A Toast To The People

A Toast to the People | Edinburgh International Festival

During August 2021 the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival partnered to present a celebration of emergence, of the kind of world that we might find, and of a new world order that we might imagine and make possible.

Over five nights A Toast to the People brought together two spoken word artists, each performing their own set of performance poetry that included a specially commissioned piece inspired by Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson’s ‘A Toast to the People’. Following their sets, the two artists took part in an exclusive discussion about their work and the pervading issues and themes of today.. And you can now watch recordings of two of these shows:

Hollie McNish and Wana Udobang

Headshots of Hollie McNish and Wana Udobang

Not easily categorised, Glasgow-based Hollie McNish is a writer who loves writing. She has released two spoken word albums and a collection titled Plum since winning the UK Poetry Slam in 2009, and her new book Slug…and other things I’ve been told to hate was released in May of this year. McNish’s new poems often go viral, reaching millions on YouTube and she has also won the 2016 Ted Hughes Award for her poetic memoir Nobody Told Me.

She performs along with Wana Udobang for this A Toast to the People event. Udobang is a storyteller and artist working at the intersection of writing, poetry, performance and film. She has released three studio albums as a poet and for her work in journalism has been awarded numerous fellowships, including the International Women’s Media Foundation Fellowship. Udobang has spent the last five years developing and curating Culture Diaries, an archival project and Pan-African artist network that uses multi-platform storytelling to document African artists. She is a 2021 University of IOWA International writing residency fellow

This is a digital performance that will be available to watch online from 11 November 2021 at 7pm to 10 December 2021 at 11pm. Please book a free ticket HERE to watch this performance at home.

Inua Ellams and Saul Williams

Head shots of Inua Ellams and Saul Williams

London-based Inua Ellams is an internationally touring poet, playwright, performer, graphic artist and designer. His published books of poetry include Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All StarsThirteen Fairy Negro Tales and The Half-God of Rainfall, and his first play The 14th Tale was awarded an Edinburgh Fringe First Award. For his International Festival appearance he performs his specially commissioned work, whereby the audience chooses his set by searching for words through his collected works.

Ellams performs along with Saul Williams, a poetry titan who has performed in over 30 countries, with invitations spanning from The Louvre to the Lincoln Center and Sydney Opera House. New York-based Williams has recorded with the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Allen Ginsburg and more recently released his latest music works, Encrypted & Vulnerable.

This is a digital performance that will be available to watch online from 28 October 2021 at 7pm to 27 November 2021 at 11pm. Please book a free ticket HERE to watch this performance at home.

And to give you a taste of these events, you can find below two of the ten commissions inspired by Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson’s ‘A Toast to the People’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PWNdoOCo7Q Lemn Sissay performed his work in Edinburgh's Nicolson Square Gardens. Lemn Sissay is a BAFTA-nominated, international prizewinning writer who was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2010. He has read on stage throughout the world: from the Library of Congress in the United States to the University of Addis Ababa, from Singapore to Sri Lanka, Bangalore to Dubai, from Bali to Greenland and Wigan library. Along with Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie and Margaret Atwood, he won a Pen Pinter Prize in 2019. He is Chancellor of the University of Manchester and holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Huddersfield, Manchester, Kent and Brunel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i-8Q0Stt1E&t=29s Francesca Beard performed her work in Edinburgh's Middle Meadows Walk. Francesca Beard's research-informed work is inspired by emerging knowledge about ourselves and the universe. She is a current Associate Artist with All Change and was previously poet-in-residence at The Barbican, BBC White City and The Tower of London, amongst others. Her stories about what it means to be human touch a raw nerve and she has represented contemporary UK literature with the British Council in 23 different countries, from Azerbaijan to Bangkok and Zimbabwe.

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