Thinking Outside the Penalty Box: Poetry inspired by African footballers in Britain (2018)

18 Penalty Box_infoyle05.qxdThis anthology is the culmination of a pilot project called Thinking Outside the Penalty Box (2018), that Nick Makoha and Lizzy Attree started in 2016, supported by funding from the Arts Council, and produced in partnership with Arsenal, Chelsea and the Poetry Society.

The project attempts to showcase African footballers in a positive light.  The main motivation of the work in Thinking Outside the Penalty Box is to tackle racism with positive, inspirational stories and ideas around the incredible achievements of players. The project focuses on examples of positive change in football and uses poetry to evoke and articulate the complex feelings and emotions bound up in the lives of African footballers. You can read some of the poems from this collection here.

Thinking Outside the Penalty Box aims to:

  • tackle racism, sexism and stereotypes of ‘Africa’ in the UK;
  • break down mythologies around footballers;
  • link poetry with African footballers as a way of exploring feelings behind the stereotypes

We worked with Chelsea and Arsenal Football Clubs’ education teams on a series of workshops about the lives of African footballers that play or have played for their clubs.

In total we produced 9 workshops with Chelsea and Arsenal for children at primary schools working with around 100 students. It’s had a great impact on the kids we’ve worked with in London primary schools. Eniola Aluko was one of the main footballers we focussed on in the Chelsea workshops, along with the legendary Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, and her story had a dramatic impact on the children we worked with.  At Arsenal we focussed on Kanu and his heart foundation and Chioma Ubogabu who plays for Arsenal Ladies.

You are knocked down, but you rise,
Running towards the net,
You were ready to fly

And you flew.

from ‘Eniola Aluko’ by Amelia Doherty

We partnered with Chelsea’s Education Team to visit Sir John Lillie Primary School, Sulivan Primary School and Marlborough Primary School, delivering workshops about the lives of African footballers to children aged 9-10 years old. The children composed poems during the workshop and responded to the sessions with feedback that included responses to the question: Did the workshop change your idea of African footballers?

Arsenal’s incredible Education and Literacy team produced an amazing 59-page booklet ‘Arsenal African Allstars’ for their Double Club that went out to all the schools they work with on literacy projects in 3 boroughs. Children from Hanover Primary School and St Andrews Primary School attended the workshops at the Arsenal Hub delivered by poets Theresa Lola and Sugar J, toured the Emirates stadium and played football in rotation. There was great feedback from one of the Year 2 teachers:

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On Writing South Africa Now 2015

ZAPP_Facebook_profile_160px_72ppi_roundcorners_webEstablished in 2013 with the primary mandate of promoting international dialogue on South African literature and culture, the Writing South Africa Now (WSAN) collective held its third colloquium in conjunction with the South African Poetry Project (ZAPP) at the University of Cambridge on 26 and 27 June 2015. Also launched in 2013, ZAPP is a collaboration between Cambridge’s Centre for Commonwealth Education and the University of the Witwatersrand in an effort to “develop research on South African poetry and support its teaching in secondary schools”. This partnership resulted in fruitful discussions on scholarship, literary practice, performance, publication, and criticism in South Africa.

The colloquium consisted of four panels: Testimony and Truth, Politics and Aesthetics, The Global and the Transcultural, and Identity and Representation. Interspersed between these panels were guest talks by scholars, Rita Barnard and Kelwyn Sole, as well as readings and performances by the renowned writers and poets: Lyndall Gordon, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Denis Hirson, Toni Stuart, Malika Ndlovu, Isobel Dixon, and Kate Kilalea. Amongst questions raised during the Testimony and Truth panel session were the impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on literary production, representation, and the types of metaphors which its legacy has brought to the fore in post-liberation writing. Panelists concentrated on Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull, Ruth First’s 117 Days, Nadine Gordimer’s Burger’s Daughter, Njabulo Ndebele’s The Cry of Winnie Mandela, Yvette Christiansë’s Unconfessed, and Lauren Buekes’ Zoo City – to name but a few. Continue reading