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Liz, Hannah and Nafeesa Liz Berry, Hannah Swingler and Nafeesa Hamid for Black Country Women's Aid at the Bear Bookshop

Liz, Hannah and Nafeesa

Liz Berry, Hannah Swingler and Nafeesa Hamid for Black Country Women's Aid at the Bear Bookshop

by Ancient Champion, Columnist
first published: December, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

...maybe Liz Berry, Hannah Swingler and Nafeesa Hamid in their Bear Bookshop appearance to support Black Country Women's Aid was one of the best thing Outsideleft got involved in this year.

Outsideleft Quiet Night Out
Bear Bookshop
In support of Black Country Women’s Aid

Last week, I was exchanging messages with the wonderful, polemical artist Kate Grooby, whose current work was going up at Art Basel, Miami. Her series, Unlocking Yourself, comes from advice her wife was given by her literary agent, “ unlock herself, that it is the artists master practice - to tap into the deepest part within and to unlock barriers.”  While we were in conversation about unlocking ourselves in all our work, I thought about Liz Berry, the Birmingham based poet, and how Liz succeeds where other well respected poets don’t, quite. Perhaps because while Liz dares to unlock herself for her work; she is mining a seam of natural generosity, her writing and reading invites the likes of me in, makes a participant of me, not a bystander listening to a report on the prevailing weather. 

When Liz walks through a park, if we want to do it, she makes space for us to walk right there alongside her. That’s a generosity, since Liz’s poems feature the most compellingly beautiful shared open spaces since The Enlightenment. 

In her performance at the Bear Bookshop, her poems were not at all read to us, we were asked to come along and exist within them... In one of her pieces, (the title escapes me now) Liz made a condom hanging in the bushes in the park near her home, where she walked with her children, seem as beautiful as a favourite christmas tree bauble. The zooming in and out on different users and different uses at different times of the day and night, all welcome to share this urban space, was so exquisitely drawn by Liz’s inherent sense of wonder, it seemed very much a part of an unlocked writer's story.

Hannah Swingler and Nafeesa Hamid

Of the Outsideleft highlights this year, publishing millions of words about music and arts, putting on live shows, putting on poetry nights, supporting and being supported by our local indie bookshop, camping in Cork’s, there were a great many great things. Imagine - we got hitmakers Soho to play, maybe their first public performance in decades and they came along and did that for us. Of everything, though, just maybe, Liz Berry, Hannah Swingler and Nafeesa Hamid at the Bear Bookshop appearance to support Black Country Women’s Aid, was one of the greatest. It felt like the money raised was consequential enough to matter. To make it worthwhile for the poets and the 50 or so people who were fortunate enough to get a ticket.

We don’t really have a recording or anything of these three remarkable poets that night, so I’m embedding Liz’s Nottingham performance as some one of the poems were the same, in case you don’t yet know her work and if you do you’ll just enjoy this all over again.

Essential information
So many websites... in order of appearance then... 
Liz Berry, here→
Hannah Swingler, here→
Nafeesa Hamid, here→
Bear Bookshop, here→
Black Country Women's Aid, here→

Ancient Champion

Ancient Champion writes for OUTSIDELEFT while relentlessly recording and releasing instrumental easy listening music for difficult people. The Champ is working on Public Transport, a new short story collection that takes up where 2021's Six Stories About Motoring Nowhere (Disco City Books) left off. It should be ready in time for the summer holidays. More info at

about Ancient Champion »»



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