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Inua Ellams returns to the Barbican with five cross-arts performance events

05Fest presents new work and intimate sharings with poets, journalists, novelists, playwrights, actors and a spotlight on the next generation of UK artists.

Inua Ellams – 05Fest

The Pit & The Conservatory, Barbican Centre

26 – 30 September 2023

Multi-award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams (Barber Shop Chronicles, The Half-God of Rainfall) will return to the Barbican this autumn to curate and host a new iteration of his acclaimed festival, showcasing the power of words and forging cross-cultural connections. His latest 05Fest brings together artists working at the cutting edge of poetry, theatre, live music, film and literature. In five creative and thought-provoking performance events across five days, they will spark fresh ideas, perform new micro-commissions, and share insight through stories and conversation, all drawing on the theme of ‘belonging’.

The line-up includes provocative and passionate voices from the next generation of creative talent, including several alumni from the Barbican Young Poets programme: Gabriel Akamo, Esme Allman, mandisa apena, Jeremiah ‘Sugar J’ Brown, Troy Cabida, Sarah McCreadie, Tatenda Naomi Matsvai (aka 2tender), Gboyega Odubanjo, Antosh Wojcik, Jinhao Xie and Fathima Zahra.

Further panellists will feature artists including feminist writer and campaigner Laura Bates (Everyday Sexism Project), poet and educator JJ Bola (The Selfless Act of Breathing), actor Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù (Gangs of London), writer Joe Dunthorne (Submarines), bestselling poet and novelist Nikita Gill (These Are the Words), former Young People's Laureate for London Cecilia Knapp, screenwriter Lily Loveless (Line of Duty), sound artist and musician Darius McFarlane (AKA Latekid), poet and journalist Bridget Minamore, author Courttia Newland (A River Called Time), playwright Rabiah Hussain (Word Play) and poet and writer Derek Owusu (That Reminds Me).


Inua Ellams, Founder, Curator and Host of 05Fest, says:

“Art isn’t created in a vacuum. I developed 05Fest because I’m interested in bringing together artists from a wide range of disciplines to form something original, create new happenings. In this process, our audiences will be treated to new ways of thinking and seeing. The number five is hugely significant for me, an intersection of philosophical, secular, spiritual, creative yet playful notions that resonate through my life. As a curator, whenever I am looking for brilliant writers to feature, the Barbican Young Poets programme offers a wealth of talent and creativity. I simply reach for their anthologies sitting on my desktop! To work with them in this way is an honour and I hope they enjoy working with me as much as I will working with them.”

Anna Dominian, Assistant Producer at the Barbican, says:

“Over the last few years, we have hosted several of Inua Ellams’ brilliantly curated cross-arts events, from an initial Pit Party takeover to Poetry + Film Hacks in-person and online. After these extremely popular one-night events, we are delighted to welcome back Inua to the Barbican to present his latest 05Fest. He has a unique skill of exploring the deep and rewarding connections between people and language, and this autumn he brings together the most exciting voices across poetry, journalism, literature, theatre, TV & film, including emerging artists and alumni from our Barbican Young Poets programme, to encourage fresh perspectives and ideas.”


The programme will include two UK premieres of new performance formats as well as three of Inua Ellams’ most popular events:

- Redacted! (26 Sept, UK premiere); using Blackout poetry, a method of creating new pieces inspired by the words revealed from redacting found texts.

- Anonyms (27 Sept, UK premiere); a rich, personal and poignant exploration into our names.

- Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (Poetry + Film / Hack, 28 Sept); a watch-party with a literary twist, where a line-up of poets will be specially commissioned to create a response to the cult classic 1992 film.

- Search Party (29 Sept); a chaotic and entirely unique, audience-led, poetry mash-up where Inua performs a selection of works from his back catalogue.

- R.A.P Party (30 Sept); and a nostalgic night of hip-hop-inspired poems - Inua gathers voices from contemporary poetry and spoken word movements to chat about hip-hop's past, present and future, featuring live DJs.


See listings for full programme information.

Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a writer, designer and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He explores reoccurring themes in his work – Identity, Displacement and Destiny – in accessible, enjoyable ways for participants of all ages and backgrounds. His awards include The Liberty Human Rights Award, The Live Canon International Poetry Prize and The Hay Festival Medal for Poetry. His 05Fest concept puts poetry centre stage, uniting separate strands of his work in different styles, and has been presented at Abbey Theatre (Dublin), The Albany (part of Lewisham Borough of Culture) and the New York Theatre Workshop. Inua returns to the Barbican, building on his successful Pit Party in 2018 and Poetry + Film Hacks in 2020 and 2021. In 2023 he was honoured with an MBE for Services to the Arts and a doctorate from the University of the Arts London.