Performing and Visual Arts
Features, Fall 2021
"Many of my female students said, 'I want to be a photographer and travel the world just like you.' When you see this spark in girls’ eyes, as they realize another life is possible when they cast off the limiting side of customs of where they live, you feel your mission is completed."
How long have you been a Londoner? Where are you from, where do you live right now?
I’ve been living in East London for three and a half years. I moved from Turkey with my partner because we felt more and more constrained in Turkey. I’ve always found London an inspiring, soul-nurturing city. At the moment, I’m searching for what I can do instead of photography. I’m trying to be nurtured from multiple channels at the same time. We’ve been vegan for the last six years, and I’m heavily invested in this journey. I just finished vegan chef training. I keep thinking that what will save us is giving up harmful habits. Therefore, I’m leading a life focused on food at the moment. I’m not going onto the streets with signs protesting animal consumption. But I’m trying to help end this and other things by being involved with what we eat.
How did you come to be conscious of what you eat and its impact?
In Turkey, adults teach children to befriend animals. Then all of a sudden, children see animals being slaughtered right in front of them during the Feast of Sacrifice. Of course, the adults do not realise the trauma they’re causing. After witnessing animal slaughter when I was four years old, I stopped eating meat. My twin brother has not reacted in the same way and is not troubled. I have been researching the ways women are more prone to understand and grieve wounded beings, whereas most men seem to have no problem adjusting to killing animals to eat. There are more vegan women than vegan men. As a four year old, I vividly remember being the “problematic” child, forced to eat white meat, running away from the bone broth smell.
Happiness of making your own fermented vegan cheese
There are so many aspects to your personality: you are a photographer and founder of a darkroom for refugee children. Now you are working as an assistant in a kitchen. You’re a mother and a migrant from Turkey to the UK. What ideals keep you going?
Oh wow, now I understand why I’m tired! I studied journalism and photography in university. We had photography classes, even a darkroom in my high school. My dream was to be a war correspondent, but I became scared of this dream when I saw that journalists were dying. But when I saw their photos, I always felt, “I should have been there.” I’ve always been idealistic. Where did this come from? I do not really know. My family is from the Black Sea region. I don't know why, but I have always felt closer to Kurdish people. I left Istanbul where I was settled, became a travel photographer and moved to Mardin where I fell in love with Can and decided to stay there.
With an Istanbul mentality, you would not choose to live in Mardin. You would not want to visit. It’s a border zone, too far away from Istanbul. It’s seen as dangerous, even though people are ignorant about life there. Throughout my life, I’ve wanted to be on the side of the disadvantaged and hurt. When I married and decided to stay in Mardin, I made friends with women who were married just like me but did not have the same freedom. Many women could not go shopping; they had to ask their husbands for clothing. Our neighbor's daughter ran away from her family because of this. I wanted to be the voice of these women, to communicate their reality to others. The "others" were those in the western part of Turkey. Sirkhane Darkroom started from this same desire. The darkroom was a place for Syrian children to take photos about their experiences. The drive to share what I learn is what keeps me going, a search to answer the question, "what difference can I make to another person?" My mind keeps making connections, like a spider web, and how I can show this to others drives me.
Dappa Drop – vegan food enterprises photographed by Emel
A girl selling fresh chickpeas in Mardin
Emel's co-authored new book on "50 ideas on Veganism"
Fermenti – another vegan female-led small business photographed by Emel
Without realizing it, you find nourishment from many channels. Even though I still doubt whether I made the right decision to have a child in this troubled world, I learn so much from my son. Meanwhile, my views on motherhood and the way I see my own mother have completely changed. I look at women who are mothers and trying to survive, women whose lives are lived differently from mine, who work slavishly their whole lives. What keeps me going is these women, the women who cannot go to the shopping centre alone, the young woman forced to leave her house, the Kurdish women who need to escape to the mountains. These are the women who keep me going, who are forever in my mind. The most inspiring feeling for me in Mardin was being an example for the local girls. It’s the custom for teenage girls to be married, burdened by house maintenance and raising kids at a young age. When they see a female like me working independently, they respond in amazement. They see it’s possible for them too. They saw me as a role model, saying “I want to be like her.” Many of my female students said, “I want to be a photographer and travel the world just like you.” When you see this spark in girls’ eyes, as they realize another life is possible when they cast off the customs of where they live, you feel your mission is completed. Through the workshops in and around the darkroom, we witnessed young women unwilling to accept a life defined largely by the pressures of life as a traditional housekeeper and wife.
Sirkhane's first exhibition poster in Arabic
When Emel used to bring darkroom home
What are the difficulties you face, both in Turkey and in the UK?
When I first came to London, I was twenty-four. I had given up a dream photo editor job on a leading magazine in Istanbul/Bebek. I used to commute with a Vespa, and my dad used to tell me, "please Emel, cover your hair." Because I was a woman driving a motorbike, I got cornered by other drivers, assaulted on the road. I used my middle finger quite often during those times. I wanted to move into a loft, alone. Despite being modern, my family was not supportive as I was not married. When I arrived here, I felt liberated. I was tired of the values and societal dynamics exhausting women. Now as a woman who is also a mother, I value so much here. I feel taken care of. The fact that you can walk everywhere with a baby around London is significant for me. When people see my son Aki with me, they offer their seats. That’s important to me. Whilst I feel more valued in London as a woman, I struggle as a migrant. No matter what you do, you begin from behind. This is a fact, but I still think this could be more intense in other cities which are less multicultural.
Can we say making your recipes from scratch demonstrates your will to maintain an interspecies harmony? Your food choices are a way of addressing grief around the climate?
Absolutely. My drive to be vegan peaked after I started breastfeeding. Not eating meat is important, but milk cannot be left unaddressed. I gave birth in London at a breastfeeding-friendly hospital. Nurses and midwives came around to assist me with the feeding. Somehow, I managed to breastfeed Aki for two years. Despite my son's needs, my memories are painful. I remember the electric breast pump, resulting in pain, irritation, and cystitis. I considered that I had to do this one time, but the cows have to do it all their lives for us to have milk. It doesn’t sit right with me. I understand this being misunderstood. However, if we want to end interspecies suffering, lifestyle changes must happen. There cannot be fundamental change without stopping milk consumption.
You are the founder of Sirkhane Darkroom. How do you feel about something you started from zero receiving international recognition?
I want people who support it to go visit if they can, to be inspired. It’s my dream to found a plant-based culinary school as a community kitchen in Mardin, with people from all cultural backgrounds. It would be like Made in Hackney is here. Everybody will cook together, share the experience and learn to live together eventually.
That was the aim of the Sirkhane Darkroom. The children had been exposed to countless biased stories about people from other backgrounds. This changed through the children’s photos. Children from Syrian, Turkish, and Kurdish backgrounds exposed their families to each other through the photographs they took. These are the kinds of projects we should offer in areas where there is a lot of forced immigration. Projects of cohesion are not supported because of the excuse of limited resources. There were so many children who did not know the function of the camera they were holding, what this box was about. Now they tell me they can never look at the world the same way after seeing it through the lens, without thinking about making "a good photograph”.
Photos taken by Sirkhane students
Sirkhane Darkroom is now continued by Serbest Salih. You can purchase Sirkhane's photobook "i saw the air fly" published by Mack Books here.
Features, Summer 2021
Emerging Voices is pleased to present further voices from Fizzy Sherbet Podcast and Plays: Carving the space for Womxn Writers.
Our March issue features a video of the co-founders, Lily McLeish and Tamara von Werthern, along with the
other members of the collective.
See this here.
Here’s a further introduction to three of the team, along with the works they’ve directed and/or written.
Sandra Theresa Buch works in theatre education as a dramaturg, workshop leader and lecturer. She trained
as a director and dramaturg at RADA and Copenhagen University. Since 2016, she has been head of the BA
in Play Writing Program at the Danish National School of Performing Arts. She is currently a member of The
Reumert Prize committee, the prestigious annual awards ceremony which recognizes excellence in theatre achievement in Denmark.
Director of Lemons:
Lemons by Tamara von Werthern is a beautiful and disturbing memory piece – a poetic essay about
unrequited love. Reading it, I remember feeling a sense of recognition. It was exactly how I felt about Brexit.
The piece embodies opposites like love and loathing, engagement and alienation, revenge and (perhaps)
acceptance. It’s full of inspiring images and landscapes. Above all, it has a serene, honest and authentic feel
to its structure and language. I asked Tamara to perform the piece herself, rather than having an actor do so.
Keeping it simple, I went with a spoken word concept, supporting her words and story with atmospheric
soundscapes and a recurring, brutal sound event to move and disturb the listener. The brutality of Brexit is
expressed through and against Tamara's soft voice and personal story.
Sandra Theresa Buch - Director & Dramaturg
Excerpt of 'Lemons' – listen to the full play here.
Anna Girvan is a theatre director from Newcastle Upon Tyne, now based in London. She is Associate Director for Tom Stoppard’s Olivier Award winning latest play Leopoldstadt. Anna will be directing a new adaptation of The Invisible Man by Philip Correia for Northern Stage in Newcastle in January 2022. Past experiences range
from devising adult pantomimes to being a Creative Fellow at the RSC. Presently, Anna is working with a stand-up comedian directing their upcoming piece for the Camden Fringe in August.
Director of …blackbird hour:
...blackbird hour is one play from a trilogy by babirye bukilwa. A painfully honest, multi-layered and poetic journey, it follows a woman dealing with mental health issues. babirye has created a complex character, one who is black, female and queer. Profoundly unique in one sense, this creation also mirrors the universality of countless mental health struggles. babirye’s stylistic boldness and fearless writing drew me in from the start. I’m compelled to dive into stories and lives far different from my own, ones which frighten me with the realization of how ignorant I am. blackbird overwhelmed and moved me.
Director of Jellyfish Blooms:
Jellyfish Blooms is a monologue from the perspective of a jellyfish. Inspired by the book, Art of Living on a Damaged Planet, Marie Bjørn originally wrote this piece for stage where it has been performed in Denmark by a trio of actors. In our podcast, it is one voice reaching out from the depths of the ocean. The voice is an ignored, forgotten, feared and misunderstood ‘monster’. It has come to remind us it has been around for a lot
longer than us humans and knows a thing or two. I loved the absurdity, dark comedy and intelligence of this piece. The voice is one of revolution, optimism and defiance but also nostalgia, play and wonderment. Working with a Danish playwright and Danish actor was a dream come true .
Anna Girvan - Director
Excerpt of '...blackbird hour' – listen to the full play here.
Excerpt of 'Jellyfish Blooms' – listen to the full play here.
Josephine Starte is an award-winning writer performer working in theatre and film. She’s particularly interested in tragicomedy, poetry, psychoanalysis, and the space between fiction and documentary. Josephine co-directs the critically acclaimed theatre company Live Beasts (called "a reason to be cheerful" by Tim Crouch), and co-founded GUM Improv, nominated for Best Group at the Phoenix Comedy Awards.
A member of BFI Network and BAFTA Crew, she was an invited Drama Fellow for the Alpine Fellowship at
their Venice Symposium. Her past work has been called "very cool" by show-runner Joey Soloway and
"beautiful, hilarious and painful at once" by poet John Burnside.
Writer of Hornet:
Set in a gallery, Hornet takes us into the mind of a pregnant young woman as she recalls a relationship with an older artist. It may have been coercive, and equally, may have been a passionate love story.
Partially inspired by a true story, I wrote it as an exploration of how a relationship is archived and held in the body, and the slipperiness of language surrounding love and abuse.
Josephine Starte -
Co-Host of the Fizzy Sherbet Podcast
Excerpt of 'Hornet' – listen to the full play here.
I was born and mostly raised in London – 41 years now – with a little bit of Germany in the
story. I currently live in North London’s Haringey, where I’ve been most of my life.
My stepfather was a photographer, and I used to assist him when I was a teenager. My
first career was actually as a writer. I worked for a few newspapers and did freelance
work. I still write, but I started photography when I was about 26. I was given an
analogue camera, a Minolta, which I still have and which still works. I discovered that
everything I tried to express in writing came so much easier in photography. When I
was developing films, they emerged right out of my head, and I became addicted to
In Summer 2019, I worked on a number of series. I took a lot of photographs, in
different stages, with very small changes in between, and displayed them as darkroom
prints. Then I had a moment when I knew I wanted to compress them all into one
image. That’s when I started working with multiple exposures where a small action
takes place in every exposure . I thought about how time can become a material thing
and how human perception of time is not something we learn; it’s a natural way of
existence. But to make ourselves aware of time is a project in itself. That’s what I try to
do with my work.
I always shoot analogue for my artwork because the relationship between camera and time is integral and much stronger with analogue photography. There’s a direct link to the passage of time, whether it’s light hitting the camera or shutter speed or the time it takes to process a negative.
I’ve been making darkroom prints only recently – just two years. In the past, when I was only photographing for work, I made fun of film photographers. I saw them as people buying into this expensive Instagram filter, being retro-cool. I didn’t try to get into analogue processes until I tried to master it. That involved hours and days and evenings in the darkroom: learning the skill of analogue photography again. Skill is essential to fluency, and fluency is crucial to being clear.
A strongly developed technical approach is central in exploring the relationship between time and analogue. Darkroom work is very meditative. It’s not something to be rushed. Making one print can take a day, a week, or a month to get right. A concentration of time goes into this object: the photograph. It brings “weight” to the work, manifesting time as a physical thing.
"So much time in our hands.
Hours spent watching the sun trace slow points of arc across the flock wallpaper,
shadows thrown by the plants standing guard by the window.
The sounds of the high-street drifting by, scooters and sirens, gulls and crows.
Time becomes this solid thing, a weight, a pressure.
Something to be held in two hands and put into place: and so we build."
Apocalypse literally means "unveiling or uncovering". I may sound old now and I know I
am not, but for the last 10-15 years time has been speeding up. Lockdown was like a
hand brake. Everything had to pause, to stop. Everybody stayed home, and the reality
of time manifested in daily lives. Weeks and days passed without anything happening,
dislocating time. I was interested in finding clues to this frozenness, especially in the
first lockdown right before Easter. It’s weird to be documenting something historically
important. At the moment, you’re not aware of being at a turning point. When I realized
the significance of the time I was inhabiting, I sought to document the world at standstill. Something personal for me was universal.
Another lockdown work, Manifold Series, has several meanings. In physics, it means
dimension. For me, it was manifesting sites of trauma from my personal history, creating
time-based sculptures which represent my traumas and my memories. In the primary
school shots, I was seeking to occupy the space with memories that exist in and out
of time, the relationship between space and memory. Memory doesn’t rest in a fixed
position and is never precise. Most of our memories are a series of time past,
compressed into one moment. I am trying to make things that signify that time/memory
A lot of my work has to do with personal history. When you extract the trauma, you separate it from yourself, quarantining it. I took a lot of photos in different parts of the school. There was a room with perfect light in it, and a chair right at the corner. It reminded me of sitting on the chair and looking up to the teacher while she spoke.
When I was at school, I was unhappy and felt hidden in the corner, fading away. I wanted to build a structure to represent that. In these pieces, the point of view looks down on the sculpture. I sought to spread in and out of time and space, capturing how I felt as a child. It was an attempt to rehabilitate myself. In modeling moments of trauma, you can accept yourself in the space. It’s a healing process.
The #1 Bus Chronicles
White: A Memoir in Color
Joel Katz is an American filmmaker and educator whose chosen genres are documentary and memoir/essay. His best-known film Strange Fruit, about the history of the anti-lynching protest song made famous by Billie Holiday, is in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Since 1996 Joel has been a Professor in the Media Arts Department of New Jersey City University,
We’re pleased to introduce Joel via a video conversation recorded in April, 2021. In addition, we’re presenting six clips to introduce his three films: Strange Fruit (2002); White: A Memoir in Color (2011) and The #1 Bus Chronicles (2020).
To view any and all of Joel's films, you can get an access password by emailing email@example.com. We'll send it to you.
Joel Katz interview: Origins
Joel Katz interview: Film Summaries
The #1 Bus Chronicles Trailer
Joel Katz interview: My Father's Story
Joel Katz interview: Whiteness: An Acquired Status
Joel Katz - My Father's Story
White: A Memoir in Color. Trailer 1
Joel Katz interview: The Adoption Process
White: A Memoir in Color. Trailer 2
Joel Katz interview: Color Isn't All There Is
Joel Katz interview: High School Kids
Joel Katz interview: Teacher
Strange Fruit Trailer
To view any and all of Joel's films, you can get an access password by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll send it to you.
Features, Spring 2021
Fizzy Sherbet was born at the end of 2016, just after the US presidential election. Theatre director
Lily McLeish and playwright Tamara von Werthern met for a coffee. They were enraged that a man,
on record saying horrible things about women and accused of unforgivable acts, had just moved into a position of massive power. Women’s voices were being silenced and female narratives were dismissed.
Born in outrage, Fizzy Sherbet aims to amplify women’s voices and provide a safe space in which they can be heard loud and clear. Lily and Tamara already had a strong interest in addressing gender inequality in the theatre industry. The logical next step was to put these ideas into practice. A call-out sought short plays written by women. The language was to be English, but worldwide submissions were invited. There were no restrictions nor given themes, simply compelling stories.
They were overwhelmed by the response. Many hundreds of plays from all over landed in the Fizzy Sherbet inbox, from places including Hawaii, Italy, Germany, the US, Canada, and the UK. Tamara organized a series of readings at an East London venue, the Hackney Attic. Not only did they sell well (the most-attended gig at the venue that year), but a lot of attention from the theatre industry ensued. Most importantly, they connected writers, actors, and directors, all of whom mingled in the bar in that pre-Covid era of freedom to mix.
Seven writers began the pilot season: Marie Bjørn (Denmark), Babirye Bukilwa (UK), Eve Leigh
(UK/US/Ukraine), Amy Ng (UK/Hong Kong), Buhle Ngaba (South Africa), Josephine Starte
(UK/Australia) and Tamara von Werthern (Germany/UK). After their play reading, each writer was
interviewed, alongside a guest who added another dimension to issues raised by the play.
Fizzy Sherbet has gained listeners in over 25 countries around the world, and has had over 1600
downloads of its initial eight episodes. In November 2020, Fizzy Sherbet won a Special Mention at
The Sarah Awards, an international fiction in podcasting award based in New York. It honoured
episode six of their pilot season, WHITE TUESDAY, written by Eve Leigh and directed by Lily McLeish.
Lemons was written and performed by Tamara von Werthern, directed by Sandra Theresa Buch, Sound Design by Esben Tjalve (Extract from Episode 1)
Special Occasions was written by Amy Ng, directed by Lily McLeish, performed by Jenna Augen and Ruth Marie Kröger, Sound Design by Julian Starr (Extract from Episode 4)
White Tuesday was written by Eve Leigh, directed by Lily McLeish, performed by Jennifer Jackson and Evelyn Miller, Sound Design by Julian Starr (Extract from Episode 6)
For the entire podcast of White Tuesday please visit fizzysherbet.podbean.com
Find Fizzy Sherbet on Apple, Spotify or
All women and non-binary people from anywhere in the world, and of any age, can submit short
plays (10-20 minutes) written (or translated into) English on any topic (but with a cast of no more
than four actors). Send your plays to email@example.com to be considered for the
When the first lockdown started, Lily and Tamara recreated Fizzy Sherbet so it could function independently of venues being open or shut. They launched as a podcast. An added benefit was the ability to reach audiences across the globe as well as to encourage worldwide submissions.
The impact of continuous lockdowns on the theatre industry is dire. Early indications are that women will be more affected than men, and women are already underrepresented and in increased danger of being pushed out of the industry. Gains made in the last three and a half years in redressing gender inequality are in danger of being erased. Fizzy Sherbet seeks to prevent further erosion and to build a robust female theatrical presence.
Lily and Tamara assembled a team of seven female theatremakers. It includes producer Steph Weller, director Anna Girvan, dramaturge/director (and leader of the Playwriting School Denmark) Sandra Theresa Buch, producer Ameena Hamid and actor/writer Josephine Starte. The team started zooming across three different countries, thinking and planning together. Working as a collective brought strong connections and counteracted the depressing reality of lockdown. See the collective in action above.
Cover Art by Alice Mueller
Visual Arts Features, Winter 2020
Visual Arts Feature, Winter 2020
Visual Arts Feature, Winter 2020
Visual Arts Feature, Winter 2020
Summer Features, 2020:
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