Five Coventry city-based poets will put their words centre stage at the Shop Front Theatre from October through to February 2021 with a series of new commissions, funded through Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund, enabling Theatre Absolute to continue to provide essential support to independent artists.
Commissioned as part of Theatre Absolute’s two-year project Humanistan, which was paused earlier in the year due to COVID-19, Shahnaz Akhter, Laura Nyahuye, Andrea Mbarushimana, Lanaire Aderemi and Raef Boylan have responded to the project’s central provocation with new work which will be exhibited in the Shop Front Theatre windows. The monthly exhibitions allow for a safe, physically distant experience whilst also connecting people through culture which is at the heart of Theatre Absolute’s practice.
Shahnaz Akhter’s work is the first to appear in the Shop Front Windows. Having just gained her PHD from the University of Warwick, Shahnaz’s work looks at the discourse of British Muslims. She comments “Writing about non-mainstream voices, both within my PHD and within my playwriting is something that I am very passionate about.” Her words will be exhibited at the Shop Front throughout October.
Chris O’Connell, Artistic Director Theatre Absolute said: “We’re really pleased to be able to feature five Coventry based poets over the next five months, and present their words to people through our Shop Front Theatre windows. We asked each of them to respond in their own way to our Humanistan provocation and we are looking forward to sharing their work. These poems are for the people of Coventry (and beyond if you are able to stroll past the Shop), because we are one, and now more than ever we should support artists and our community, and aim to connect, inspire and bring people together through sharing culture.”
Humanistan takes inspiration from the thoughts on nation and society from writers such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Francois Matarasso and Ben Okri. The definition of ‘istan’ means land, country, of place. In that case, Humanistan means Human Country – a place we all belong to, but can find it hard to spend as much quality time in as we’d like. The idea behind Theatre Absolute’s provocation is to create a critical mass of work that forges meaningful connections, challenges division and isolation in society, and celebrates our humanity.
The Humanistan programme returns in full from 2021 with a poetry performance by Stephen Lightbown at the Shop Front Theatre in March, to be followed by performances of new work by Theatre Absolute’s own Chris O’Connell in June, and Sharron Devine in the Autumn. The full programme will be shared via theatreabsolute.co.uk and regularly updated in line with Government guidelines.
The commissions for the Shop Front Theatre windows will be on display from mid-October through to February 2021, with a different poet’s work featuring each month.