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A week of special events to mark Barack Obama’s taking over

Rich Mix also commemorates Martin Luther King Day  

7th January 2010: Listen to `Voices of Freedom’ from Monday 18 January to Saturday 23 January 2010.

To mark Martin Luther King Day on Monday 18 January and the one year anniversary of Barack Obama’s taking over on Tuesday 20 January, Rich Mix presents a week of special events.

It encompasses theatre, film, spoken word and live music, which will celebrate and question your notions of freedom at the start of the year of the next General Election.
The programme includes Mercury/MOBO award winning saxophonist Denys Baptiste’s `Let Freedom Ring!’

The show features a world class line-up of jazz musicians, brand new visuals from VJ collective Yeast reflecting on Obama’s first year, and extracts from the epic poem `Mental Fight’, whose author Ben Okri joins in for a rare “In Conversation”, looking at his career and inspirations, and readings from his latest work, “Tales of Freedom.”

Film and theatre examine the lives of controversial and influential Black Nationalist leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, with a screening of Spike Lee’s acclaimed biopic Malcolm X; and a performance of Eclipse Theatre’s stunning one man show, Michael X.
Spoken word performances complete the week, with Elizabeth Mansfield telling the extraordinary stories of refugees and exiles from all over the word in The Uninvited; and an All-Star Poetry Olympics Superjam celebrating our freedoms, with a stellar line up of poets and writers led by super bard Michael Horovitz.

See film Malcolm X on Monday 18 January at 7pm. Directed by Spike Lee, it stars: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett and Albert Hall.

Lee’s acclaimed biopic of the controversial and influential black activist Malcolm X takes you from his inauspicious beginnings and imprisonment, through to his conversion to the Nation of Islam and his later rejection of their divisive teachings.

Born Malcolm Little, he became a gangster, and while in jail discovered the Nation of Islam writings of Elijah Muhammad. He preaches the teachings when let out of jail, but later on goes on a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, there he converts to the original Islamic religion and becomes a Sunni Muslim.

He changes his name to El-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz and stops his antiwhite teachings, as he realises the error of his mistakes. He is later on assassinated, and dies a Muslim Martyr.

Then you have “In Conversation with Ben Okri”on Tuesday 19 January at 7.30pm. As a preview to the performance of Let Freedom Ring! which features his poetry, Ben Okri will join In Conversation to talk about his life, inspirations and work to date.

Okri has published 10 novels, including The Famished Road, as well as collections of poetry, short stories and essays. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been awarded the OBE as well as numerous international prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction and the Chianti Rufino-Antico Fattore. His latest book,Tales of Freedom was published in April 2009.

In the theatre, you have “The uninvited” on Wednesday 20 January at 7.30pm. The Uninvited is a performance tour de force telling the extraordinary stories of refugees and exiles, from all over the world, past and present. Poems, writings and testimonies flow into songs – Spanish, Filipino, Farsi, Bosnian – sung both in original language and in English translation.

Premiered in the USA, in the wake of 9/11, The Uninvited celebrates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through the words and music, the humour and courage, of those forced to flee their homes, and make a new life in foreign lands.

It is performed by Elizabeth Mansfield, Olivier Award nominee for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’. It is followed by a post-show discussion wit Veena Torthia and Nahid Behzadi from CRISIS UK, Dan Hodges, Communications Manager from Refugee Action and Alison Harvey, General Secretary of Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association

In Spoken Word, you have All-Star Poetry Olympics Superjam on Friday 22nd January at 7.30pm. Michael Horovitz presents a galaxy of scintillating superbards: Francesca Beard, Charlie Dark, Salena Godden, Daljit Nagra, Molly Parkin, Tim Wells, with Pete Lemer’s Piano, Annie Whitehead’s trombone, vocals and spoken word settings, the William Blake Klezmatrix Band, plus special guests.

Michael Horovitz is best known for his appearance at the International Poetry Incarnation at the Royal Albert Hall on June 11 1965, alongside Allen Ginsberg and Alexander Trocchi.

And then comes the Poetry Olympics. The Times, having predicted "the jolliest gathering since Babel", confirmed after the Westminster Abbey launch that “The Poetry Olympics, hugely enjoyed on a somewhat ad hoc basis, was a sign that poetry is not dying, nor poets."

The Poetry Olympics have taken Horovitz all over the world, his aim being "to join hands, hearts and heads, to communicate and exchange at the grass roots." Less appreciative voices of the establishment claim that Horovitz’s selections and modes of presentation are ‘subversive’.

Horovitz hopes that this charge is justified: "Subversion usually means change", he says, "and poetry should change people."

In theatre, Eclipse Theatre presents Michael X by Vanessa Walters on Friday 22nd January at 7.30pm. Directed by Dawn Walton, and design by Simon Kenny, it casts Clint Dyer.
“Who was Michael X ? Black Power Activist and Political Icon? Liar Pimp, Murderer?” A Trini ‘bwoy’ rolls off a boat into 1950s London. Ten years later he’s the most famous black man in Britain, but who was Michael X? The ‘authentic voice of black bitterness’ [Observer 1965] or the ex Rachman henchman for whom politics was just another hustle?

Set at a political rally, Vanessa Walters’ new play probes at the heart of politics in 1960s Britain. Michael X tells the tale of one man’s experience set against the backdrop of social change. This compelling monologue will be performed by stage and screen star Clint Dyer, whose recent works includes SUS(Young Vic Theatre) and ITV’s Trial and Retribution.

Eclipse theatre is a national touring company whose recent work includes The Hounding of David Oluwale, (Best Director nomination:TMA awards 2009) and Angel House by Roy Williams Michael

In Music, its Denys Baptiste – Let Freedom Ring! on Saturday 23 January at 8pm. Stirring contemporary jazz with gospel, blues and Afro-Cuban music from Mercury/MOBO award winning saxophonist Denys Baptiste, inspired by the spirit and rhythms of Dr Martin Luther King’s momentous I Have A Dream speech on its 40th anniversary, and featuring an explosive 11-piece international line-up including Abram Wilson, Andrew McCormack and Gary Crosby.

Jazz has always been closely connected with the struggle for freedom and justice, and the suite’s four parts – I Have A Dream, With This Faith, Let Freedom Ring!, and Free At Last – pay tribute to those who have fought to overcome oppression, expressing ideals which are as relevant today as they were 40-odd, and even 200 years ago. Collaborating with Booker Prize winning author Ben Okri, Baptiste has synchronised extracts of Okri’s epic poem Mental Fight into this exhilarating mix of contemporary jazz, gospel, blues, and Afro-Cuban music.

VJs of acclaimed film-makers, Yeast join the band to present a creative live mix of footage of the musicians’ performance on stage, the text of Ben Okri’s poem, and powerful images of the struggle for freedom, equality and justice by oppressed peoples throughout the international community.

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