The most inspiring people are those who prioritise care, curiosity and collaboration.
The following people have inspired me through their imagination, vision, artistry and activism. What they all hold in common is prioritising care in the way they work and taking an interdisciplinary, open and collaborative approach to what they do.
Zain Dada - Creative Producer and Writer
For me, working with Zain is an experience fuelled by deep conversation, learning and unlearning, collaboration, shared vision and big belly laughs. We worked closely together as producers at Free Word and as freelance producing partners beyond that.
As well as being a talented playwright, award-winning filmmaker and comic/zine maker, Zain uses his creativity, knowledge and grassroots DIY experience to bring people together and make all kinds of things happen in a way I find inspiring. Among other things, Zain is the Co-Founder of Khidr Collective Zine, which platforms the work of British Muslims, and Khidr Comix Lab, a space for Black, Brown and Muslim storytellers to innovate and experiment within the comics medium.
Zain has a trademark knack for imparting deep wisdom with humility and warmth and a nuanced understanding of so many things, political, cultural, creative and spiritual. I have learned so much from Zain and continue to do so.
Sudha Bhuchar - Writer, Actor and Artistic Director and Kristine Landon-Smith – Director and Educator
Sudha and Kristine co-founded Tamasha, an organisation for emerging and established artists of colour, way back in 1989. Tamasha played a key role in transforming whose stories were seen and heard on stages and screens in the UK. I worked at Tamasha from 2011 during a number of years when Sudha and Kristine were at the helm. They are both super inspiring women whose influence shaped my career and worldview.
Sudha approaches all her work with sensitivity, consideration and nuance. She takes time to listen with curiosity. Encouraging and nurturing others is her MO and I love the way she digs deep – telling stories in collaboration with those she writes about. Sudha prioritises the creative process as much as the product, a practice I aim for in my own work.
Kristine has always been way ahead of the curve in her thinking and practice, which uses deep connection and play to centre an artist-performer’s own cultural context and lived experience. I am especially inspired by how she balances clarity, rigour and vision with an unwavering belief in the inherent creativity of everyone she works with.
Soofiya - Visual Artist and Educator
Soofiya is a true visionary. Their therapeutically informed, playful practice centres around illustration and design, transcending one artform to combine multiple approaches. I am in love with their vibrant, 80s inspired aesthetic.
I have worked with Soofiya at Free World on their solo installation ‘Soof in Private’, their ritualistic creative workshop ‘(A) Wake for Gender’ and the punchy multi-arts season ‘Finding Power’. Soofiya has an effortless way of looking at things from unexpected angles and making them appear new. They have a natural ability to reframe big ideas and deeply personal subject matters with abundant truth and creativity. For me, working with Soofiya has proved to be an indelible lesson in taking an imaginative, curious and care-centred approach not just to work, but also life.
Ama Josephine Budge – Curator, Writer and Pleasure Activist
Ama’s creative work and thinking is expansive and always inventive. She navigates the vital terrain of challenging climate injustices through queer, decolonised and pleasure-centred practices. I worked with her Apocalypse Reading Room installation, a post-apocalyptic book-filled bunker that asked whether we could ever read enough to shape a new future. I learned so much through talking to Ama during this time, through her direct challenges and quick ideas. Given the emergence of the pandemic in the following year, her Science Fiction as Activism writing course could not have been more apt and transformative.
Suzanne Alleyne – Cultural Thinker and Strategist
I have worked with Suzanne in several guises over recent years and the thing that strikes me every time is her ability to communicate seemingly complex ideas and processes with piercing clarity and authenticity. Suzanne has a unique way of making everyone in any given space feel seen, heard and valued, while challenging with curiosity and sparking new concepts. Her work on the neurology of power and self-care versus career development is ground-breaking. I can’t wait to see where it goes in 2021.
Clare Callan is a creative producer, currently at People United and freelance.