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Borneo Bengkel presents international spoken word collaboration - The Vibes

The event aims to explore at what intersections these performers can meet to share words, stories and experiences. – Borneo Bengkel pic, July 16, 2021

DESPITE Malaysia still being under a lockdown, a group of young Sarawakians are finding creative ways to make international connections happen.

A unique opportunity to hear such diverse voices on one stage, Lingua Franca is a collaborative poetry event. It will feature seven poets from Malaysian Borneo and the North East of England.

An experiment in solidarity, the event will explore two vastly different, yet parallel national and cultural identities through spoken word. It hopes to spark a conversation in the UK and Malaysia on identity, marginalisation, dualism, and otherness.

Hosted online tomorrow (July 17), the event launches GEM Arts Masala Festival, a British festival celebrating South Asian arts and culture. With performers reading their poetry on two stages – one at Haus Kuching in Malaysia, and one at Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne – it will be streamed online to an international audience.

The line-up for the event includes local talent from Wordsmiths of Kuching, a poetry collective in Malaysia, Angelina Bong, Bethany Balan, Neyna Radzuan and Maclean Patrick and British performers Tahmina Ali, AJ McKenna and Matt Miller.

Through their poetry, all these performers discuss their roots and identity. The event aims to explore at what intersections these performers can meet to share words, stories and experiences.

(Clockwise from left) Matt Miller, Angelina Bong, Bethany Luhong, Maclean Patrick, Tahmina Ali, AJ McKenna and Neyna Redzuan. – Pic courtesy of Ian Paine, Felix King Photography, Lance Vun, Suzi Corker and Brian Jong

Lingua Franca is the culmination of a collaborative poetry gathering organised by Borneo Bengkel and Wordsmiths of Kuching. It is part of an international programme Born(neo) North+East, aiming to bridge connections between creatives from the North East of England and Borneo in Southeast Asia.

The programme is funded by the British Council's Connections through Culture programme. It is curated by Catriona Maddocks, from the creative platform Borneo Bengkel.

Originally from the North East of England, Catriona had lived in Sarawak for 11 years before she had to return to Britain at the beginning of the pandemic last year.

Maddock says: “This event came from the realisation last year, that while we were all so separated from one another, the digital world gives us so many opportunities to connect with people from distant places.

"We want to try to encourage conversation between people who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to speak to one another. How exciting to be able to bring creatives from the North East of England and Borneo together to learn more about one another's lives, perspectives and through the medium of poetry talk openly about race, gender, religion, sexuality and identity.”

Tickets for the online event are available at or for more information see @borneobengkel on social media. – The Vibes, July 16, 2021

Facebook event page:

Date/Time: Saturday, July 17, 2021, 6pm-7.30pm

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