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Poetry Award winner creates New Cross fire inspired show

REMEMBERED: New Cross Fire vigil, 1982

JAY BERNARD interrogates the 1981 ‘New Cross Massacre’ and Grenfell in a new multimedia poetry show called Surge at The Albany, based on their prize-winning one-off performance which won Ted Hughes Award 2018 for New Work in Poetry.

Produced by Speaking Volumes Live Literature Productions, Surge revisits the tragedy where 13 young black people lost their lives in a house fire. Nearly 40 years later, against the backdrop of Grenfell, the cause of the fire is still a mystery, clouded by police incompetence and government indifference.

Told in the voices of those who died, and using archive film, video and audio, Surge asks what we can learn from the New Cross Massacre in the age of Grenfell, Brexit, Trump, increasing xenophobia and the resurgence of the far right.

Jay Bernard said: “I was compelled by the story and the fact it was never taught to me or mentioned in any history class I attended. I was intrigued by its position in Britain's subconscious; there are articles about it, even today, and there was a memorial in 2011. But its link to the Brixton uprising in 1981 is rarely discussed. When Grenfell happened the year after I had started the project, the New Cross Fire once again became relevant.”

The one hour show builds on the first experimental 'Surge' which was a one-off performance at Camden Roundhouse, winning the Ted Hughes Award 2018 for New Work in Poetry. Never before seen in this iteration, the show will feature Bernard and their poems, with a specially designed soundscape, lighting, music, film and audio.

Bernard has collaborated with a range of creatives on the premiere, including actor and writer Rex Obano, the multidisciplinary creative studio Blackcurrent, director Jo Tayyib and musicscapes from Mwen Rukandema. And there will be a sound system and posters of the New Cross campaign, poems inspired by the archives from the George Padmore Institute. 

The show’s opening coincides with the publication of Bernard’s debut collection of the same name published by Chatto & Windus.

Surge will be at The Albany, New Cross, from 20-22 June 2019.
Thursday 20 June 2019, 19:30: https://www.thealbany.org.uk/book-online/224179
Friday 21 June 2019, 19:30: https://www.thealbany.org.uk/book-online/224180
Saturday 22 June 2019, 19:30: https://www.thealbany.org.uk/book-online/224181

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