Champion. That word has been with me for a while. In my lifetime, in my life, champion can represent a Sound System. To be a Champion Sound or a Champion Bubbler was quite a thing. Top of your game, knowing your craft, delivering when it mattered after years of practice. Picking the right tune at the right time on the right sound can be the talk of the town for decades.
‘Champion’ was a word I'd hear countless times over the years living in Yorkshire, I once was told by an elder that my hair was champion as we both stood for a bus to town, he said his sister used to have to tie her hair in rags to get curls like mine. I smiled and I thanked him. He was being friendly in a small Yorkshire village where I don't imagine there was a trailer load of Jamaican raised South London girls with dreadlock twists to speak of, much less to speak with. We could have chosen not to exchange pleasantries that day. Many choose not to recognise each other as anything other than other? Oh, they’re not for me...
Throughout my years working in theatre I have found striking patterns and pathways that reveal a dedication to the marginalised. I’ve gone out of my way, I have researched, championed and directed stories written by Marcia Layne for our company Hidden Gems Productions (Black British and Bold). Together we challenge the lack of stories from a Black British perspective and create work for a diverse range of casts. My freelance work has also included exploration and celebration of the unsung. My latest work ‘Just an Ordinary Lawyer’ by Tayo Aluko premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and formed part of the Liverpool Everyman Playhouse Autumn Season and is about to open in Camden. This play is about the first Black Judge in Britain called Tunji Sowande who faced prejudice and assumptions about his ability based on where he was from. Though perseverance he created a platform to work and champion others in the UK Justice system who went on to achieve great success thanks to his initial support and belief.
It’s a continued privilege for me to platform stories of those who have gone previously unheard of or ignored, to seek a different point of view and to better reflect the human story while we are here. To champion a marginalised place or a people sometimes takes courage, especially when others can’t see its dignity or glory no matter the countless times you tell them, they explain to you why you must be wrong or that it's not quite your time yet. The satisfaction of seeing that place or person who you knew had it in them finally take their moment is glorious. It really is.
I wish Hull City, it's people and its visitors the most wonderful adventure, where they can continue to discover their potential based on what they already know about themselves and what they have yet to find. To mark their place in the world and their continued contribution beyond this time and place. This resonates with me and my work.
Hull, a real place with sticky carpet clubs, former glory buildings and people who nurture a humble pride. If given a chance they’ll win much more than the UK City of Culture, they’ll gain the respect they deserve.
Over to you Hull, it’s your time now.
Image credit: Isaac Huxtable