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A unique opportunity to hear such diverse voices on one stage, Lingua Franca is a collaborative poetry event between seven poets from Malaysian Borneo and the North East of England. An experiment in solidarity, the event will explore two vastly different, yet parallel national and cultural identities through spoken word, and hopes to spark a conversation in the UK and Malaysia on identity, marginalisation, dualism, and otherness.

Premiering at Alphabetti Theatre, the event launches this year’s  GEM Arts Masala Festival. Performed on Saturday 17th July,  live in both Alphabetti in Newcastle upon Tyne and HAUS Kuching in Malaysia, it will be streamed online to an international audience, alongside limited tickets for a physical audience.

The line up for the event includes local talent Tahmina Ali, AJ McKenna and Matt Miller and performers from Wordsmiths of Kuching, a poetry collective in Malaysia, Angelina Bong, Bethany Balan, Neyna Radzuan and Maclean Patrick. Through their poetry all of these performers discuss their roots and identity, and the event aims to explore at what intersections these performers can meet to share words, stories and experiences with one another.

Lingua Franca is the culmination of a collaborative poetry gathering organised by Borneo Bengkel and Wordsmiths of Kuching, as part of an international programme Born(neo) NORTH+EAST, aiming to bridge connections between creatives from the North East of England and Borneo in SouthEast Asia.

The programme  is funded by the British Council’s Connections through Culture programme and curated by Catriona Maddocks, from the creative platform Borneo Bengkel.

Originally from County Durham, Catriona had lived in Borneo for 11 years before she had to return to the North East during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. 

Catriona says

“This event came from the realisation last year, that while we were all so separated from one another, the digital world gives us so many opportunities to connect with people from distant places. We want to try to encourage conversation between people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to speak to one another. How exciting to be able to bring creatives from the North East of England and Borneo together to learn more about one another’s lives, perspectives and through the medium of poetry talk openly about race, gender, religion, sexuality and identity.” 

Tickets for both the live or online event are available at or for more information see @borneobengkel  on social media.

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