Interview with Nasima Begum, poet and producer

Poet, producer and creative practitioner Nasima Begum talks about her art, her inspirations, and her place on the Jerwood Creative Fellowship as part of MIF 2019.

Interview with Nasima Begum, poet and producer

Can you first introduce yourself to the reader?

My name is Nasima. I am a poet, producer and creative practitioner. Currently, I’m undergoing the Jerwood Arts Creative fellowship with MIF19. I also work full time at the Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation, and am a board member for Young Identity. 

How would you sum up the style of your art in three words?

Personal, poignant and political. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

Everyday is different as an artist! Although I work full time, I often am performing at gigs throughout the week, or am in meetings about creative possibilities. This week, I opened for Benjamin Zephaniah!

What’s your process when creating a new piece?

My process varies. I spend 10 minutes each morning, as soon as I wake up to free write. Free writing is an exercise I find the most helpful. It is a technique where you write without thinking about it. The trick is to not let your pen lift off the page. I often find the most interesting things to interrogate through free writing. 

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

That’s a tricky one! I want to say it was back in 2017. I was freelancing for a while and co-wrote a poetic piece of theatre with some of my poet pals from Young Identity. We did a 4 night run of Hatch – a post-apocalyptic story of survival. Although I was used to being on stage as a performer, acting was a whole new ball game. I learnt so much about performance and about myself that I didn’t know before. It also left me with a real hunger for making and performing, like never before. 

What’s been a particular challenge that you’ve managed to overcome?

I think the hardest and most terrifying challenge as a writer is having writer's block. At times I’ve gone over a year without writing. This has happened when I’m going through personal issues, but I learn that every time I push myself, I can get through it. The key is resilience. 

Why did you apply for the Jerwood Creative Fellows?

I applied for this fellowship to give me a chance to learn every aspect of making work at such a large and international scale. I wanted to compare practices, and widen my network of creatives from other disciplines. So far, I am really getting to know the rest of the cohort, and it’s been a pleasure immersing myself in to the commission I am attached to. 

What was your career path to entering the creative industry?

Although I’d always been a creative, I never thought I’d be following my passions in to a career. When I was in my final year of my Creative Writing and English Literature undergrad at university, one of the modules that I chose made it compulsory for us to find a placement. Everyone on my course was looking at publishing houses and frankly, I found the idea of that boring. I wanted to be somewhere creative where I could share my practices as a writer, but in turn, soak up a new environment that was lively. Studying my degree made writing slightly overwhelming and I needed to remind myself of why I was doing the degree. I wanted to tell stories. Having taken part in a slam when I was 17 and in college with Young Identity’s Wordsmith’s project, I already knew I had to connect with them again. Shirley May, who runs the organisation, took me under her wing, nurturing me, whilst giving me some brilliant opportunities and tough love. She, alongside Reece Williams, Nicole May and Ali Gadema pushed me to a potential I never knew existed. I will always thank them for that. 

Given your work with young and marginalised people, why do you think it’s important for these people to engage in the arts?

Why wouldn’t it be? Growing up as a creative, art has not been accessible to me. I want to make sure that the art I make is with and for people rather than done to them. It has to be engaging, and meaningful. There has to be a give and take with it. Otherwise, there is no point for us as artists to make work.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

PERSEVERE! Sometimes it gets hard, and the opportunities are rare, however, if you love what you do, push yourself to be good at it and keep your passion alive then you’ll succeed! Also, get a money job, it’s hard out here being an artist!

Who are the artists/creatives that you’re most inspired by, and who should we be looking out for?

Definitely inspired by everyone in Young Identity. They are the most important voices in Manchester right now, and I am so proud to be representing them and be a part of their journey. Watch out for these young people! 

And if you could send a message to the 16-year old you, what would you say?

Love yourself, sis. Write, write, write. HYDRATE. 

What is one thing that gives you hope for the future?

Working with young people is a reminder that the future is in good hands. My hope is that the young people I work with and know go and make the world a better place. 

Where can people find out more about you?

Twitter: @nasimabee 

Instagram: @nasimabeepoet

Header Image Credit: Provided by MIF


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe..

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