Marlborough Literature Festival: Inua Ellams

Pupil Review: Inua Ellams

Friday 15th October 2021

The College was delighted to host the opening event of the 2021 Marlborough Literature Festival on Thursday 30th September, a performance by the award-winning Inua Ellams.

Now in its 12th year, this annual festival celebrates the best in writing and literature from both established authors and new talent. This year’s event was in a hybrid live and online format with a full programme of nearly 30 events for all ages. Ellams gave a dynamic performance in the Memorial Hall to an audience of pupils and festival-goers.

Lucia H (L6) has provided the following review of the evening.

The moment Inua Ellams placed his water down on the stage and found his suitable spot, I was assured that this was going to be an enjoyable and completely unique performance to anything I had seen before. He welcomed the audience with a friendly smile and his witty jokes at once made everyone feel as though this was going to be more of a two-sided conversation rather than a poetry spiel for the next hour.

Ellams is an international touring poet, playwright, performer, graphic artist and designer. Originally from Nigeria, he moved to London at a young age and has since lived across the country. His brief stay in Ireland proved to be his inspiration through not only a friendly poetry teacher but also the renowned Seamus Heaney. His many hobbies include hip-hop, yoga and talking to people.

The interactive idea of the audience shouting out words in order for Ellams to find a poem associated with the topic gave a sense of confidence as he was never fazed by a single suggestion. His so-called ‘negotiations’ provided laughable entertainment as the poet and a member of the audience frantically tried to decide on a new word that fitted at least one of his vast collection of poems stored within Mabel the iPad.

When performing his poems, Ellams displayed his enthusiasm for his passion through his actions and tone. By changing the tempo and volume at which he read his poems, the audience was able to better understand the tone and subject matter he was describing, making it overall a more engaging performance.

What I liked so much about Ellams’ show was that as an audience we got to learn so much about his varied personality through the stories he told us about his personal life. A personal favourite of mine was about a time when he was a boy and his father gave him a T-shirt with his name printed in velvet on the front. By simply sticking a tea towel into his collar he was instantly converted into a superhero and spent hours chasing invisible lizards around his living room. This innocent childhood memory was transformed into a striking poem which was delivered to us fluently as he knew it as one of his favourites, named Shame is the Cape I Wear.

When you think of the Memorial Hall at Marlborough College, you imagine civilised lectures being delivered to intellectual pupils who may or may not be listening to the highly respected speaker. However, not on this occasion. Ellams struck the audience straight from the get-go with his collection of poems highlighting a large variety of global issues and his anger towards certain situations. One of these poems that stood out for me described how in the 1970s Nestlé was accused of getting developing nation mothers hooked on their baby formula milk and actively discouraging breastfeeding. The poet’s words were impactful and harrowing as he openly outed Nestlé for their crime.

If I was asked to recommend a poet who would inspire you to read more poetry and would motivate you to write your own works, my answer would most certainly be Inua Ellams. His diverse and never-ending collection of poems leaves you asking questions about world issues you didn’t even know existed and opens your eyes on a new outlook on life, whilst still feeling entertained and included as a part of his passion. For Ellams, poetry isn’t seen as a career or a job but as a release on topics which may be harder to tackle than you think.

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