Funmi Adebanjo

Funmi Adebanjo recognises the vast power that widely accepted narratives have – to build cultures and shape identities – and that these narratives are heavily driven by media and entertainment. As someone who’s often felt underrepresented, Funmi’s passion has always been to combine this awareness with her deep interest in understanding others and her love of storytelling. As well as to write stories with well-developed characters and inclusive storylines, showcasing multifaceted representation.

Funmi tells stories that lean toward positive and aspirational because she believes that using our best efforts to promote the most productive narratives into this world is one of the key ways to contribute to the success, self-esteem, and positive identities of the next generations.

Funmi mostly writes comedy and drama across TV and feature film scripts, although her writing also spans into shorts, poetry, prose, and even a little animation. No matter what she writes, Funmi focuses on being the change she wants to see, and this approach allows her to subtly weave educational and aspirational elements. For example, rather than discussing certain issues, the narrative will act to carefully navigate normalising solutions.

Funmi recently found success with a story in an untapped space, with a feature film commission on a festival-based rom-com script themed in the multifaceted nature of modern Black-Britishness, celebrating food, family and culture. One of her passion projects is a university-based comedy drama, and her pilot script was placed in the top 2% of BBC Comedy Writersroom.

Tice Cin

Tice Cin is an interdisciplinary artist from north London. She has an MA in English: Issues in Modern Culture from UCL. Tice has acted and performed at venues such as Battersea Arts Centre, The Roundhouse and Barbican’s Pit Theatre, and has been commissioned by organisations like Cartier, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Edinburgh International Book Festival. She was named one of Complex Magazine’s best music journalists of 2021, and has written for places such as DJ Mag and Mixmag.

A DJ and music producer, she is preparing to release an accompanying album for Keeping the House with a host of talented features including those from the creative house she is part of, Fwrdmtn, such as Kareem Parkins-Brown and Latekid. Keeping the House has been named one of Guardian’s Best Books of 2021, and has been featured in The Scotsman, The New York Times and the Washington Post.  She is a recent recipient of a Society of Authors Prize, and was shortlisted for Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. A filmmaker, she is currently writing and co-directing three short films. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Aydın-Barberini. 

Tommy Rowlands

Tommy Rowlands is a London based writer of Lebanese and Welsh heritage. He has worked in hospitality for most of his career, across some of the capital’s most iconic venues. In 2021 he was the recipient of a London Writers Award for literary fiction. Channelling Puppy is his debut novel.

Ray Shell

AYRIES “RAY” SHELL is a film, TV and stage actor, as well as an author, director and producer. He has been a fixture in London’s West End since he arrived in the UK in 1978. In 2018 Ray toured the UK as Emil Foley, the drill sergeant in the acclaimed Curve production of An Officer and a Gentlemen directed by Nikolai Foster. In 2017, he performed in the Kennedy Center commission for actors and jazz ensemble Bud, Not Buddy, directed by Clarke Peters (The Wire; Da 5 Bloods)

His performance theatre credits include Ain’t Misbehavin’, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Little Willie Jr.’s Resurrection, Miss Saigon, King, Children of Eden, 125th Street, Dancin’ in the Street, Gone with the Wind, Disney’s The Lion King, The Dirtiest Musical, The Me Nobody Knows, Hair, Dementos, Radio Golf (Tricycle Theatre), Sweeney Todd (Holland Park), Happy End (Nottingham Playhouse), Blues for Mr. Charlie (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Golden Boy (Greenwich Theatre), Vernon God Little and Been So Long (Young Vic), and as Rusty in the original West End production of Starlight Express, as well as the original West End production of The Bodyguard. Ray recently appeared in the west coast premiere of the Broadway hit, TONI STONE, directed by Tony Award-winning director Pam Mackinnon.

In 2012, Ray directed the British premiere of the musical A Dream Across the Ocean and, in 2017, Gilgamesh at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington, London. In the last few years, he has also directed Death of a Salesman for the Wilson Playhouse, Crown at the Booker T. Washington Theatre in Rocky Mount, A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Barton College, Wilson NC, TAIP Lab Scratch Night Series in Wilson and Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story at Big Harold’s Diner also in Wilson. Ray’s theatrical directorial credits include White Folks (Cochrane Theatre, Pleasance Theatre), Flatshare, Frederick Avery Visits, Street Angels, The Black Fashion Designers Show (The Royal Albert Hall), The Mango Lick Poetry Jam (Royal Festival Hall), A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, The Tulip Wars and Street Dance Musical (Camden Fringe Festival). Television and film projects include the cult hit film The Apple, Isaac Julien’s Young Soul Rebel’s, Velvet Goldmine and the hit Belgian television series Monster Trilogy. Ray is currently developing a new UK stage version of ICED: BLACK THOUGHTS IN AN EARLY MOON.

Ray’s acclaimed debut novel “Iced” was published by Random House/Penguin Books and toured internationally. He has also published articles and short stories for, among others, the New York Times, The Guardian, as well as Serpent’s Tail and Penguin publishing houses. His online publishing company, Street Angels Books, has published “Spike Lee: The Eternal Maverick” The 30th-anniversary edition of “Iced” will be published, March 14, 2023 on Street Angels Books. Producer and director Lee Daniels (The Butler, Precious) has bought the film rights to “Iced.” The screenplay was written by Oscar® nominated Menno Meyjes (Indiana Jones, The Color Purple). Ray sold the film rights to his current novel “Carolina Red”, also published by Street Angels Books, to UK production company Sugar Films. Street Angels books first book of 2022, LIKE…HEARING CHAKA KHAN FOR THE FIRST TIME by David Nathan is #1 AMAZON BESTSELLER in 2 genres! Ray is currently developing STAR BOY, a 50’s rock-n-roll, blues musical about a travelling gospel family for global streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.

Ray has performed his acclaimed cabaret show Black2Black at the Pheasantry and Crazy Coques in London, performed in the Inner-City Reunion Concert at 54 Below in New York City and his new show Phoenix at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. He has recorded, sang with, arranged and trained such musical stars as Jay Kay (Jamiroquai), Damage, Grace Jones, Caron Wheeler (Soul II Soul), Victoria Wilson James (Shamen, Soul II Soul), Sophie Dahl, Pete Burns, Howard Devoto (Magazine), Sia, Marsha Ambrosius and X-Factor star Jahmene Douglas. Ray was a coach on BBC1’s The Voice in 2013 and is the producer/writer for TribeWilson and UK pop artist NIA.

Marienna Pope-Weidemann

Marienna Pope-Weidemann (she/her) is a writer, activist and journalist with a decade of experience in storytelling for social justice. She is now working on her first book, Justice For All Of Us, a creative nonfiction collection of stories from families like Marienna’s, who have lost someone they loved at the hands of the state and are fighting for change.

Marienna’s work was shortlisted for the short fiction Booker Prize at Birkbeck (2019) and longlisted for the Spread The Word Life Writing Prize (2020). Her short story Devotion was Litro Magazine’s Editor’s Pick in December that year. As a journalist, she specialises in women’s liberation, migration and climate justice and has written for the Guardian, Independent, Al Jazeera and Red Pepper amongst others.

Justice For All Of Us collects the stories of ten lives lost. Some, like Sean Rigg, Matthew Leahy and Olaseni Lewis, are well known. Others are names you’ve never heard before. In custody, in hospital or in the streets, all died in hands of services we are taught to trust. As inspiring as they are devastating, these are stories of love, loss and what keeps us going against all the odds.

The book was inspired by Marienna’s experience working with other bereaved families and leading the Justice for Gaia campaign on behalf of her own. Her cousin Gaia Pope, a survivor of sexual violence, was let down by the mental health system and the police after they took no further action following her rape allegation against a known child sex offender.

Gaia went missing on 7 November 2017 from her home in Dorset when she was nineteen years old. Following a police investigation and enormous community-led search effort to find her, her body was recovered eleven days later, less than a mile from where she disappeared. The coroner ruled the cause of death as hypothermia but like all the deaths explored in her book, Marienna calls it a death by indifference.

After four years and three closed-door reports, the public inquest into Gaia’s death will be held before a jury this summer. Justice for Gaia campaigns for changes in policing, health and social care, to save lives like hers in the future.

CLICK HERE for actions you can take in support of the campaign.

Deborah Coles, the director of INQUEST, a charity that supports families bereaved by state related deaths, says:

“The stories of the men, women and children who have died in the care of the state uncover deficiencies in the systems which are supposed to protect all of us, raising broader social questions around inequality, racism and discrimination. Justice for All of Us is about telling those stories behind the news headlines and statistics, highlighting struggles for social and racial justice and the centrality of ordinary families within this. We believe the book can help develop renewed calls for the systemic change we all need to see.”


Find out more about Marienna and her journey here:

Justice for Gaia