Unless you’ve been under a rock, I’m pretty sure that at some point in the past 2-3 years you have definitely heard something about the Windrush Scandal. The scandal even re-surfaced on the news just a few days ago when Paulette Wilson, a victim turned activist who tirelessly campaigned for the justice of Windrush victims, sadly passed away. On the news there have been countless stories of people being wrongly detained, denied legal rights and in some cases deported from the UK and sent to the countries they ‘originated’ from, but can hardly call home. Even though I’ve heard many stories about the victims, I had never really seen their real-life experiences portrayed in extensive detail on screen. That was until the launch night of Create Jobs:Meet a Mentor Round 8 when we were given the privilege to view and discuss the incredible BBC drama ‘Sitting in Limbo’. It was amazing how much we managed to get done in just two and a half hours via zoom. So much happened on the night; from meeting some amazing mentee’s and mentors, to meeting my awe-inspiring mentor Kieran Yates, to a stimulating Q&A with the phenomenal screenwriter/author and documentary director Stephen S Thompson.
Meet a Mentor round 8 launched with a BANG! Over 70 mentees and mentors came together, via Zoom, and the night started with us doing some social mixing via Zoom breakout rooms. In the breakout rooms we discussed our superpowers, which was surprisingly tough because we often don’t think of anything we do as being a superpower. It was so interesting to hear everyone explaining their superpowers. The superpower that stood out the most to me, came from a mentor who said his superpower was ‘recognising when his voice wasn’t the most important in the room’. This is such an important superpower to have, especially within the current socio-political climate of the world. Interestingly, this superpower really tied in with the theme of the night as we witnessed the importance of giving people the platform to tell their stories, through Stephen’s work on ‘Sitting in Limbo’.
Meeting my Mentor
After socializing with some amazing mentees and mentors, I was finally able to Face-Time, the powerhouse that is my amazing mentor Kieran Yates. Kieran is a Freelance journalist, editor, broadcaster and fellow south Londoner! Kieran has been writing about culture and politics for over 10 years and has worked with companies such as Vice UK, The Guardian, i-D-UK, Esquire, Refinery29 etc. Kieran has also written and contributed to numerous books. One of the most well-known being, the award-winning book that I’m sure everyone has witnessed at least one person reading on the tube ‘The Good Immigrant’. She also regularly works with the BBC to produce amazing documentaries such as ‘Estate Music’, which explores the link between music, immigrant communities in the UK and social housing. Kieran has such a wealth of knowledge and experience that it’s impossible to do her justice in just a few short lines, so make sure you go an check out her website here: www.kieranyates.co.uk
Kieran and I discussed everything from our journeys to our current selves, living in south London, Kieran’s Punjabi heritage and my Sierra Leonean heritage, being a woman of colour in the creative industries, nepotism and so much more. Our conversation flowed so well that it didn’t even feel like it was my first-time meeting Kieran. Kieran really tried to get to know me better and understand what I’m hoping to gain from our time together. She really challenged me to think about topics that I’m truly passionate about and she even sent me off with homework.
As part of my homework I had to share 5 articles I have recently read and enjoyed, my 5 favourite authors, 5 dream platforms to write for, 5 topics I’d love to write about and two paragraphs explaining the two article ideas I had. Although it sounds like a basic task, it really allowed me to think about my writing style, who I want to be as a writer and the kinds of content that were truly meaningful to me. So as much as our session allowed Kieran to get to know more about me, it also helped me to get clearer on my goals and find what truly ignites me as a writer. All this from just 40 mins on Facetime!
Sitting in Limbo
As if Face-timing Kieran Yates wasn’t enough excitement for the night, we then went on to watching the phenomenal Stephen S Thompson’s Q and A about his new BBC Drama ‘Sitting in Limbo’. Stephen opened up by telling us a bit about himself and his journey so far. Stephen began writing in the 90s; he started off writing short stories, progressed onto novels and now documentary and filmmaking. It was so interesting to hear Stephen speak so candidly about learning how to deal with rejection, realising that as a black writer there were additional challenges along the way and also how writing can often be such a lonely pursuit.
After watching a short clip from ‘Sitting in Limbo’, both the mentors and mentees couldn’t get enough and so we called for more! Once our thirst had been quenched (slightly) we continued the night with more questions about Stephen’s experience of writing a drama for the BBC. Stephen opened up about all the challenges that came with writing a fiction piece that was based on his brother’s story. He spoke about not only having to gain that brotherly trust but also having to gain that trust as a writer, in order to reassure his brother that he would do his story justice. Stephen spoke about the reaction he received to his drama being overwhelmingly positive and how it was even discussed in parliament. It was amusing to hear that MP Priti Patel was so afraid of her own shadow that she tried to demand a preview of the drama before it’s official release. You know you’ve done a good job when your writing has MPs shaking in their boots.
As the Q and A progressed, what really stuck with was some of the amazing advice that Stephen was giving to us as writers and creatives:
- ‘There is no excuse not to do the work. Do the work when you can so you’re prepared when the opportunity presents itself.’ I think this is extremely important especially in todays current climate where everything around us seems to be moving at a thousand miles per hour. I think it’s definitely important to be prepared as you never know when opportunity could be knocking at your door.
- ‘I made the decision quite early on that I’m going to make peace with my inner critic.’ This was Stephen’s response to a question that asked about how he deals with self-doubt as a writer. This particularly stood out to me because as a creative, you sometimes allow your inner critic to completely consume you. Or you try really hard to completely silence that inner critic, which often has the opposite effect and ends up turning the volume of that inner critic in your head all the way up. However, if we try to make peace with our inner critic, as Stephen wisely said, then it means you’re no longer allowing yourself to fight with or shy away from that inner critic. Instead, it means you accept that it is there and that sometimes it will make you question yourself, but you cannot allow it to consume you.
When he was asked ‘what’s next?’ Stephen literally left us ‘sitting in limbo’ as he didn’t want to spill all the tea about his future projects. However, he did say that he would love to continue to tell the stories of black people, beyond the stereotypical depictions that we usually see, particularly within the family. He also mentioned that there might be some multi-episode tv dramas in the works. So, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what he has in store for us. Stephen not only left us feeling inspired and empowered but he also made me feel hopeful for the future of black people in television whether that be as writers, producers, directors or actors.
So, as I mentioned in the beginning Meet a Mentor Round 8 definitely launched with a BANG and it’s only just getting started. This was the first of four virtual meetups in the Meet a Mentor programme, so I’m really looking forward to the upcoming sessions. Especially our second virtual meetup next week, where we’ll be hearing from the award-winning Director of Photography, Deepa Keshvala, who has worked on music videos and ads for the likes of Chaka Khan, Nike, Burberry and Stella McCartney!