Final Research Forum

Monday 13th May, 4-6.30 pm

11 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3RF

The residency project is drawing to a close. Please join us in exploring the outcomes and methodology, and sharing other experiences. Kayo will perform some of the new work developed as part of the residency and we will discuss some of the key issues the project has raised, as well as reflecting on the project as a whole.

There will be a drinks reception and a chance to network after the forum.

To reserve a place, email:



Learning Lab

Learning Lab:
26th April at RichMix London, 4pm-6.30pm
‘Sampling as a Kind of Writing: An Interactive Lab with Kayo Chingonyi’

More details will be published shortly. The event is free but booking is required. Please contact to reserve your place

The Lab is part of Kayo’s ongoing residency, a collaboration between Humanities and Arts Research Centre, Royal Holloway and Counterpoints Arts.

A related event featuring Kayo will take place at RichMix that evening from 7.30pm: Literature and Activism – bringing refugee experiences ‘home’. The event is presented in association with Pereine Press in the run-up to the publication of breach, by Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes
Details and tickets:

Research Forum at Counterpoints Arts

The second research forum for the creative and critical residency of Kayo Chingonyi occurred on the 4th March at the offices of Counterpoints Arts. After a brief summation of the previous events of the residency, the floor was open to discuss their work in relation to refugees and migration.

First to speak was Laila Sumpton who spoke about her co-founding and subsequent work with Bards Without Borders, a collective of poets from refugee and migrant backgrounds making new work inspired by Shakespeare. The organisation encourages people to question the cultural ownership of Shakespeare and it invites 10 poets from 10 different countries with 10 languages to respond to Shakespeare with a focus on exile. It creates spaces for refugees and migrants to develop as artists, who are poets and artists in their own country but this collective gives them weight as artists in the UK. Bards Without Borders tackles a central focus of the residency: the combination of scholarly and academic standpoints on the topic of migration.

Comparatively, Dr Stephen Smith described events to be put on in the Petrie Museum and in the Great North Museum that encourage memories of the Romans in the Middle East and North Africa. He aimed to encourage people to change their engagement with museum artefacts to create new memories from old objects. You can see details of the project here.

Lucy Coren, who is currently working as a Mobilizer for Playing Identities; a project using the Pan Speech online collaboration tools to mash-up European theatrical traditions, posited that theatre can be used as a bridging tool between communities and as such challenges dominant bureaucratic language surrounding refugees and migrants. She emphasised the need for care when presenting the refugee/migrant experience as the line between performance and appropriation can become easily blurred. To avoid this, Lucy’s project uses experimental practices outside of traditional theatre to create a creolised performance which encompasses a variety of experiences in an authentic manner.

As a performer of Yiddish songs, Vivi Lachs stressed the importance of multilingualism in performances that cross barriers of understanding. She discussed the tension between academia and performative art to convey the experience of the Yiddish diaspora. She questioned how you can define yourself within such a community and suggested that poetry and art can explore culture in an alternative way.

Our response to the forum was to think about the importance of language. Laila’s discussion about the colonial history of Shakespeare made us think about the trope of Caliban. Caliban’s use of language in The Tempest is significant in that he uses it against his colonisers. With this in mind, how much can the English language truly encompass the migrant experience? Whilst the unification of arts and activism can lead to new creative and critical ideas, it is still within the English language that these ideas are voiced. Bards Without Borders therefore presents a new way to re-imagine the English language and destabilize perceptions of refugees which, through the limiting scope of English, may prove to be detrimental.

Open Research Session: exploring crossovers between academic research, the arts, refugees and migration

Please join us for the second of our research forums, where we will be hearing about innovative collaborative projects from artists and academics.

WHEN: Friday, 4th March at 4 pm

WHERE: Counterpoints Arts, Unit 2\3 Hoxton Works, London, N1 6SH

CONTACT: email to reserve your place

Speakers include
Laila Sumpton: Poet, activist and co-founder of Bards Without Borders, a collective of poets from refugee and migrant background making new work inspired by Shakespeare.

Dr Stephen Smith: Visiting Tutor in Roman Archaeology and Art at Royal Holloway, University of London and co-organiser of a project called ‘Remembering the Romans in the Middle East and North Africa’.

Lucy Coren: MA Student at University of Kent and Mobilizer for Playing Identities, a project using the Pan Speech online collaboration tools to mash-up European theatrical traditions.

Alice Mukaka: PhD Candidate at UEL, who recently organised the seminar “The Role of Rights Activism, Academia and Performing Arts Practices: A conversation” as part of the programming connected to the play Nine Lives by Zodwa Nyoni at the Arcola Theatre.

Dr Vivienne Lachs: Teacher, Yiddishist and singer, Vivi sings Yiddish popular songs with local bands, leads walking tours of the East End and is currently working on a post-doctoral project connected to Kayo’s residency.


Research Forum: ‘Create Dangerously’


The first formal meeting of the project took place on the evening of Wednesday 3rd February. Those present set out their motivations for involvement and relevant personal research as well as their hopes and expectations from the project.

Kayo’s introduction to his residency highlighted his desire to create new work during the project, focusing on creative and critical hybridity. He opened with an example of what he thought this might look like: a poem by Li Young Lee entitled ‘Self-Help For Fellow Refugees’.

Dr. Emma Cox then offered a critical response to one of Kayo’s poems ‘Naturalised Citizens’. Her discussion focused on the relationship between language and power, quoting from Rowan Williams’ lecture,  ‘War, Words and Reason’ .  In reference to this, she initially used her own experience in visa application to explain how bureaucratic language and closed yes/no questions limit reality into a financial discourse of accept and reject. This is an issue in terms of individual self-expression as it blocks response.

She addressed the language of power and explored the attempt to emotionally conceptualise a hyper-rational bureaucratic language. Giving the recent quote ‘swarm/bunch of migrants’ as an example, she revealed how this, apparently flippant, use of metaphorical language perpetuates an image of migration and ultimately blocks any discussion into the credibility of this image. She was encouraged by the opportunity in the project to create new ways to respond to migration; focussing on liberation of expression.

The open discussion questioned the tension between the usefulness of migrant experience as an abstract concept, and the vital need to talk about legalities such as the refugee convention. It was admitted that the engagement of new people who are not directly involved in the discussion of Migrant Experience would be difficult. Attendees included those involved in Documentary, PhD researchers and novelists and all contributed ways in which audience reaction plays a part in the public understanding of the refugee experience.

In response to these discussions we considered Carolyn Cooper and her theory that translation is an ideological issue. This made us consider the extent to which writing in English would effect cultural expression: what idiosyncrasies of a culture are lost when described in a different language?

To end on a more hopeful note, Salman Rushdie argues that something can also be gained through this translation, and we will reflect on Kayo’s reading on Wednesday 10th February with this in mind.





A reading with poet Kayo Chingonyi and playwright Angeliki Tsanikidou

4.00 – 5.30 pm 10th February 2016

Boilerhouse Auditorium, Royal Holloway, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX

Kayo Chingonyi is the author of two books of poetry, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016) and is currently working on a third. He is a writer-in-residence at George Green’s School, a commissioned poet for the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Associate Poet at the ICA from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016.

Angeliki Kitrini Tsanikidou was born in Greece. She comes from a long line of good story tellers. Growing up, she was fascinated by the stories she heard from the women in her family and decided to start making her own. She studied English and Drama, worked for the Theatre and as a teacher in Greece before moving to the UK to undertake a PhD in playwriting.


Launch Report

On 19th January, the critical and creative collaboration between poet Kayo Chingonyi, Royal Holloway and Counterpoints Arts was successfully launched at Toynbee Studios. Exploring the ways in which the intersection between arts and activism can be used to voice the migrant experience, poets and activists alike joined together to explore how art can be used to speak the unspeakable. Almir Koldzic from Counterpoints and Agnes Woolley from Royal Holloway’s Humanities and Arts Research Centre, outlined the aims and hopes of the residency, highlighting a desire to cross disciplines in a new and thought provoking manner. Drawing on the previous work of Counterpoints in supporting and producing artistic material designed to enhance awareness of the migrant experience, Almir voiced his hopes for the success of Kayo’s residency whilst Agnes emphasised the creative and critical potential for artists and researchers working together.

Kayo began by discussing his own feelings and experience as a migrant. Born in Zambia in 1987, he moved to the UK in 1993. Despite the cultural significance of poetry in Zambia, it was his migration to the UK that enabled him to be a poet. This hybridisation of the Zambian importance of poetry and the British acceptance of it as a viable career guided him towards being a poet. Moreover, his own issues of self-identification and where he positions himself culturally – more Zambian or British? – proved to be fruitful ground for poetry.

Through his reading of his poetry, Kayo showed how he engages with his Zambian heritage while living in Britain. The importance of memory is a significant current through his poetry and his exploration of what poetry rhythmically allows people to do in terms of remembering is an indicator of how he writes against the grain of traditional English poetry. By bringing together two seemingly different identities in his poetry, Kayo voices the hybridised experiences of the migrant. For Kayo, marginalising the migrant in a liminal space is dehumanising and poetry is a means of revival for those trapped within these parameters.

Also speaking at the event were Saradha Soobrayen and Hamdi Khalif. Saradha read from “Sounds like root shock”, a poetic inquiry into the depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago. It was a melange of political rhetoric, poetic methodology, Kreol ​dialect and song lyrics. Saradha questioned how poetry is something that can be active. Its role in activism is perpetually undervalued due to the often privileged position of the poet. However, Saradha stressed the importance of using poetry to voice the plight of the disenfranchised and how that, in itself, engages in activism. Hamdi Khalif, a contributor to Bards without Borders poetry collective, further discussed the role of poetry in activism. By giving a voice to the voiceless and acknowledging traumas which are often culturally ignored, poetry becomes a way of getting closer to the human experience by creating a space in which to explore trauma.

During his residency Kayo hopes to explore the wide definitions contained within the words ‘migration’, ‘asylum’, ‘welcome’ etc. His residency will not be narrowing, nor will it pigeonhole him within a specific type of poetry. Instead, it will create an opportunity to open up his work to the issue of forced migration.


Residency Launch: Poetry and Activism

Join us as we mark the beginning of an exciting new creative/critical residency on the topic of migration and the arts.

Where: Toynbee Studies, 28 Commercial Street, E1 6AB

When: Tuesday 19th January, 6.30-8.30 pm

Humanities and Arts Research Centre (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Counterpoints Arts invite you to the the launch of a new creative collaboration around a residency for poet Kayo Chingonyi.

At this launch event we will present the outline of the residency and invite you to respond to some of the central questions and concerns and suggest areas for research.

To reserve a free place for the launch event please email: or

Kayo Chingonyi is the author of two books of poetry, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016) and is currently working on a third. His work has been published in a range of anthologies and literary magazines and he has delivered readings and talks around the world. He is a writer-in-residence at George Green’s School, a commissioned poet for the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Associate Poet at the ICA from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016.