Welcome to SBWN’s new Co-director, Dean Atta!

Welcome to SBWN’s new co-director: Dean Atta!

Scottish BAME Writers Network is excited to announce that Young Adult novelist, Dean Atta, is joining our team as our new Co-director!

We’re thrilled to welcome Dean to the SBWN team! Not only are we admirers of his creative writing (Happy 1st Birthday to The Black Flamingo!), but Dean’s advocacy work for Black writers, for writers of Young Adult and Children’s Literature, and for safe, intersectional spaces, is incredibly inspiring!

To celebrate our new Co-director, we caught up with Dean, asked him a few questions and if he’d share some of his performances with us – learn more about him below!

How do you think literary arts organisations will need to adapt, long-term, as a result of the consequences of COVID-19 on the cultural sector?

There’s an ongoing conversation around accessibility. Workshops and events happening online has improved access for many, but there are some who don’t have the space or resources at home to be able to access online events. In the long-term, we will need to find a balance between online and in-person workshops and events. It’s crucial to continue to offer online access, even when in-person events resume.

Online organising has been phenomenal during this time! Being in a meeting of The Black Writers Guild with over 200 Black writers from across the UK on Zoom discussing our demands and desires for the changes we want from the publishing industry felt like I was part of something huge! I don’t think that meeting could have happened if we all had to travel to London to attend it.

I was recently a feature performer at an online event hosted by Bradford Producing Hub, and one of the open mic performers was a poet from Afghanistan joining from a refugee camp in Germany. This couldn’t have happened if the event wasn’t moved online due to COVID-19.

I think it’s important for us to recognise the different possibilities and limitations of both online and in-person events. Everyone in the cultural sector will be reckoning with this.

With the Scottish BAME Writers Network, I hope that continuing with online events for the rest of 2020 will mean we can provide workshops and opportunities for people all over Scotland, and that those with a connection to Scotland but living elsewhere can join us as well.

There were times pre-COVID-19 when I wanted to attend some SBWN events, but it wasn’t possible for me to travel to Edinbrugh from Glasgow that day. It’s not particularly far to travel, but that travel time and money does make a difference. I think it’s important for us to recognise the different possibilities and limitations of both online and in-person events. Everyone in the cultural sector will be reckoning with this.

Watch a beautiful film of Dean Atta performing from The Black Flamingo

Produced as part of Tate London Schools and Teachers project The Black Flamingo Open Studio

What books have you enjoyed reading recently?

Some books I’ve enjoyed reading recently are Boy Queen by George Lester, Dear Martin by Nic Stone and Great Goddesses by Nikita Gill.

Boy Queen is about a boy becoming a drag queen, and has some lovely similarities with my novel The Black Flamingo.

Dear Martin is about an African American boy reckoning with racism and police brutality.

Great Goddesses is a poetic retelling of many well-known stories from ancient mythology.

I’ll be in conversation with George at Edinbrugh International Book Festival on 20th August, and I’m chairing a conversation between Nic and Nikita on 27th August. All events at EIBF this year are free and online. 

Edinburgh International Book Festival: from the ‘Young, Fierce, and Proud‘ series

Dean Atta & George Lester: Shine On
Nikita Gill & Nic Stone: Writing Resistance

Welcome, Dean! We can’t wait to work with you!

A mixed-race man of light brown complexion smiles directly at the camera. He is in his early thirties. He has stubble and short cropped hair. He's wearing a multicoloured shirt and a bright red jacket. Behind him is a wall of colourful graffiti with the word "SOUTHSIDE" partially obscured by his head but still just about legible.

Dean Atta was named as one of the most influential LGBT people in the UK by the Independent on Sunday. His debut poetry collection, I Am Nobody’s Nigger, was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. His Young Adult novel in verse, The Black Flamingo, won the 2020 Stonewall Book Award, and was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, YA Book Prize and Jhalak Prize. Find him on Twitter @DeanAtta

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