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Olivia Hannah on writing Braids

When I started writing Braids, it was quite a personal story about growing up in a rural area. I felt like there was a (understandable) focus on urban Black stories and I never really saw my experience reflected in drama. But I also wanted to write about the North East, my adopted home of 15 years. I really wanted to give the play a sense of place. When we decided Abeni would be from Manchester, it also gave an opportunity to show that the North is not a monolith. It has varied identities, and experiences for black people in the North are varied, too.

I think this play is important because it's a perspective we rarely see, if ever. It's a missing piece of the mosaic of British experience. When it comes to family, my own experience is that both of my parents thought race was a non-issue for me and we never had those important conversations at home, and that may be the case for a lot of mixed race people. I think it's important for families simply to acknowledge issues of identity and welcome questions and discussion. We don't all need to have all the answers, just a willingness to talk about things.

For the future... I don't know! I hope we succeed in having Braids at Live Theatre. I've had so much support from Live as an emerging writer and I think of it as my "home" theatre. I also just think it's a great fit for Live and their audience. But there is so much uncertainty at the moment, who knows where we'll be after all this? One thing I would love for Braids in the future is for it to be performed by young people at college, at uni, youth theatres... And localised to fit different regions. It could just as easily be a play about growing up mixed race in rural Wales and I wouldn't have a problem with it being adapted for something like that.

Olivia Hannah

  • Arts Council England
  • Community Foundation
  • European Regional Development Fund


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