How was your experience of studying at Goldsmiths?
‘In many ways, the Creative Writing MA helped provide the confidence to pursue that pathway into writing for the stage and screen. I’ve always loved writing from a young age and spent my teenage years performing spoken word as part of a youth poetry collective. But during my undergrad degree (I studied BA Politics and History), I’d stopped writing creatively, perhaps because my focus turned to churning out academic essays. So I approached the Creative Writing MA with the spirit of wanting to re-ignite that love for writing.
‘I used the course to experiment across different writing mediums from poetry, non-fiction prose and short story writing. Through the course, I ended up getting a short piece of life-writing published titled My Fathers Fabrics in a small literary journal. At the time, I was also working at Bush Theatre in West London as a community intern. I was lucky enough to be exposed to a stellar season of playwriting in 2017. I remember sharing that short piece of life-writing with the then Artistic Director of Bush Theatre who encouraged me to try my hand at playwriting. After the Creative Writing MA, I applied and took part in Soho Theatre Writers Lab 19/20 and the Royal Court Writers Group 19/20 and ended up writing my first play.’
What kind of support has been made available to you during your time at Goldsmiths?
‘Goldsmiths made students aware of the different types of services available to us from wellbeing support, career opportunities to library and study skills sessions. Due to the hardships of the pandemic, the University put in place mitigating circumstances and a No Detriment Policy for our cohort, which was reassuring and relieved stress. Our personal tutors were also available to guide us with check-ins to see how we were faring with the course. We also had access to additional material and recorded workshop guides as well as Q&A sessions before exams.’
How has your time at the university helped develop you in your professional career?
‘Before starting my degree, I was aware of the under-representation of Muslim communities in the arts. Part of the response to that was co-founding Khidr Collective in July 2017 with my good friend, Hadi Abbas. Our aim back then was to cultivate an uncensored space for the creative expression of Muslim voices. Our first issue was crowd-funded and thereafter, each issue had a particular theme led by a growing editorial team. I’m not personally involved in the Khidr Collective Zine anymore but a brilliant editorial team released a new issue on the theme of water which launched in March 2021. Through Khidr Collective, we published over 150 Muslim writers across the UK, our work was profiled by the likes of Vice, Huck Magazine and Mille World.
‘Studying Creative Writing MA did help sharpen my sense of what existing pathways there are for marginalised communities to engage in different writing mediums. Working in theatre also helped me gain insight into how subsidised new writing theatres can become a nurturing space for writers. I also took immense learning from community arts organizations like Voices That Shake and The Mile End Community Project too. In a similar way to how these organizations create pipelines for emerging artists, what exists for Muslim writers is to experiment with new ideas and tell stories.
‘After graduating, I worked as a producer and arts programmer for an arts centre called Free Word. I programmed multi-arts seasons of work including producing & co-directing a new commission by Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan called ‘The End of Diaspora’. I also commissioned and directed a poem by Zia Ahmed which we turned into a short film called The Moon is a Meme which went onto win an Outspoken Award for film.
‘I moved onto work as a programme manager for charity, Maslaha. I led on artist development opportunities for MFest – an arts festival for Muslim creativity and knowledge. I applied for an Ideas & Pioneers fund via Paul Hamlyn to create a new multi-medium writing course for Muslim writers called MFest Writers Lab and partnered with Soho Theatre, WeAreBridge, SelfMadeHero and Spread the Word. The course culminated in providing an 8-week crash course into different writing mediums from screenwriting to writing literary fiction. Lastly, I led on MFest Short Story competition – partnering with Hajar Press to provide an un-agented, unpublished Muslim writer the opportunity to get published and win a free Arvon residency.’
Have you been able to access any opportunities that have helped you prepare for a career in your chosen industry?
‘Studying the Creative Writing MA offered me real clarity in understanding what my strengths were and what medium I might enjoy most. After graduating and going on courses to learn the basics of playwriting, I’ve been developing my first full-length play, ‘Blue Mist’ and workshopped the play at the Royal Court Theatre. Following this, I was commissioned by the Royal Court to write a short monologue titled ‘Emily (Glitched) in Paris’ for their Living Newspaper series. I’ve also written a new short play for with the Royal Court’s Open Court team in partnership with two local schools in Westminster called ‘Loot’ which was due to be performed at the Royal Court. My second full-length play ‘Zidane Of The Ends’ was performed as a reading at the Inventing the Future festival with High Tide Theatre Company in October 2021. I also recently took part in BBC London Voices group for emerging screenwriting.’
Would you recommend postgraduate study at Goldsmiths to other British Muslims?
‘Studying Creative Writing MA at Goldsmiths University was perfect for me at the time. However, it might be that you know what writing medium you’d love to get into and therefore, a more tailored course might be preferred. My advice would be to speak to as many people as you can in your chosen field. If it is the creative sector, identify people you admire in that field and don’t be afraid to reach out to them to meet you for coffee.’