Co-Founder of Burn Bright Tori Allen-Martin talks about New Writing Showcase ‘Hear Me Roar’
Creating a space and opportunities for writers who identify as women to showcase new work, Burn Bright, co-founded by Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley offers mentorship and feedback sessions from industry professionals with their Time Bank initiative, insight into the industry with their newly launched podcast featuring a range of creatives, the opportunity to network with their Connect Series as well as hosting digital showcases. Their next event, Hear Me Roar will showcase new work from writers Chantelle Dusette, Gail Egbeson, Soph Galustian, Tiwa Lade, Lauren Nicole Mayes, Anna Morris and Pegeen Murphy. Ahead of the event, Tori tells us more about the importance of creating these spaces, a featured interview with playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm – writer of award winning play Emilia and what to expect from the event.
Hi Tori, Burn Bright will be hosting ‘Hear Me Roar’, an online event marking the anniversary of lockdown. How are you feeling ahead of the event?
I’m excited for it and I’m ready – it’s weird thinking the next event might actually be an in person event! It’s crazy that we’ve basically been locked up for a year – what on earth!? We set up Burn Bright during the first lockdown so the fact that it’s been going for a year and we’ve not even been in a room together yet to celebrate it is a madness! It feels nice to commemorate things this way and also nice to look forward to a brighter future. It’s so important to keep programming events that encourage unity because it’s a struggle for everyone right now and I fear so many special artists will find it to impossible to keep creating work because it’s hard enough to be a creative even without a pandemic! I’m proud that we’ve been able to offer opportunities to hopefully help keep some artists inspired and busy and I hope this event will bring some fire as we look forward to the future.
‘Hear Me Roar’ will showcase new writing – offering writers the opportunity to say the unsaid, address social injustice and champion women facing adversity. Why is this important?
We spend so much of our lives feeling like we should conform to societal pressures, especially as women – be that what we look like or when we should settle down or when we have kids and how we should parent and so on. I love when people just throw off the shackles and realise there’s no wrong or right way to do things and that there’s no timeline that dictates how our lives should look. I always remind the students I teach that you are the one thing that seven billion other people in the world can’t do – so do more of it. Any opportunity that encourages people to come exactly as they are always excites and inspires me. I think women are taught to shrink themselves, to take up less space, we’re often pit against each other too but when the sisterhood comes together it’s a force to be reckoned with and we need more safe spaces to do that – I’m glad Burn Bright is proving to be one of those spaces.
The line-up of writers taking part are Chantelle Dusette, Gail Egbeson, Soph Galustian, Tiwa Lade, Lauren Nicole Mayes, Anna Morris and Pegeen Murphy. How did you approach organising the line up?
It was a mixture. I was obsessed with Soph’s work as I’d seen it on social media and we already followed each other, so I knew she’d be perfect for this. I’d just worked with Chantelle Dusette, directing a brilliant piece of hers for Oli Lansley’s ‘Wild Child’ initiative (which is brilliant by the way – writers should definitely look into that) and interestingly she’d submitted for another event of ours already – we’d loved her work but it hadn’t worked out that time so it felt serendipitous. Pegeen also submitted for our last event and again writing wise it went a different way but we absolutely loved her and when we realised she acted too, we cast her in that event- then knowing she does both so expertly she was a perfect fit this time.
Then finally, we did an open submissions process where writers sent 2/3 page examples of their work – we always aim to keep our submissions process as easy as possible because Sarah and I got so fed up with all the lengthy forms we’ve filled in over the years or specific pieces we’d been asked to submit for schemes that we were then never offered. Writers should be spending time writing the things they want to, not second guessing how to impress a panel. It’s so nice to just see the work the writers are passionate about and hear their own unique voices. We had so many amazing submissions and I have a wicked favourites pile for next time. We love reading work because we’d like to help as many writers as possible so we don’t forget who applied. It’s always worth sending us stuff because we want to keep creating opportunities and we’re so excited to get to know all these brilliant writers. We have such an exciting tribe of badass women lined up for this event, I’m super proud of it, each woman is such a special talent and I can’t wait to hear them roar – you should join us!
There will also be a talk with writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, writer of Olivier Award winning play Emilia. What inspired the interview and what can be expected?
Morgan was an amazing support to us from the very start – she reached out to us when it all first happened with Tree, and was so kind and supportive. Sarah and I both saw Emilia separately not long before the whole thing went public, after I’d seen it I implored Sarah to go immediately – I knew she’d feel how I did. That show stopped both of us from giving up, it truly did. We then met Morgan for a theatre visit and a drink and she was heavenly, we’ve been friends ever since and it felt right that a year after launching Burn Bright we spoke to and celebrated someone who was so influential in its beginnings. Burn Bright as a name is taken directly from a speech in Emilia as a nod to Morgan and her brilliant work. I think Morgan has been an inspiration to so many women writers, she’s encouraged us to keep going, to burn brighter and it’ll be so nice to have an informal relaxed chat where we can find out some of the stuff she wants to roar about too. Expect the unexpected I guess, expect something human, open and honest. That’s the beauty of humans just coming as they are – it’s never predictable.
You also run the Connect initiative – a series of online talks and networking opportunities. How have you found running the initiative so far?
A real breath of fresh air – it’s an informative space where we can share and connect and ask questions and learn. A lot of the same faces come every week and it feels like a community already, which is so lovely. Sometimes we’re afraid to ask questions for fear of people thinking we should already know that, so it’s nice to go back to basics and just really outline how things happen and how things get done and what we need to know with no judgement or shame. I’ve learnt a lot myself by being there and people keep coming back for more so that in itself is a sign we’re getting something right!
What can viewers expect from Hear Me Roar?
Hopefully, to feel heard, seen, understood – to feel collective rage or sighs of relief, to laugh, maybe cry- I think you can expect to feel part of something and hungry for your next chapter to begin. I want it to feel uplifting and inspirational and inclusive. I’ll be there hosting with a drink in hand ready to toast all those who are ready to be fearless. Fortune favours the brave after all.
What would you like for viewers to take away?
I’d like viewers to feel less alone and I’d like them to feel inspired to live true to themselves – to do more of what makes them feel good and less of what they feel obligated to do out of fear or pressure. I want them to take a deep breath and whatever it is, let it burn. I want them to leave feeling ready to give themselves permission to do whatever it is they need to. It’s a celebration of living your truth in whatever way feels good to you. Just burn the whole house down, let yourself roar.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
Burn Bright will take place on Monday 22nd March at 8pm via Zoom, to find out more about the event, visit here…