Last week, the first Melanin Box Festival took place at Peckham’s iconic Bussey Building. Here’s what we thought about it…
Words: Tenelle Ottley-Matthew, Subeditor: Bea Renshaw
Created by actress, dancer and writer Damilola K Fashola, Melanin Box Festival was a three-day showcase of theatre, dance, music and short film. It aimed to “redefine the narrative” and provide the platform, space and opportunity to celebrate the creative work of Britons of Colour.
I attended Day 2 of the festival – the only day that focused on monologues, short film and music (Day 1 and 3 focused mainly on theatre). There was an undeniable excitement and relaxed, friendly vibes that filled the atmosphere as guests mingled downstairs by the bar. The theatre space upstairs was cosy and intimate; the right size for this kind of event. Once everyone was seated and settled, charismatic World Changer, aka Mikel Ameen, treated us to a great performance. He set the tone for the evening perfectly.
Following Mikel Ameen’s set was a screening of seven short films. All shot in different styles and tackling different subject matters, each film captivated the audience in their own way. My personal favourites, from what I saw on the night, are Sweet Taboo, a hilarious film that addresses gender and sexuality in a playful way; En Vogue, an experimental film that offers a peek into the world of underground dance subcultures voguing and ballroom; and Olivia, which follows a promiscuous young woman and explores how her complicated past has triggered her current lifestyle.
Towards the end of the short film segment, ‘dkf.initiative’ (co-founded by Damilola K Fashola) and ‘Charged Up Entertainment’ premiered their BROKENHâRT series, which I’m very excited for! To be released in 2016, BROKENHâRT is a visual translation of five poems which “explores the wide and varied matters of the heart, mind and body through the perspective of various women”.
Moving on to my favourite part of the night… ‘Synergy’. Six actors took to the stage to perform two monologues each, combined with prose and movement. Discussing topics such as sexuality, faith, race, murder, love and more. The actors were magnificent and each monologue gripped the audience in some way, inspiring laughter, shock and other audible sounds. Afterwards, the audience got to vote for their favourite actor to win a ‘Synergy’ trophy, showreel footage and a Triforce Creative Network masterclass. Tobi Bamtefa won most of our hearts with one very funny and one heart-wrenching monologue. It was a tough decision, but very well deserved for Tobi!
Emerging South London singer Kyle Lettman, closed the evening with a beautiful performance of a song from his recently released EP.
I believe that events like Melanin Box don’t happen enough, and it was great to see people of different ages and backgrounds come out to support young creatives of colour. It felt organised and very chilled too, I wish I could have attended all 3 days! Last week was the first Melanin Box Festival, but the festival’s creators are keen to make it an annual event. Fingers crossed it will happen because as Tobi said – these types of events are very necessary.