Read ‘2020 / A year in headlines’ by Inua Ellams
A powerful new poem reflecting on 2020, the strangest of years, and looking with renewed hope to the future

Experience Inua Ellams’ powerful new poem reflecting on 2020, the strangest of years, and looking with renewed hope to the future.

An internationally touring poet, playwright and performer, Inua was commissioned by young people in Norfolk on our Lit From the Inside programme to write a brand new poem which received its world premiere at Chrysalis: Transforming. Thinking. Writing –  a day of events reflecting on 2020 and a year spent apart. You can watch Inua’s performance, followed by a Q&A, in the video below.

2020 / A year in headlines

Kanye’s album to turn ten / Our year of dark twisted fantasies
Trump’s impeachment trial begins / The court of jesters jostle the throne
Harry and Meghan step back as royals / Two young monarchs throw their crowns
Qasem Soleimani killed in drone strike / Dust and fire rises in the east

Australian bushfires kill a billion animals / Dust and fire rises in the south
Luxembourg makes transport free / The right to roam is further eased
Landslide strands 500 people / Solid ground begins to shift
Coronavirus officially named / The shrewd beast we’ll try to tame

East Anglian festivals cancelled / Canaries fall at the mouth of the cave
Egypt’s oldest pyramid opens / Old stone gullet welcomes prey
Tesco rations beans and pasta / Rivers of food trickle to streams
Elon Musk sends unmanned spaceship / The rich     their drones    fly out to flee

Captain Tom raises £23 million / The retried returns to frontline battle
April hottest one on record / Days burn brighter than before
Trump says inject disinfectant / The jester plays loose with lives
Boris Johnson in intensive care / The jester’s life lay loose

Reuters wins Pulitzer Prize / Newscasters crown themselves, their eyes
Dominic Cummings won’t resign / Cold cult king clings to saddle
Ahmaud Arbery shot whilst jogging / A white spectre snares a black life
George Floyd killed by police / Another     thought less     grew to matter

Edward Colston’s statue drowned / Thoughtless matter loses ground
Hong Kong passes security law / Walls rise up     A giant falls
Locusts swarm New Delhi / Ancient plague returns anew
Zoos and Safari parks reopen/ The communion of animals continues

Cafe Rouge enters administration / A red restaurant writhes in the red
NASA’s Rover flies to Mars / Machines will tread on the red planet
John Lewis civil rights leader dies / King’s horseman leaves the battle
Oscars hit diversity target / The pool widens on who decides

Huge explosion rocks Beirut / The lips of Lebanon lick with flames
80 million people sick / The beast we failed to tame feasts on
Greta Thunberg returns to school / Nature’s child seeks other lessons
Chadwick Boseman dies of cancer / The Black Panther joins his ancestors

Covid sniffer dogs used in Helsinki / Canines seek the untamed beast
A hundred West Coast fires burn / Dust and fire rises in the west
Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies / The Notorious R.B.G reclines
NASA to land first woman on the moon / The Notorious R.B.G smiles

Marcus Rashford calls for food / The forward fights to feed the young
Businesses offer free school meals / Fat cats thin their private stores
Belgium appoints first trans minister / A liminal voice is amplified
Boris shares new lockdown rules / The beast brings the Britons blues

Sean Connery, Bond star dies / The first license to kill expires
Diego Maradona dies / The hand of God plucks the striker
Joe Biden wins US election / Blue bishop takes red knight
Most expensive face mask made / Thick with stones     craving air

Metal monolith appears on mountain / Mystery manifests among the clouds
Musician asks to tour differently / Lighter footprints, cleaner sounds
Football fans return to stadiums / Chants fill the timeless isles
Who will get the vaccine first? / The theme tune of our lives

Of the poem, Inua said:

‘Writing the poem was really really cathartic for me. At first, I found it humbling – the horror of 2020 – thinking about everything we had survived, witnessed and survived. The information at hand was overwhelming, but when I began to write, I tried to decode, distil and reduce, which required a kind of meditation. This gave me some control over the narrative, and in that, I discovered how to own who I was at the time of the happenings, where I am now.’

Attracting online viewers from the local community and around the world, Chrysalis was a day of free events and workshops organised entirely by young people from Norfolk. Eighteen teenagers from the Lit From the Inside professional development programme at NCW spent months planning a series of events that reflected on the cultural impact of 2020 and how we can look to a more positive future. Catch up with ‘Reading Diversely’, a panel discussion featuring Hamish Hamilton editor Hannah Chukwu and writer and activist So Mayer, below.

The programme is supported by Anguish’s Educational Foundation and The Norwich Freemen’s Charity.

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