By Heather Marks
Soho holds many secrets, and last night revealed one of them to be Salena Godden’s spoken word album launch at Carnesky’s Finishing School. Descending the steps into the basement of the old Foyles, I was met by the gaze of pop art portraits at every turn, until I entered the intimate setting for the evening’s entertainment. Against the brightly lit stage, I slunk into the oh-so-Soho dimly lit claret background to watch the evening unfold.
The evening began with music and poetry from supporting artists, The Bundy Brothers, Matt Abbott and Iona Lee. Some of the essayists from The Good Immigrant took to the stage to read from their newly published book, which recently won the Books Are My Bag Reader’s award for Britain’s Favourite Book 2016. Darren Chetty spoke about teaching in schools and the default whiteness in the literary imagination of young children. Himesh Patel spoke about being an actor and the importance of seeing people like himself on screen. Vera Chok spoke about the instances of everyday racism one encounters as a person of colour.
Salena Godden took to the stage to perform some of her poems to an eagerly awaiting audience. Godden delved into The Good Immigrant to read her excerpt ‘SHADE’.Lines such as “Some days I look like Beyoncé, some days I look like Rihanna” touched on colourism and its exotification of light skinned black women. Other lines like “It all depends on the filter and the time of year…it depends on what point people are trying to make” spoke to the oft-touted lie of ‘not seeing people’s colour’ as Godden listed the world events which do and do not make the news – “oh, Boko Haram black? No, not today”. Godden spoke to the world around her and kept her work current, making reference to the refugee crisis in Calais in her readings from ‘SHADE’, and Can’t Be Bovvered from her album LIVEwire. Godden threw punches at colourism and political inaction, and the frustration one could sense in her words landed well with the audience.
All in all, it was an entertaining evening where like minds came together to share readings and poems.
Salena Godden’s album LIVEwire is out now https://nymphsandthugs.bandcamp.com/album/livewire
(This post was updated 10/12/2016: ‘SHADE’ is Godden’s piece from The Good Immigrant, while Godden’s other reading was a poem, Can’t Be Bovvered, from her album LIVEwire.)