Q&A with Neelam Saredia-Brayley

Photo of poet Neelam Saredia-Brayley. Neelam is a young woman who is standing in front of a stage curtain in front of an audience. She is holding a microphone and smiling.

On 10th December 2020, Ideas Test teamed up with Fly The Flag and over 30 other organisations throughout the UK, to commissioned poets to write a piece of work to mark Human Rights Day.

We commissioned local poet and performer Neelam Saredia-Brayley, who wrote the poem We Are Masterpieces.

 

We spoke to Neelam for a quick email Q&A where she talks about what inspired her poem, what poems inspire her, and shares with us some interesting pineapple facts…

 

What inspired you to become a poet?
I’ve always written poetry, ever since I was about 10 years old!

I studied English & Creative Writing and the University of Kent and in my second year of uni, I discovered performance poetry and fell in love!

I used to watch lots of performance poets on the YouTube channel ‘Button Poetry‘, and I was especially captivated by the incredible Andrea Gibson, and their poem ‘Birthday‘.

That inspired me hugely – and made me want to be a performance poet too!

 

 

How did you start writing and performing poetry?
As above – I always wrote growing up, and when I first tried performance poetry, it was competitively for a poetry slam at Gulbenkian…I didn’t win (I was very new and very nervous!) but it sparked something in me that made me want to continue writing, sharing and performing.

 

Neelam is a young woman sitting on a black stage. There are three chairs on the stage. Neelam is sitting in the centre chair. The other chairs have books on them.
Neelam at The Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury. Photo c/o Neelam Saredia-Brayley and The Gulbenkian

I grew as an artist, found my voice and became comfortable on the stage. I still get nervous (a lot) but I love writing and performing.

 

Your poem, We Are Masterpieces, is inspired by Article 25 of the Universal Human Rights Charter. It’s also inspired by 2020, the pandemic, and other global events. What things did you see in Swale and Medway that inspired your poem?
What’s inspiring is how Swale and Medway are some of the worst-hit places with coronavirus infection rates but people are still doing amazing things – supporting each other, running community events online, supporting key workers. They’re places of survival.

I’ve worked across Kent, supporting arts events in the past, including in Sittingbourne, Gillingham, Chatham and Rochester, and people always surprise you.

Is being a poet your full-time job?
Yes! I’m a freelance poet and creative practitioner.  I’ve been freelance since 2019 and I’m still learning!

I also do access support work for incredible neurodiverse artist Brigitte Aphrodite, as well as working with schools in Kent with the amazing EBP Kent.

 

What’s next for you?
Currently, I’m writing my debut poetry collection, which is really exciting! This is being published by Verve poetry press in Summer 2021 – so keep an eye out.

I’m also working on my project, Queer Brown Skin – which is about powerful women standing together, and the journey of healing past trauma. It’ll most likely be a film, or series of films, with poetry, illustration, music and contemporary dance.

 

What’s the one thing you want to take with you into 2021? And what’s the one thing you want to leave behind?
I want to take my joy into 2021 – it’s been a hard few years for me but I’m finally finding it. I also want to take gratitude with me too, and to never forget how blessed I am.

And I want to leave behind anxiety – I carry a lot of it and it’s not helpful!

 

What is the one poem would you recommend?
I recommend Caleb Femi’s poem ‘Wishbone’ – if you can, please do take 3 minutes out of your day and watch the video – it is STUNNING! The words, music, dance, cinematography – so beautiful.

It’s here, on YouTube: https://youtu.be/mnUwE80wx4c.

 

 

And if I could also recommend a poem by me, then it would be my poem ‘Home’, featuring live-drawing by my wonderful husband and creative partner Adrian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nVt20eL2jM.

 

 

And finally…Pineapple on Pizza – yes or no?
Haha! Not on pizza for me, but pineapples are great with yoghurt.

Fun facts for you: It’s also the fruit that bites back (the enzymes in pineapple ‘dissolves’ the skin on your tongue!), and they are not a pine or an apple.

 

Neelam performing on stage with her husband, Adrian. Neelam is standing in front of a microphone. Adrian is in front of a flipchart board that he has been drawing on.
Neelam, alongside her illustrator husband Adrian. Photo by Dik NG

You can read Neelam’s poem, We Are Masterpieces on our website or watch the video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/iG8vV9VxwX0

 

To find out more about Neelam’s poetry and her upcoming poetry collection follow her on social media

Instagram: @Neelam_the_poet
YouTube Channel: Neelam Saredia-Brayley
Facebook: @NeelamSarediaBrayleyPoetry

 

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