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Updated: Writer-in-Residence at Topfoto – Listen to the images

Great to view and hear the work put in at this great photo resource in Kent, UK – Topfoto MD Flora has sent PAN this update, watch and enjoy!

Photography meets poetry meets music. The new work produced by TopFoto and Writer-in-(remote)-Residence Rommi Smith, is out and available now to watch, share, download.

Three of the seven key photographs and poems are explored in short video form:

With a passionate interest in the archive’s photos documenting Black British life across the last two centuries, Rommi took a short selection of TopFoto’s historic photos as muse for seven original poems. The poems (which include poem-monologues, sonnets, ghazals and redactions of original archival texts), fuse research facts with fiction in response to the absences in the archive. These texts are set to music by musician, composer, arranger and producer Christella Litras. The resultant works are performed by Rommi Smith, Christella Litras and the actor Lladel Bryant, with a contribution from Clinton Cameron, part of what is termed “the Windrush generation.”

Flora Smith, Managing Partner of TopFoto said, “This has been an exciting journey of months of research, discoveries, eureka moments and very moving story telling. Some of the work has been intensely personal but the themes are universal. It’s a wonderful way for the wider public to engage with our archive, and it was sobering to upload the files this morning and then hear the important Penguin report that “only 1% of GCSE English Lit students study writers of colour, and only 7% study writing by women”. I believe image archives such as ours have a major role to play in addressing this issue, as do publishers, and it is our goal to continue to collaborate and make lasting progress”.

…and this in this reaction to the work into PAN this afternoon: “Incredible trio of videos by Rommi Smith! I was blown away by them. What a wonderful choice for your first artist-in-residence. The music is fabulous too. ” Caroline Hotblack, award-winning picture researcher.

• All seven works can be enjoyed on

First published 29 April 2021:

First published 29 April 2021: Topfoto invite you to follow them on a great adventure with an inaugural Writer-in-Residence.
They say: ‘Rommi Smith, multi-award-winning poet, playwright, theatre-maker, performer, librettist and academic, winner of numerous prestigious residencies and commissions and a three-time BBC writer-in-residence, has begun work in our archive. It began with a late night conversation about diversity, hidden narratives and the power of the archive. “These photos flip-the-script on Britishness: my history lessons did not look like this.” Poems in dialogue with discovered photographs, original research and music are all to come but here’s the first step: on our blog.

This residency runs until June and is part of a recently awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in support of conservation of their historic archive, and ongoing work in support of diversity, educational outreach and public engagement.

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