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Why do you think it’s important that we celebrate Black History Month, Phil Okwedy?

Wednesday, 11 October

Black History Month UK


Artist Interview

We chatted with first-class storyteller, Phil Okwedy (Adverse Camber) about his upcoming show The Gods Are All Here, the importance of celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth and the significance of storytelling within the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and your work?

"My name is Phil Okwedy and I’m a performance storyteller - which means that at the core of my work is the telling of folktales and fairytales on stages and at festivals to adult audiences.

However, my show, The Gods Are All Here, builds on previous work weaving together not only traditional stories but also myth, personal experience and family history with a musical thread running throughout the whole piece."

Adverse Camber Production The Gods Are All Here Main Image Hi Res

"My mother was from Cardiff, which is where I was born but my father was from Nigeria. They were never married, or even together in any real sense of the word, so I did not grow up with them but with a long-term foster parent. I did know my birth mother and when she died I found amongst her things a series of letters written to her by my father who had returned to Nigeria a few years after my birth. Those letters provided the catalyst for The Gods Are All Here and the sharing of one of the stories they can tell lays at the heart of the show."

Adverse Camber Production The Gods Are All Here Phil Okwedy Publicity Shoot 068

Why do you think its important that we celebrate Black History Month?

"Because there is so much to celebrate! For instance, did you know that DNA testing by scientists has revealed that 7500 years ago the first migrants to Britain had black skin? Or that there were two black ladies in waiting at the Scottish court during the Tudor period who had servants and horses of their own. I grew up knowing none of these things but thanks to things like Black History month, this kind of marginalised history is no longer buried and books like ‘Brilliant Black British History’ by my fellow storyteller, Atinuke, are adding much to the weight of our knowledge.

If we are truly to understand the past, and by so doing, create better futures for us all then it is essential that we celebrate black history, and indigenous history and the history of all marginalised people and groups.

So, while it is great that we celebrate Black History Month, it is also time we moved forward, as we have in Wales with the setting up of Black History Cymru 365, to celebrate the history and contributions of black people and other marginalised groups throughout the year."



Adverse Camber Production The Gods Are All Here

What role do you think storytelling has in the Black Lives Matter Movement?

"It’s crucial. We all tell stories all the time. As human beings we are the storytelling animal. In fact, we can’t help ourselves because we think in stories, make sense of the world by storying it and create meaning from the telling of stories. So, if we want to make ourselves understood, understand others, then story is our main tool for that. Of course, storytelling has come to mean many things, from the orality of what I do to writing, photography, film, music and so many other forms, but all come under that heading and so all contribute to the storytelling around Black Lives Matter."

Adverse Camber Production The Gods Are All Here Phil Okwedy Show 018

Your show explores your personal experiences of growing up as a child of dual heritage. If you could go back in time, what would you like to tell your younger self?

"That dual heritage, or “jewel heritage” as a friend calls it, is a plus not a minus. That it makes you rich in culture and experience and gives you a unique perspective. So, I think I’d tell myself to be braver, to stand my ground and speak my own truth to whoever needs to hear it."

Adverse Camber Production The Gods Are All Here Phil Okwedy Show 078

We'd like to thank Phil for this interview.

For more information on upcoming performances of The Gods Are All Here please visit our what's on page here.

You can find out more about celebrating Black History Month here.

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