WAPPY Pioneers: Where Are They Now?
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
WAPPY catches up with some of its long-time members after nearly 10 years.
WAPPY would like to thank every who supported the event, including its young contributors,
Nyah Walcott-Quansah, Acquaye McCalman (Alkm the Musician), Georgiana Jackson-Callen (Georgiana Jacobs), Michael Larbi, Balin Shah, Jai Ellis (Jai Blue), Cassius Jackson-Callen, Ben Jasinski-Eshun, Maisa Abed and Effie Quansah-George, who were all uniquely phenomenal in their own individual presentations and performances.
The event began with current member’s, Nyah’s welcome poem, 'Sometimes We Come and Sometimes We Go', for the opening address; she created it that very morning. Then each pioneer was introduced by host, Anjan Saha, before they spoke about their individual journeys since starting out with WAPPY between 2008 to 2011. We are particularly grateful that our local Mayor of Ealing, Councillor Dr. Abdullah Gulaid, patron, Elder Eric Huntley (Bogle L'Ouverture publications), author, Esther Ackah, and early collaborator and friend of WAPPY, Maureen Roberts (Senior Development Officer at the London Metropolitan Archives); all who braved the dreary weather to make the event and were blown away by the excellent and touching testimonies and presentations.
We were also treated to steel pan from Acquaye, a song by Jai, Rap by Ben who had written it in the morning, and a Jamaican re-working of the classic fairy tale, 'Rapunzel' by siblings and collaborators, Georgiana and Cassius.
We were left feeling extremely proud and in total awe of them all.
Here’s what Balin Shah, one pioneer had to say,
When I joined WAPPY back in 2009 I was reluctant, because as every 11-year-old wanted to do at the time, I just wanted to stay and home and play video games. However, now I realised that the 4 years I spent at WAPPY helped me come out of my shell and help me follow my dreams.
Currently, I’m in my 4th year of Medicine at university and I believe that the skills and confidence I gained writing and performing poems and short stories during my time at WAPPY has greatly helped me in the medical profession. When talking to patients, my work as a medical student has always struck me as a fundamentally creative act as the medical encounter is unscripted, unfolds moment by moment and involves unique illness narratives. I’ve appreciated how creative skills and principles drawn from my time at WAPPY serve as necessary clinical tools in a busy hospital environment.
I consider it a fortuitous accident that my development as a creative writer at WAPPY has been and continues to be interwoven with my development as a physician, as for me, reative writing encourages the search for new connections and the discovery of fresh relationships between disparate ideas, a skill you need to piece together a patients story.
An author must be sensitive to what their characters in their pieces of work want, and similarly, a physician must recognize and accept the many possible endings a patient’s story might take.
I remember one of my first pieces of work for WAPPY was a short story of the perspective of a son of a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. I had to use compassion and empathy when developing this narrative, and this has now inadvertently made me think of patients as characters in a story. Thinking of patients as characters isn’t meant to objectify them, but rather helps me to amplify the focus on the individual who happens to have a disease, instead of concentrating on the disease that happens to reside in a person.
I feel like creative writing and medicine go hand in hand, as every character, just like people are constructed differently, as two people rarely experience the same diseases in the exact way, just as two individuals’ perceptions of any similar experience often differ.
I think that even without WAPPY I’d have been a good doctor in the future, but with the skills and experiences gained from WAPPY and the support from Grace, I know I can be an exceptional one.
Balin Shah, August 2019.