always see eye to eye on things I love the diversity that exists within our group. I feel grateful to have always felt accepted. I know that underneath everything else we are all an extremely open-minded bunch! I will say that not having a connection to my Black relatives until later in life has presented some challenges. People do want to put you in a box and I have resisted/resented that on many occasions, while still struggling with wanting to embrace and identify with ALL of my heritage.
I am also in a relationship with a Caucasian Man and it is quite likely we will end up with a Mixed Race family of our own!
Amber has written and performs a solo show (DipKid) which addresses many of the issues she has raised above. She is currently working on developing and expanding the project and is developing a documentary on the subject. Amber will perform Anna Deveare Smith's Fires in the Mirror again in New Haven, CT on January 12, 2014
Follow her on twitter to keep updated on her progress
Color blind Cards Focus group
Monday 9th September 6.30-8.30pm Central London
We are growing and increasing the card & gift range to cater for more of life’s special occasions and to better represent and cater to the audience who support us!
Color Blind Cards will be holding a focus group on Monday 9th September from 6.30-8.30pm, and are looking for 6-8 women who have bought or received Color blind Cards at some point in the past, (or are aware of the brand) to take part.
Participants must be female, aged 25-45 and black or mixed-race (or have children of mixed-race. There is no payment for participants but refreshments and lovely goodie bags will be provided to all attendees. To take part email email@example.com with the following info;
Just last week I was standing at a bus stop when a gentleman; a complete stranger came and joined me. Nothing unusual about that, we then politely nodded at each other and a conversation started up.
Me: “it’s still quite warm isn’t it”
Stranger: “yes it is”; pause; “excuse me mate, but were do you come from?”
Stranger: “no, you know, were do you originate from”
Me: “I originate from Ipswich, my mum is English and my dad is Jamaican”
Stranger, sounding surprised: “Really I wouldn’t have thought you were Black, I’d have thought you were Italian or Spanish or something”
Me, politely smiles: “yeah, I sometimes get that”
Now I wasn’t offended by this and this wasn’t the first time or probably won’t be the last time that I’ll have this conversation. I am a light skinned mixed race person with loose curly hair. I have spent most of my life with people questioning my racial identity and for a while I was left questioning it myself.
My random conversation had me asking myself why is it that people feel the need to question a complete stranger as to where they are from. I would never dream of walking up to a stranger and asking, “excuse me, where are your parents from”. My thought is there is this assumption that brown means foreign. I have a friend whose background is one English parent and one foreign born parent; the same as me but their foreign born parent is Russian, they have never had their status as being British questioned; they have not faced that assumption. A Rorschach test is a psychological test used to test peoples’ perceptions and interpretations and at times I feel that being mixed race, we face that.
So, a little about my background: when I was born my birth father’s family initially rejected me with my light skin and light loose curly hair. They questioned how could I be part of their family since I wasn’t “dark enough”. My mum raised me at first as a single parent living with my Grandparents. Some local people obviously thought I was “dark enough” as they decided to write graffiti on my Grandparents wall calling my mum a ‘n*gger lover’ and a padlock on the gate writing ‘to keep the n*gger boy in’.
My mum met and married my stepdad who adopted me. This caused tension with his own family who despite being Anglo-Indian disliked the fact that not only was my mum a single mother but that her child was black. While at school it was hard for others to find who or what my identity was, I had received comments from black children as to not being black enough even being called “Casper” at one point because I was deemed so pale; and yet I was getting racial abuse from white kids by being spat on and called a n**ger at school disco and at one time having a group go past my house singing “there’s only one wog in whitehouse, one wog in whitehouse, Glen Chisholm”. My mum tried to comfort me by telling me, “I had the best of both worlds”. But this didn’t help me when a girl I really liked, told me she could not go out with me because her parents didn’t like blacks.
This feeling of ‘not belonging’ carried on for many years. Always being told, ‘you look like you’re this race or that’, being asked, ‘do you come from this place’, being called a ‘greasy wop’, or asked if ‘I’m a Maori’; going to America and having people just assume I’m Hispanic, going to Belgium and being hassled by police who thought I was North African. A mixed-race friend and I were assaulted in town and called p*ki. I have scars from where I was attacked by skinheads, and knifed. One of my more disturbing instances was when I was a Special Constable on a training course and I was told to be careful because some officers from another force thought I was an “uppity Ni*ger” who needed to be taught a lesson.
Now I’ve grown up, matured and am more comfortable in my own skin. I accept who I am and were I’ve come from. Do I understand why people question or have trouble accepting me? No.
But, unlike in the past, I won’t let it burden me.”
Mixed-race people have existed ever since our ancestors first set out to explore and wage war - and today, the UK has one of the largest and fastest-growing mixed race populations in the western world. Partly this is because of the greater number of people who choose to define themselves as mixed-race on census forms and elsewhere and partly as the result of more mixed marriages and relationships and more blended, adoptive and step-families. The BBC’s Mixed Britannia series told some of the stories behind the headlines and statistics and stirred up quite a few personal memories of my own. As a result, I decided to try and compile a list of children’s and YA books which feature mixed-race and mixed heritage main characters and I began by asking friends, colleagues, social network contacts and UK publishers to let me know what’s out there. I didn’t particularly want to politicise the idea but, of course, it is political. For some people, racial mixing represents the hope and positivity of a multicultural society whilst for others, it undermines national and cultural identity. Simply asking the question raises some tricky issues because the mixed-race (or bi-racial, multi-ethnic, mixed heritage or whatever you want to call it) experience is so varied and complex. Whether someone chooses to identify themselves – or the characters in their books – as mixed-race depends on who’s asking – and why. Is it The Office for National Statistics, National Book Week event organiser or the British National Party ? Self-definition is crucial and in my experience, physical appearance, familial influence (or lack of it) and racism all affect how mixed-race people identify themselves and this can change at different points in their lives.
For me, as the daughter of a Jamaican father and an English mother, I sometimes felt rejected because my skin was too fair and my hair was too straight and sometimes because my skin was too dark and my hair was too frizzy. ‘Mixed-race’ was definitely preferable to the labels of half-caste or coloured that I had dumped on me as a child growing up in care in the 1960s – and to the names I got called at school and in the street. In the 1970s, complete with my Angela Davis style Afro and radical pan-African and feminist politics, I was shouting it loud: I was black and proud! I was black and beautiful too, although my skin colour was actually rather more beige. My sons were born in the 1980s and that was when I realised that the lack of diversity in children’s and YA books had persisted from my childhood to theirs. Racial identity has never been the problematic issue for them that it once was for me, but we still had to search hard to find kids that looked like them in the pages of books and it was one of the reasons that I started writing myself. My sons are now both in ‘mixed’ relationships – one with a beautiful young Hindu woman and the other with a beautiful young woman of Irish and Jamaican descent. And if I’m ever lucky enough to have grandchildren, they’ll need books too.
Of course, most families encourage their children to be proud of their cultural heritage, but what happens when, for whatever reason, children do not have access to these family connections? What happens when mixed-race and multi-ethnic children do not see themselves reflected in books – except possibly as the ‘best friend’ or ‘trusty sidekick’ or in gritty tales of so-called social realism and the tortured search for identity? Where is the magic, the romance, the comedy?
As the mixed-race population has increased, in the media at least, ‘brown is the new black’. Mixed-race people have been appropriated as the supposedly more acceptable and less challenging face of diversity. But that’s not the whole picture. Although mixed-race people are highly visible in some spheres of life – we can model haute couture, win F1 Championships and BAFTAs, and even become the President of the United States - in some fields like educational policy, we are often ignored. Is the same true in children’s and YA publishing?
I contacted the publicity departments of 18 UK publishers – and heard back from only three! Sadly, one of these had no books with mixed-race characters, but OUP sent Catherine Johnson'sFace Value - a murder mystery set in the London fashion world - and Barrington Stoke sent James Lovegrove’s The 5 Lords of Pain – a series of fast-paced stories about saving the world. So let’s hear it for models and gangsters and for martial arts, magic and demons from hell! Of course, I have to mention Tamarind – publisher of several picture books and middle grade fiction titles with mixed race characters, including my own Spike and Ali Eenson– a story of inter-planetary alien adoption.
I am grateful to everyone who took the time and trouble to let me know about their own and other people’s books: Sarwat Chadda, author of Devil’s Wish and Dark Goddess, featuring ‘bad-ass’ hero, Billi Sangreal; Catherine Johnson, screenwriter and author of ‘enough books to prop up several tables’ including the historical Nest of Vipers and the contemporary Brave New Girl; Eileen Browne, illustrator of Through My Window, now back in print but first published in 1986 when ‘it was the first ever picture book in the UK – and the USA! - about an interracial family, where ethnicity wasn’t part of the story’; Zetta Elliott, author of A Wish After Midnight and networker extraordinaire; and so many others, too numerous to mention.
I hope the final list (click here) will be a useful resource for families, children’s centres, schools, etc. Many of the books are quite dated and many are US publications which may be less easily available and less reflective of the British experience, but I felt it was better to leave people to make their own choices and draw their own conclusions. I am happy to correct errors, add omissions and include new publications.
It’s a short list – and not in a good way - but in the end, isn’t quality always more important than quantity?