Spoken word artist Ayan Aden performing in front of an audience at the Grit and Soul event
Spoken word artist Ayan Aden performing at Grit and Soul

On Friday, December 8, 2023, the campus was alight with the vibrant energy of Soul City Arts' 'Grit and Soul' performance, an unforgettable exploration of Birmingham's essence through art and storytelling. The event took place as part of the Our City of Stories series.

Led by Birmingham street-artist and curator Mohammed Ali, the performance delved deep into the heart of the city, celebrating its rich tapestry of grit and soul. Ali, renowned for his evocative street art, painted a vivid picture of Birmingham's identity, emphasizing its industrious spirit and resilient character. "Birmingham is no Paris, Tokyo, or Milan," remarked Ali, "it is gritty, but it has soul, and that's how we like it."

Accompanying Ali's visual narrative were captivating performances by celebrated storyteller and author Polarbear, whose poignant tales resonated with the audience, and spoken-word artist Ayan Aden, who skilfully conveyed the city's pulse through her powerful words. The immersive experience was further enhanced by lush soundscapes created by vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, adding another layer of depth to the performance.

Attendees were enthralled by the fusion of art forms that illuminated Birmingham's unique identity, leaving a lasting impression on all who witnessed the 'Grit and Soul' performance.

A performance artist/storyteller performing at the Birmingham campus

One of those attendees was MA Film student Israa, who supported filming for the event and shares her experience below:

Soul City Arts, renowned for bringing soul to the city through deep visual spectacles and immersive environments, recently offered me an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to their event coverage. This blog recounts my filming experience, delving into the connections forged, lessons learned, and its profound impact on my videography journey.

The mesmerizing event showcased the innovative use of poetic talents' performances and scenes on screen, seamlessly aligning with the essence of poetic expression for filming. Organized by Soul City Arts, addressing the ongoing events in Palestine (Gaza). The powerful night performance, with its captivating blend of poetry and visuals, left me profoundly grateful for the invaluable experience gained during those four hours.

Meeting Ayan, a motivational speaker, was a highlight of the event. His poetic words addressing the UK refugee dilemma resonated uniquely with me, adding a layer of depth to the entire experience.

With his exceptional accommodation, Saleem (DOP) shared a wealth of knowledge about cameras, especially the Glimpse. His insights were instrumental, providing numerous creative ideas for filming events, particularly those related to Soul City Arts.

Applying techniques learned from Nina Jones, the Film Manager in the Film and TV department (University Of Birmingham), regarding the Glimpse, was a fortunate opportunity. The practical application of these skills, alongside my iPhone, enhanced the quality of the coverage and broadened my technical expertise.

Cleveland Watkis, with his talent, emotionally connected us to the events. His outstanding performance ensured that the event profoundly impacted our hearts. His contribution added a robust emotional layer to the footage.

Conversing with Mohammed Ali MBE, the founder of Soul City, was an honour. His vision and passion for creating immersive experiences were evident. I am eagerly looking forward to future collaborations with such an excellent and professional team.

This filming experience was more than just a technical exercise; it was an immersive journey that significantly impacted my career aspirations. The exposure to top industry-grade equipment made me feel confident towards the industry that I belong. Interactions with industry experts and the emotional depth added to my work have collectively shaped my vision for the future.

The most impactful moment for me was hearing about the events in Gaza and witnessing the support and compassion towards the innocent people in Gaza during the war. As a human, an Arab, and someone with roots in Palestine, it resonated deeply with me, making me feel acknowledged and not forgotten. Hearing discussions about my sisters and brothers in Gaza was unexpected but heartening, adding a personal connection to the broader narrative.

My filming experience with Soul City Arts was a transformative journey, blending technology, art, and human connections. The event's immersive nature, meaningful encounters, and insightful conversations have indelibly impacted my videography career. I am inspired to contribute meaningfully to impactful events and look forward to exploring further collaborations with Soul City Arts.