Wednesday 21 September 2011

An Evening With Ms Adichie, Mr. Ellams and Many More @ BookSlam

I got there on time. 6.30pm. I didn't have a ticket and I was worried that I might be gated. I didn't know the size of the venue. It would have been a shame to go all the way to Clapham only to return to North London. The queue was long when I got there. Too long for an event that started at 7.30. I saw some of my friends. We had randomly come to the same event. They all had tickets. I wanted to run to the front and tell the guys to save one for me o. I came from North London. You will pay my transport here.

In the end there were tickets for everyone. The venue was quite large. When we were all inside it was full but more people could have fitted inside. If it was an event in Nigeria, I would have shown the organisers how to arrange the chairs to increase capacity. As it was, the Okoro Lagosian in me tried to calculate how much Bookslam made.

First poem of the night went to the host, a poet whose name I do not recall, though some of his lyrics have stuck in my head. The poem was called Invisible Kisses. I won't try and reproduce his wraps here but they were good sha.

Next up was a poet called Inua Ellams. I've seen him perform before. He came to my Uni for a performance. I went because the poster said he'd done a show at the National and I'm into brand names like that. He was good at Kings but better yesterday. Lighting really makes a difference. When the crowd is dark, I think performers have more liver. He had an excellent poem about about domestic violence. There was a particularly graphic image. A drop of blood fell into the victim's cup of coffee. There's a tinge of bathos when I paraphrase it but it was very powerful in his words.

And then we had Ms. Adichie. She's loomed large in my mind since I was a child. I was 0 years of age when Ben Okri won the Booker with the Famished Road. Between that and Purple Hibiscus there were no Nigerian writers people all over the world were making noise about, except the usual suspects: Achebe, Soyinka, Achebe, Soyinka. So of course when Chimamanda stepped on the scene, how could you say you were a Nigerian and an aspiring writer and not know of her. And have an opinion on which novel was better, Purple Hibiscus or Half of a Yellow Sun. And have family members ask, ''So you want to be the next Chimamanda?" when you said you wanted to be a writer.

The short story she read was excellent. It was called Quality Street. I was able to follow every word she said. Don't underestimate the skill required to speak in a Nigerian accent and still convey your words with clarity to an audience that is not solely African. I have my first reading next month.

I went to speak to her afterwards. She was cool. It's an oft used adjective but its the most apt I can think of. She chatted to people normally, like a naija. You know how my people like to hear our people keeping it real. There was no authorial distance. She signed everyone's book, heard a hundred people say how much they loved her books and took each compliment graciously. She was cool. I'm glad I went.


  1. You're having your first reading!!! When? where? do tell us.

  2. Hello! I really enjoyed reading this post. Your words took me on that journey with you and since I am also from north London, I was feeling your pain at maybe having to travel all the way back again from Clapham! I am so glad you got in and enjoyed the night - it sounds amazing. I'll look out for your book - March 2012? Fantastic!

  3. Your post really catches the good bits of the evening, Inua was a revelation - certainly a star in the making and Chimamanda is an inspiration - just so wonderful both as a writer and a person. I think it a shame that they did not also have a short in conversation moment with her on stage, it would have been great to hear what she's been upto and what we have to look forward too. I thought that the musician's guitar playing was fantastic - who would have thought a tribute to the East Ends River Lea could be so beautiful. He was given far too much time though, and I also think that Lemm Sissay could have handled the chairing & timing much better though, he was disappointing in that regard. Yes it was a bit of a trek from the East End on on a week night, but I am so pleased I went, as like you I caught up with a number of friends, but also missed a few too, as it was so busy.

    I'd love to come and hear your reading too, could you send me the details please?

  4. Yay, I couldn't make it to Book Slam and was waiting for someone to spill the beans! Thank you. Wish I had been there too.

  5. wow. wish i could have been there. congrats on your book reading

  6. Yes certainly Tricia. Email me on so I can send you the details. And of course same goes for anyone else interested.

    Thanks for stopping by Jayne and thanks stelzz.

  7. Sounds like a really fantastic time, I do hope that Adichie comes to my city some day :)

  8. AND I hope you come to my city as well :) (Toronto, if you were wondering :D heh)


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