Can we still say Happy New Year? Probably not, but I will anyway. I hope you had a really festive winter break. December is the only time of the year I get to really wind down and have a rest. And I did – sort of.
You might have taken part in our year of re-imagining last year or at least heard about it. If you recall, we here at No Fly on the WALL decided that an intervention of sorts was needed because 2016 and 2017 were messy, to say the least, and I found myself well and truly exhausted by the misery. To avoid permanent despair, I took a chapter and verse out of the good book of Afro-futurism and asked us all to re-imagine Black love, activism, Black fatherhood and family, and we even threw in the third (and last) of our Black Women’s Mingles with our friends at TRiBE.
Although we wanted to end 2017 with a conference, due to life, other commitments, and low capacity getting in the way this wasn’t possible. But better late than never, right? Following one of our key principles of collaboration and community building, we called on our friends at Sassy Tees, We Are Superwoman, and Cultured Lens to lend a hand and join forces. Weeks of hard work, emails, WhatsApp messages, triumphs, surprises, and stresses have led to us finally bringing you the ‘Re-imagining Black Britain’ Conference 2018. We’ve curated an incredible day of panels, workshops, evening entertainment, networking and inspiration for all to enjoy in Birmingham. Yes – we’ve decentred the capital (London) in an effort to meaningfully be inclusive and intersectional.
Our Early Bird tickets have sold out and you have just a couple of days left to nab your General Entry tickets.
Speakers and contributors include Dorcas Creates, Aliyah Hasinah, Saraiya Bah, Chardine Taylor-Stone, Amahra Spence, Dr. Kehinde Andrews and Chanté Joseph (to name just a few). We’ll even have a workshop facilitated by members of Black Lives Matter UK.
The conference is open to all to come and learn, ask questions, contribute and re-imagine. We’re even giving away a ticket to one lucky winner. There’s even an opportunity for you to join the team and help us make it all happen – yup, we’ve truly outdone ourselves on this one.
And before you say ‘I’ll go next time’, we should probably emphasise that there won’t be a next time. This event is a one-off amazing collaboration, a one-time thing, never to be repeated. Why? Sometimes interventions take place just once. Sometimes melanin magic cannot be repeated. And often resources simply do not stretch. But we hope by the time attendees have left the conference they will be equipped with what they need to move from idea to action and to re-imagine what the future could look like, what it could be. Plus it’s bloody hard work creating a cracking conference for over 100 people!
By this point you’re probably wondering what all this farewell talk is about. As well as saying farewell to the past of course, it’s with huge excitement (and of course a sprinkle of sadness) that I announce it’s time to say farewell to us, your friends at No Fly on the WALL. After five awesome years of creating room for conversation and empowering marginalised voices, particularly Black British women, to Take Up Space and never be a fly on the wall, it’s time we close our doors. Our last day of operation will be Saturday 31st March 2018, and we’ll be throwing a little party to celebrate all that we’ve achieved (more details about that to come very soon). The ‘Re-imagining Black Britain’ Conference is our last big hurrah – another reason why it’s a one-off – so come along and bid us farewell in person. We’ve curated the last panel of the day and we’ll be exploring networking, collaboration, and community building – things we are absolutely well-versed in.
All good things must come to an end and the landscape in Britain, and beyond, has changed remarkably since 2013, when we started out. It’s changed mostly for the better (but there have been increasingly more challenging questions to answer and situations to navigate from Brexit, to Theresa May, to Trump, #MeToo, ongoing backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement online and offline, increased visible fascism, and further micro and macro attacks on the humanity of Black women and other Black and Brown people – to name just a few of the lowlights).
What I have enjoyed witnessing is the growth in choice and representation now out there for Black British women since we came on the scene (it was lonely and cold outchea in 2013 – brrrrrr).
I’ve also enjoyed seeing many members of the No Fly on the WALL community – those who published their first ever articles with us, did their first ever panels at our Academy events, ran their first workshop in collaboration with us, attended our events, networked with people we brought together in a room – go on to turn their ‘small’ ideas into impressive game-changers.
We’ve seen people like Kelechi Okafor, who ran our Black Women and the body workshop in 2015, become influencers and authorities on matters of Black Britain; we’ve seen the likes of Alex Holmes, our first ever male writer, go on to launch a hugely successful podcast; we’ve seen Tobi Oredein, who facilitated a workshop on the representation of Black women in magazines in 2016, grow Black Ballad into a forward-thinking digital platform and members space and become Forbes listed; we’ve seen Liv Little, who attended our first Black Women’s Summer Mingle in 2015, turn gal-dem into an international force to be reckoned with; and we’ve seen the Consented boys, once No Fly on the WALL event regulars, go on to curate their own amazing and thought-provoking events across the UK, as well as launch their quarterly print magazine. From sista circles and interviews with people like Yrsa Daley-Ward, to discussions with the likes of JJ Bola contributing keenly, to brunches with guests like Chanté Joseph – Yes, all your faves have joined forces with us at some point in time and been part of our groundbreaking community! And it has been their generosity, championing and support (and that of countless others) as well as access to physical space at Common House, that has helped us to keep going for so long (as well as constant hustle and resourcefulness).
A lot has happened in five years. And this is really just the start. Learning from our foremothers and all those who did what we did before us, I’ve concluded that when the call to change your approach is heard, it cannot and should not be ignored.
I started this platform straight after university. I was a sad and frustrated 20-going on 21- year old girl who felt invisible. I called upon a few trusted friends, learnt to DIY it and make shit happen. Team No Fly on the WALL has seen many faces come and go, including the likes of the wonderful Precious Oyelade and the bold and brave Esme Allman, over the years, most recently the quietly phenomenal Tenelle Matthew. And our focus and methods evolved over the years as we grew in confidence and as I grew into and further understood my (Black) Feminism. Evolution has been a key part of our journey and it never truly stops, really.
So what’s next for us?
We will ensure all our content remains online after March and beyond because we recognise the importance of archiving. But before all that there’s still the ‘Re-imagining Black Britain’ Conference and our farewell event/ book launch – yes, our last treat for you will be publishing a beautiful anthology of some of our best work (vintage No Fly and newly commissioned ). We’ve included the voices of people like Barbara Ntumy, Vanessa Kisuule, and Jendella Benson. Keep an eye out for it.
And what’s next for me?
Good question. I’m off to focus more on my craft as a writer, performer and producer. I’m also developing an international intersectional project focused on campaigning and Taking Up Space (but not until 2019!). And you may have heard I’ve joined the Sassy Tees team as their new Creative Director. You know me – I enjoy being busy. In saying that though, moreover, I’m putting myself first a bit more. Fighting the good fight can be draining and Black women are often burdened with doing the work of setting us all free, educating the masses, and clearing up the world’s many messes.
So that’s that!
Although the clock is now ticking, our love affair isn’t over just yet (see you in Birmingham on Saturday 27th January 2018?) and when it finally is, have no fear.
Your friends at No Fly on the WALL will always be there, somewhere in the great ether, cheering you (mostly Black British women and Black women living in the UK) on.
The next chapter is on the way – but first, let’s re-imagine.
Siana Bangura – NFotW founding editor in chief, 2013 – 2018.