Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What We Learn & How We Learn

This past weekend I performed in front of two thousand people across three different stages at Wilderness Festival. One of my favourite support teachers from my school days was in the audience for the show I did with Tongue Fu. We hadn't seen each other for eleven years, she saw me through so much growing up. She is one of the main reasons I left school with at least one B. I thought about her throughout my first year teaching, telling myself that I want to give my students something equal to the power she gave me. Acknowledging the impact she had on my life as I came off stage (in front of one of the largest audiences I've had) was a privilege and testimony to the power of what we learn from speaking and listening to our best teachers.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Black History Second

Sylvester Williams, a Trinidadian who became a qualified teacher at 17, studied and taught in New York before moving to Hackney, East London in 1879 at the age of 22. He was the first black person to speak in the House Of Commons and founded the African Association, here is an extract written by Sylvester about his aims of his group:

To encourage a feeling of unity to facilitate friendly intercourse among Africans in general; to promote and protect the interests in all subjects claiming African descent, wholly or in part, in British Colonies other places, especially in Africa by circulating accurate information on all subjects affecting their rights and privileges as subjects of the British Empire, by direct appeals to the imperial and Local Governments.

… and over a hundred years later Hollywood, America's greatest propaganda machine, gets away with making casting decisions like this in a film about an ancient African civilisation.

If you think that's cutting, wait until you see the cast for 2016's Gods Of Egypt staring Gerald Butler

Monday, 4 August 2014

Chill Pill at Wilderness

come see us!
In other news, Camp Bestival with Chill Pill and Sabrina Mahfouz was mega fun... as you can see...

Chill Pill & Sabrina Mahfouz
this song is called "SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP US!"
Also, Glastonbury was pretty cool, even collaborated live on stage with Andy Craven Griffiths...

Although my festival highlight was Latitude… to see the last few minutes of my set see FB link below 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

This Week #RayRecommends The History Of The N - Word on Radio 4, Adam Kammerling & Out-Spoken

Ellah Allfrey at 8pm this Saturday (21st June)

There are some words in English that are so controversial that they are shortened to a single letter lest they cause offence. Perhaps the most inflammatory is the N-word. The proxy barely disguises the racial insult, "nigger", which has topped lists of ugly and hateful words since it was first uttered in the seventeenth century. It has regularly wounded black people, its target, down the ages. When, for instance, the African American boxer, Muhammad Ali, was asked why he resisted the draft in the Vietnam War, he is alleged to have said: "No Vietnamese ever called me nigger."
Ellah Allfrey looks at its evolution from its origins as a mispronunciation of the Spanish "negro" in the 17th century. She illuminates how and why the capitalised "Negro" became the more acceptable version of the word in the 1920s (the landmark adoption of Negro by the New York Times was in 1930); through to the subsequent re-appropriation of the N word in rap and hip-hop culture. But even when coming from the mouths of black people the N word continues to cause offence. There have been calls for the word to be banned. But is this possible or desirable? -
#RayRecommends Adam Kammerling
Adam Kammerling has been grafting lately, winning his last Don't Flop battle, dropping a brilliant album and spitting bars like this -- there is no stopping him!

Musa Okwonga's poem, Monotony about Drones is powerful and disturbing, haven't got it out of my head.

Lastly, this article is essential reading for native Hackney residents and gentrifiers alike.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Raymond Antrobus at Glastonbury, Latitude and more...

I'll be appearing at Tagore Festival this month with One Taste, celebrating one of India's most renounced and profile poets, Rabindranath Tagore.
20th - 22nd June
Chill Pill's Deanna Rodger is Poet in Residence at Glastonbury this year and has just announced my appearance alongside Rob Auton, Chris Redmond, Sally Jenkenson and more...

25th - 29th June

I'm also excited to be appearing alongside Michael Rosen and Scroobius Pip at Latitude Festival.

17th - 20th July
For Chill Pill festival dates of Camp Bestival, Now Festival, Hamswell and Wilderness check our site - 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Dear Michael Gove - Educating The Mind Is Not Colonising It

Michael Gove has removed Of Mice and Men and To Kill A Mocking Bird from the National Curriculum. The two texts that explore race politics in the classroom. On a day when Right Wing political parties are winning seats in the European Election it's hard to pass off Gove's agenda as sheer naivety, this move is suspiciously political. Classrooms are one of the most influential avenues for transforming the attitudes of society.

I work four days a week as a poet in residence at an East London school. Most of the students are second generation African and Caribbean British. While reading 'Of Mice & Men' to a year 11 class, one student responded powerfully to the treatment of Crooks, (the novels only black character who is repeatedly referred to as a "nigger)", by throwing the book across the room and stamping on it. The following day we had an in class debate about the use of the word, to gauge how teachers (who are mostly white) can engage with their black students sensitively. This persona piece is inspired by the views expressed by the students.

The next question is what texts will replace Steinbeck and Harper Lee? How subversive will they be in their ethnic and gender representation? Dickens, Shakespeare, Shelly and Keats have numerous subversive representations of women in their work, other minority groups, not so much. Granted that Shakespeare's imagination was informed by his knowledge of Africa, ("she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear") and the Middle East ("I know a lady in Venice would've walked barefoot to Palestine for a touch of his nether lip"). 

Educating the mind is not colonising it.


"Some of you will be aware that Michael Gove has denied narrowing the curriculum. Let's address this and keep fighting.
No matter how he is choosing to spin it in the wake of popular opinion the GCSE curriculum has been narrowed and made more anglocentric. If students are ALL to be examined on Romantic Poets, a 19th century novel, a Shakespeare play and a British (why British?) text since 1914 then the curriculum is being limited not expanded. His claim that "If they wish to include Steinbeck – whether it's Of Mice and Men or The Grapes of Wrath – no one would be more delighted than me" is a nonsense similar to his assertion* about averages. Teachers will be unable to do anything extra, they'll be busting a gut to make these difficult texts appealing. Keep the pressure on, please!
*Q98 Chair: One is: if "good" requires pupil performance to exceed the national average, and if all schools must be good, how is this mathematically possible? Gove: By getting better all the time."

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Great Reads #RayRecommends

I am currently in the process of drafting my third collection of prose and poetry, entitled, 'The Island That's Hard To Find In English'. Given that I have been a part time Masters Student (in Education Theory and Spoken Word Education) these past two years, as well as working as a full time Poet In Residence at Cardinal Pole Secondary School in East London (same neighbourhood I grew up in), my creative output has been slow but I've been immersed in reading these past months and thought I'd recommend these books as they've informed some of the direction my new writing is going in.

Martin Espada

Andrew Salkey
Sherman Alexie
Arundhati Roy
Monique Roffery
I have attended numerous teacher seminars recently about the reformed UK National Curriculum. Michael Gove is only allowing the teaching of literature published in a country that's been colonised by the British, (The British Isles). To counter this I've made a personal investment to stay in touch with all the reasons our Government would rather pretend certain things didn't exist.

This speech by the great Arundhati Roy (author of one of the greatest novels ever written IMHO, 'The God Of Small Things') should be on every National Curriculum in the world.