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Festival News: Soul on Ice explores the human condition

Image credit: Hannah Finn by Mark Morreau

Eight years ago, Clive Lyttle launched a festival of diversity via his arts development organisation Certain Blacks, each series of events inspired by a specific theme. Clive has named his first 2024 venture Soul on Ice, after the 1968 memoir by former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. The Soul on Ice programme invites audiences to a range of creative responses to questions about the human condition, diversity, identity and improvisation.

Image credit: How To Build a Universe photo by Genevieve Reeves

Soul on Ice runs from March 1-17 opening at The Place with How To Build a Universe choreographed by Jamaal Burkman and performed by his company, Extended Play. Drawing on sci-fi and pop culture, five dancers embark on a playful and part improvised adventure together. “We’re really excited to be opening the festival with this work” says Jamaal, a former winner of the prestigious New Adventures Choreography Award. “We’ve created it in the hope that anyone and everyone could be a part of it, so we’re hoping that anyone and everyone will enjoy watching it too”. The Place has co-commissioned this new, touring work alongside Certain Blacks, the two organisations collaborating for the first time.

An esteemed collective of Chicago Jazz musicians visit London for an exclusive performance as The Katalyst Conversation take over Rich Mix on March 14. Featuring free jazz pioneers Vincent Davis, Ari Brown and Ed Wilkerson who were all former members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians that flourished in Chicago in the late 1960s. They’re joined by Preyas Roy and  be collaborating with London’s Miles Danso: Ensemble, Keith Waithe, Maurice Brown, Gary Washington and Siemy Di.

Image credit: The Cocoa Butter Club by Aimee McGhee

The Cocoa Butter Club bring their signature cabaret to Rich Mix on Friday March 15 with Zaki Musa, circus and boylesque performer, Jordan Charles winner of Pride’s Got Talent 2023, showstopping circus artist Symoné, who has a Guinness World Record to her name, Mimi Sugarpill, neo-burlesque performer and ‘petite powerhouse’ and Ezme Pump with their flair for the dramatic and ‘wheeze for the tease’.

Founded by Sadie Sinner aka Mwice Kavindele as a challenge to the performing arts landscape, Mwice joined forces with Cassie Leon celebrating queer performers of colour. Says Cassie “It’s really exciting to work with a company that prioritises work from Black creators and it's great to be recognised as a collective who are striving for the same thing. Certain Blacks has an amazing reach and track record of producing brilliant work across genres. It's exciting to be a part of this festival and be a part of the important history of circus and cabaret."

Contortion Girl AKA Hannah Finn performs he highly personal work Chochma on March 16 combining both her heritage and physical dexterity. Says Hannah: “Chochma uses powerful stories of survival in the past, in order to find my own inner strength and empower my future. This piece fuses contemporary dance, breakdance, contortion, physical theatre, spoken word and projection.

The word Chochma means wisdom in Hebrew. It draws upon the inner strength of my female ancestors, speaking to the intuition and wisdom of my great-grandmother, who fled Poland just before the Holocaust, my mother's decision to leave an abusive relationship and my own experiences of hidden disabilities. The connecting thread between these generations of women is their trust in their own inner knowing and intuition. I use the feral, untamed wild woman archetype from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes to weave these stories together."

Image credit: Bold Mellon Collective by Rodion Kolomiichenko

Earlier the same day, Give or Take comes courtesy of Bold Mellon Collective, an interactive, intimate piece considering gift giving as both an act of remembrance and a contract, bargain and transaction. Devised and performed by Tatar multidisciplinary artist facilitator Emilia Nurmukhamet and queer artist Dear Annie, Give or Take is inspired by Emilia’s memories of giving and receiving 'sadaqah', or voluntary offerings, at her Tatar family celebrations and days of remembrance. Combining elements of a live game with stylised storytelling and commissioned by Certain Blacks, the piece features a sound score interwoven with live spoken text. “Soul on Ice is a Festival of daring works that take risks” says Emilia “As queer, trans and migrant creatives, we can be perceived as 'risky' and we feel authentically enlivened by Certain Blacks support, expressing ourselves with full hearts, bared open. As artists working within the intersections of our experience and breaking barriers, we feel grateful to be part of a creative festival with a nurturing and permissive multidisciplinary approach, celebrating difference and diversity”.

Image credit: Mama Afrika by Gideon Graylyons

In Mama Afrika on Sunday March 17, Zimbabwean-born musician and storyteller Anna Mudeka tells the remarkable life story of South African singer, songwriter and civil rights activist, Miriam Makeba, charting her rise from the townships of Johannesburg to global star, forced into exile for her stand against apartheid and marginalised for championing Black rights. Mama Afrika is a story of hope, determination and features many of Makeba's best loved songs.

“It makes me feel empowered realising that out of the 16 date tour we have a Black arts development organisation championing and recognising my work” says Anna. “We need more of this, but it is testimony to an organisation thinking ahead and allowing space for Black artists to thrive and dream of what's possible”

Certain Blacks Soul on Ice Festival runs from March 1-17, for more information visit

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