A project specially commissioned by Manchester Libraries and Manchester City of Literature to celebrate Black poets and spoken word artists in the city.

The videos were launched during Black History Month, but will tour local libraries and other venues in Manchester over the next few months.

Elmi Ali is a writer/performer and facilitator based in the North West. He is part of the prestigious Young Identity poetry collective and the Inna Voice Ensemble. He writes poetry, short stories and drama. He has performed in venues across the county including Westminster, The Southbank Centre and Contact Theatre, Manchester. His work is displayed at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and has appeared in Poetry Review as well as Scarf Magazine, of which he is an Associate Editor.

He teaches poetry and creative writing to adults and young people across the county in partnership with organisations such as the Arvon Foundation.

Isaiah Hull is one of the Roundhouse/Radio 1 Extra finalists in 2015 at the age of 18, having participated in Wordcup, a national youth slam run by Apples and Snakes. Hull is inspired by Saul Williams, Philip Larkin and classical Greek tragedies. He is a member of the young writers collective, Young Identity, which was formed in Moss Side to encourage young adults and teenagers to express themselves through poetry.

He has supported Kate Tempest, Lemn Sissay and Skepta at major events for the BBC and his TedX Talk The Unexplained Virtue of Ignorance has over 5000 views.

Peter Kalu is a poet, fiction writer and playwright. He cut his teeth as a member of Manchester, UK’s Moss Side Write black writers workshop and has had nine novels, two film scripts and three theatre plays produced to date.  He gained his PhD in Creative Writing, Lancaster University, UK, in 2019.

In 2018 he was writer in residence at University of West Indies (Trinidad campus). For many years he ran a carnival band called Moko Jumbi (Ghosts of the Gods) which took to the streets at Manchester Caribbean Carnival  on three feet high stilts. He continues to have ambitions in tightrope walking and hat juggling.

Shirley May has performed predominately in the North West, nationally and internationally, appearing at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York and the Calabash writing festival in Jamaica.

She is the director of Young Identity writing collective, which primarily works with 13-25 years old. Young Identity works in partnership with Contact Theatre. Shirley believes her role is to make both performance and page poetry accessible to young people in Manchester. She has worked for 18 years to promote a culture around performance poetry by mentoring and supporting new writers in schools and community groups.She has worked alongside great names in poetry by offering a platform for their work to be showcased, at events that she has organised. She’s also a motivational speaker who tries to inspire, challenge and give tailored advice to groups and individuals.

Nicole May is an International theatre producer, dramaturg, director and writer. A graduate from Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Nicole is a trustee at The Royal Exchange Theatre and a member of the UpRisingGM Advisory Board, Associate Producer and Dramaturg at the theatre company Fio and founder of the online spoken-word channel AndWhat TV and Arts Associate for Arts Council Wales.  

She was one of twelve poets commissioned from BBC and Forward Arts Foundation to write the North West Poem for National Poetry Day 2018. Nicole has performed both nationally and internationally, as part of Young Identity and as a solo performer and practitioner. As part of Young Identity Nicole has worked and performed with writers such as Amiri Baraka, Saul Williams and Roger Robinson.

Mandla Rae is a poet, producer, programmer, facilitator and theatre maker. Born in Zimbabwe, raised in London, Mandla is now based in Manchester. They have performed at venues such as Rich Mix London, Theatre Royal Stratford, HOME, Contact and the Royal Exchange Theatre. They took part in Contact’s Young Programmers and Producers initiative re:CON in 2017/2018.

Mandla has been commissioned by Journeys Festival International, Commonword/Cultureword, Mother Tongues Festival, Contact and archive activists Invisible Women to create new pieces of writing and performance in 2019. They were also commissioned by Contact to curate and host Queer’s Contact’s Outspoken.

Reece Williams is a graduate with a BA (Hons) in Music, Theatre and Entertainment Management at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. His main areas of interest are literature and theatre and he has a broad understanding of law, finance and project administration.

He has extensive experience as a writer, performer and project administrator, having joined Manchester-based poetry collective Young Identity in 2007 and becoming the Project Administrator in 2008.

Reece is passionate about youth engagement, cultural policy and race relations in addition to peer mentoring and the advocacy of active citizenship through the arts. He is a Trustee at Contact (The Manchester Young Peoples’ Theatre Trust), an organisation dedicated to the engagement of young people through the arts, serving on the Artistic Evaluation Group.

You can find out the latest information about Manchester Libraries and Manchester City of Literature here.