#Merky Live | Review

Merky Live | Barbincan Theatre.jpg

On the 7th November I attended an event which marked the launch of #Merky Books, an imprint of Penguin Books. This a platform that has been curated by Stormzy to showcase a new generation of voices.

The evening started with three performances facilitated by Apples and Snakes (England’s leading organisation for spoken word and performance poetry). I was particularly captivated by the performance of Bridget Minamore, whose piece eloquently portrayed the juxtaposition between affinity for England and a sense of still not quite belonging- a sentiment which I’m sure is shared by many immigrant and diaspora populations. 

This was followed by a panel discussion with various authors, chaired by the wonderful Akala; his warmth, genuine curiosity and knowledge were a perfect fit for this event. I am a huge fan of Malorie Blackman and Benjamin Zephaniah (they both hold key significance in my own love of literacy) therefore it was a privilege to even be in their presence! It was also great to hear from Jude Lawson who has co-written Rise Up, a chronicle of the Stormzy and Merky journey thus far and Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi who are set to publish their own work through #Merky Books about their experiences as young black women studying at Cambridge University.

Whilst I had already appreciated his musicality and artistry, it was moving to see his desire to make strides in areas outside of music.
— Lauren Bryan

There were discussions about experiences of being black in Britain, with Benjamin Zephaniah recounting one experience from his youth where his classmates brought in their favourite gollywogs to celebrate the arrival of him and his sister to the school. Discussions also touched upon the importance of intuition and integrity in the process of writing with Malorie Blackman sharing a personal anecdote regarding her desire to touch on themes of mortality in Pig Heart Boy despite some people feeling that this would be 'too much' for children and teens. The panel members also gave examples of their own favourite books and authors such as V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey.

The event culminated with a conversation between Akala and the main man himself: Stormzy. Whilst I had already appreciated his musicality and artistry, it was moving to see his desire to make strides in areas outside of music. It is clear to see that for Stormzy, supporting and empowering others (fans, his team, his community) is something that is as intuitive to him as breathing.

Overall it was a truly wonderful atmosphere, with every seat of the Barbican Centre theatre filled. It was particularly heartening to see the high numbers of young people and school groups in attendance- no doubt a reflection and testament to Stormzy's artistry and current position in popular culture.

Our FTC founder, Donya, often talks about 'Knowing your Truth' and it felt like each element of this event really embodied this sentiment. For me the #Merky Books live event reinforced the importance of not only knowing your truth, but owning it, speaking it and basking in it.

- Lauren Bryan