Written by Robert Mureithi
Friday 1st October 2010
On Fridays I attend British Councils Creative Enterprise Programme and since the Council is one of the major/global partners of the Story Moja Hay Festival we are reliably informed that there is no class in the afternoon (Hooray!). We are to prepare ourselves to attend the festival. In particular, we are to attend the British Council lecture series on creative industries.
After lunch we walk to Nairobi Railways ground the venue of the festival and by 1500 hrs and we are sitted in the British Council Marquee where a creative enterprise panel made up of environmental entrepreneur Andy Middleton, novelist Tiffany Murray, Julie Grigg and moderated by Anita Sethi (Journalist) is almost winding up its discussion.
However, I manage to get a few insights from the debate. Especially, how successful the UK has been in its venture of creating jobs by encouraging young people to venture into the creative industry. Andy Middleton encourages the people to be creative and try to learn as from many people as possible i.e. ‘If you steal from many people, its called research’. Thereafter, a discussion between the audience and the panel ensues and Andy passes his notebook for contacts so as to continue the discussion.
I take a walk around the tents and discover that there are few people than I had anticipated. This could be attributed to the fact that perhaps guys are still at work. However, going by what we know is that the most Kenyan’s are not into books and by the same breath the pubs would be full come 1701hrs. That explains why poetry is so doing so well of late. This is because the poets have discovered where to find people and bar owners have reciprocated because the patrons enjoy the pieces!
At 1600hrs I head back to the British Council Marquee where Benjamin Zephaniah is to perform some of his works and talk to Anita Sethi the journalist. I had been informed by a friend to look out for Benjamin Zephaniah and boy did he bring the house down…Oops tent!
Benjamin Zephaniah serenaded us with some of his poems for about ¾ of an hour. Some of his poems we got to hear are; black consciousness poems White Comedy (http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/white-comedy/), Love poem I love my mother and a get real poem wrong radio station (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3HjMcY50Kc ), Man to man (about macho man) and one of his commissioned poem London. The latter poem London he informed us that he had been commissioned by the London metropolitan.
However, he had moved out of the city after writing it! Thereafter, he sat down for a conversation with Anita Sethi. It is in these conversations I got to know he had rejected his OBE from the queen and had convinced another recipient to return their OBE on live television. Benjamin also got political at times. Knowing this is where the US president Obama has his roots. He noted that the British should also be proud of Bob the Builder for the ‘Yes we can!’ phrase used during the US elections.
Talking of US he did point out that he missed President George W. Bush and shared some of his favourite quotes from the 42nd president of US such as ‘the French do not have the word Entrepreneur’ and ‘English is our language, it was the language of Jesus’. He also talked about the Iron lady (Margaret Thatcher) times. How it was offensive to talk about black coffee so as not to offend the blacks within the British society under the banner of ‘race relations’. While, at the same time the conservative government maintained deals will the apartheid regime in South Africa! To crown it all Benjamin talked partly about his experiences growing up, his turning point and encouraged the young lad’s presents not to despair in life.
Asked what kept him such a strong performer on stage. His reply was ‘I don’t eat meat, I run and I do not have a girlfriend.’
At 1800hrs I was pretty much done with the first day of the festival.
Njathika blogs at: http://njathika.blogspot.com/