Science Fiction Comes To Africa

Event at London’s Southbank will explore the genre from a new perspective

SCIENCE FICTION is boldly going where few writers and film makers have gone before – Africa.

On November 20, the Purcell Room at London’s Southbank Centre will play host to a special event exploring the continent’s role in the genre.

The event, called Africa In Science Fiction, will consist of two parts. The first, called Universal Mind Control, is a panel discussion chaired by Toyin Agbetu of the campaign group Ligali.

It will look at how literature and poetry address the African diaspora in futuristic worlds. The panel includes the UK’s first black female sci-fi author Tosin Coker and fellow writer and Granta magazine contributor Biram Mboob. The second part, Parable of the Talents, is a film screening followed by a question and answer session. It will be chaired by Joy Francis, executive director Words of Colour and she will be joined by playwright Oladipo Agboluaje and animator Kibwe Tavares who directed the film Robots of Brixton.

Africa In Science Fiction has been put together by Toyin Agbetu and award winning author Courttia Newland who founded The Collective Word, a London based organization which campaigns for better opportunities for black and minority ethnic writers.

Newland said: “At the moment, African science fiction is the closest thing to a pure artistic vision I’ve come across for a long time – art being created for little or no commercial value, but simply to express some aspect of our being. That makes this a project I’m incredibly excited to be a part of. I hope that, like me, audience members who are interested in creating their own works, no matter where in the world they hail from, will be inspired to tell their stories without any thought of restriction.”

He added: “There is so much good material being produced by a wide range of writers, artists and filmmakers, all referencing some form of mythical storytelling andAfrican Cosmology, we thought it best not to be prescriptive about who is involved and create unnecessary barriers. We hope to create bigger, better and even more inclusive events of this nature in future.”

Francis added:”The Collective Word has come up with an exciting event that will give a flavour of the talent, vision and contemporary themes being reflected in both sci fi literature and film by African writers and directors. This event is only a drop in the ocean of what is being produced. Words of Colour Productions intends to work with The Collective Word to facilitate the next generation of African sci fi practitioners to hone their skills, find their voice and create their own digital platforms to showcase their work.”

NEWLAND: Good work is being done by black sci fi writers

To book tickets for the event, please go to…


Hayley Cassidy: ‘I’ve Never Wanted To Sing Derogatory Music’

The UK singer on avoiding explicit songs, how she’s expanding her business empire and learning to overcome hard lessons in love.

SOULFUL, SASSY and strategic are three words that sum up UK songstress Hayley Cassidy.

They also explain, particularly the latter, what has brought the honey-voiced Londoner to a position where she stands on the brink of becoming one of the country’s brightest stars.

Personally, though, it’s something she attributes to careful planning, a good attitude, and more importantly, her capacity to translate a range of emotions through her music.

“I probably think I’m my worst enemy and the reason why things are delayed,” she says. “To be honest, a lot of the time, I will be the reason why a project doesn’t come out for two years because I second-guess myself quite a bit.”

Cassidy’s aunt is credited with discovering the R&B singer’s vocal talents at a young age. Her natural vocal prowess was thereafter nourished in the church, which made it hard when the star announced she wanted to pursue a career in mainstream music.

She explains: “I was really deep in church, I was in a gospel group to start with and singing in the choir so to break away from that and to start singing about things that weren’t centred around God, their hesitation was more a case of, ‘well where is she going with this?’”

However, Cassidy says her family, who is of Jamaican descent, remained supportive of her musical ambitions and allowed her to follow her dreams of stardom. Their support is something she doesn’t take lightly and though she remains true to the genre, she refuses to lower her moral standards for a hit track.

“I’ve never wanted to sing anything derogatory,” she says. “I don’t think my family would be happy if I released something about sex like most songs are about, so I’ve always balanced myself in singing things that represent me and my image so they’ve been ok with it.”

Before it was taken off air, Cassidy had three music videos on rotation on popular BET countdown show, 106 and Park, proving that her talent far exceeded the confines of the UK.

Despite success overseas, the singer has noted that domestically, the masses remain slow on the uptake.

“R&B in the UK definitely doesn’t have a concrete home just yet and I don’t know if it ever will especially amongst home grown UK artists but it seems to be accepted from artists outside the UK.”

As a result, the forward-thinking songstress hasn’t dismissed the idea of looking Stateside to build her career, following in the footsteps of other UK R&B talent such as Estelle and Marsha Ambrosius.

“Many people say to me, ‘why don’t you go to America?’ Eventually I probably will, but right now it’s about building the contacts out there and making sure that I don’t just go there, stand in an airport and say ‘hi, I’m Hayley, where do I go now?’”

While the business management graduate is kept on her toes by an all-encompassing music career, she also holds down a full-time job as a project manager. Where does she find the time and energy?

“I’m always thinking about Plan B and working on both plans as I go. I’m keen to open up different types of businesses and I always want to have one foot in the music and entertainment industry.”

The 26-year-old approaches her music career with the same enterprising spirit.

“I will always be successful in whatever I do, because I plan accordingly and execute it in a way where if I sing and it works out then that’s amazing and if I sing and it doesn’t work out, I’ve still got something that I can fall back on and it will work.”

While battling to be heard in a highly competitive industry, the singer admits lessons in being able to discern between genuine people and not being overwhelmed with the different voices have served her well moving forward.

The introduction to her 2013 EP, Stripped featured a clear message to over opinionated spectators, “I prefer just doing me.”

The EP, which features 12 original tracks, was gifted to supporters and is described as the soundtrack for that “situation” you’ve been through or are still going through.

“Some of my music is observation and some is inspired by my own past situations. I try to keep my music as honest as possible in any situation and I just hope people can vibe with me,” she admits.

With tracks like Foolish, Life After You and Why Didn’t You Call?, you’d be forgiven for thinking love for the singer resembled a soap opera, but the focused worker admits, “love life for me right now is non-existent which is unfortunate.”

On whether she’s ever been in love, she is forthcoming in her response.

“I have,” she confesses, “but considering I’m still single, it goes without saying that it didn’t work out.”

However, she remains hopeful. “I never regret anything because you can’t live off regret. You just have to live, learn and move on. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had.”

Ahead of opening for US R&B singer Ameriie in her five-date UK tour, which starts on March 26, Cassidy says: “I’m such a fan of Ameriie so I really can’t wait.”

The pair have already sold out their London date at the Jazz Café and have now added a second date due to high demand.

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