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Room 204

2018-19 Cohort

We’re delighted to introduce our Room 204 Writer Development Programme 2018/19 intake:

Casey Bailey is a poet, spoken word performer, author, facilitator, rapper and secondary school senior leader, born and raised in Nechells, Birmingham.

His work has seen him performing on stages up and down the country, and recently on the screen with BBC Three. His work often deals with social issues, and personal loss and grief.

Casey’s debut poetry pamphlet Waiting at Bloomsbury Park is published by Big White Shed (2017). His first full collection Adjusted (2018) is published by Verve Poetry Press.

Casey is the 2020-2022 Birmingham Poet Laureate.

Casey’s website
Twitter: @MrCaseyBailey

Siana Bangura is a writer, performer, and producer from South East London, now living and creating in the West Midlands.

She is the author of Elephant, a collection of poetry meditating on Black British womanhood, and the founder and former editor of Black British Feminist platform, No Fly on the WALL.

Siana is the producer of 1500 & Counting, a documentary film investigating police brutality in the UK and deaths in custody and founder of and publisher at Haus of Liberated Reading, an indie publishing house celebrating work from uninhibited and underrepresented voices.

She is Creative Director at Sassy Apparel and her wide portfolio of work focuses on bringing marginalised voices from the margins to the centre.

Siana’s website
Twitter: @Sianaarrgh

Kavita Bhanot’s fiction, non-fiction, reviews, articles have been published and broadcast widely. She is editor of the anthology Too Asian, Not Asian Enough (Tindal Street Press 2011), the forthcoming Book of Birmingham (Comma Press, 2018) and co-editor of the Bare Lit anthology (Brain Mill Press, 2017).

She has a PhD from Manchester University and is Honorary Creative Writing Fellow at Leicester University. She is a reader and mentor with The Literary Consultancy.

As a writer, editor, activist, teacher and through her academic work, she has been especially interested in the politics of reading and writing.

Ian Cassidy writes novels and short stories. An ex-student at the Curtis Brown Creative Writing School, he has used what he learnt there to produce his current novel Close and to convince himself to send his previous attempts to be pulped even though one of them, The Unsinkable Herr Goering was published in the USA by The Cassowary Press, (who subsequently filed for bankruptcy). He has published several short stories including Never Said a Word in ‘Roads Ahead’, published by Tindal Street Press.

Writing as Daisy Cains, Ian has been published in LGBT anthologies, including #Trans an anthology about transgender identity online (Winner, Rainbow Award for Best Memoir 2017) & Happy Hours; Our Life in Gay Bars (Shortlisted Goldie Awards 2018).
He lives in Lichfield.

Born and raised in a country that doesn’t exist anymore, Naneh Hovhannisyan witnessed the USSR’s collapse, and early years of Armenia’s independence, before emigrating to the UK – all in all ensuring a full-blown identity crisis!

English is Naneh’s third language, but linguistic barrier isn’t the only one she’s had to overcome on her way to naturalisation in Britain.

A former journalist returning to her creative roots, she writes on belonging, loss and transformation, and reflects on what it means to represent a culture, as well as what it costs to adopt one.

Emma J. Lannie is a librarian and short story writer whose first collection, Behind a Wardrobe In Atlantis, was published by Mantle Lane Press. A love of maps and psychogeography led to a TEDx talk, and inspired Emma to explore site-specific storytelling, taking stories ‘off the page’ to create interactive and immersive experiences in museums, galleries, along the banks of the River Trent (as Writer in Residence for The National Forest/Photo-Canopy), and most recently at Coalville Writes festival.

Emma has organised spoken word events and run writing workshops, has been published widely in print and online, and is currently working on a novel.

Emma’s website
Instagram: @ejlannie
Twitter: @sleepyem

Malachi McIntosh was born in Birmingham but raised in the United States. He worked for five years in academia after completing a PhD in English, but stepped down from a post at Cambridge in June 2016 to focus on writing full time.

So far, his work has been published in BroadcastThe Caribbean Review of BooksFlash: The International Short-Short Story MagazineFugueThe GuardianThe Journal of Romance StudiesUnder the RadarResearch in African Literatures, and Wasafiri. His two academic monographs are Emigration and Caribbean Literature and Beyond Calypso: Re-Reading Samuel Selvon.

He was the 2014 recipient of the David Higham Writing Award.

Chloe Meakin is a writer of novels and short stories. She was born in Birmingham and completed a BA in Art History in Wales before returning to the West Midlands to focus on writing. She was selected for a Curtis Brown Creative, Writing Young Adult and Children’s fiction, course and since finishing this has continued to work on her Young Adult fantasy novel. She works as a bookseller and volunteers with Oxfam.

Selina Oakes is a writer and researcher, currently based in Stoke-on-Trent. Having trained as a visual artist in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, she is now focusing on developing her career as a freelance writer, researcher and curator in the contemporary arts industry. In the past, she has worked with Aesthetica Magazine and the BAFTA recognised Aesthetica Short Film Festival, and has been published by Corridor8, Creative Tourist, The Double Negative, LensCulture and This is Tomorrow.

Selina is drawn to projects which cross-pollinate between multiple disciplines and is keen to build bridges between the visual arts and writing. Alongside her creative practice, she is an Associate at artist-led space, AirSpace Gallery, and freelances for Partners in Creative Learning.

Selina’s website
Twitter: @SelinaOakes


Leila Rasheed is the author of children’s books, including Chips Beans and Limousines and sequels, published by Usborne. She has also written two publisher-led series: the Witch of Turlingham series as Ellie Boswell, and the Somerton trilogy for Disney-Hyperion USA.

She has been writer in residence for the Stratford-on-Avon literary festival, and some poems have been published, including in a pamphlet by Heaventree Press.

Leila has been a creative writing tutor for several years, and is looking forward to re-focusing on her own writing during the Room 204 programme.

Leila’s website
Twitter: @MegaphoneWrite and @LeilaR

Lou Sarabadzic has been living in the UK since 2009. She is a French bilingual poet, blogger, and novelist. Her two blogs are accessible in both English and French: on OCD and mental health, and [which is the French for the expression ‘like father’] on a father-daughter relationship.

She has published two books in French: a novel, La Vie Verticale, in 2016, and a poetry collection, Ensemble, in 2017 – this collection was awarded the Prix de la Crypte-Jean Lalaude. Her poems also appeared in a range of publications in French and English.

In January 2018, she received the Dot Award for Digital Writing, awarded by if:book UK, for the #NERDSproject, an interactive visual encyclopaedia of the collective imagination.

Twitter: @lousarabadzic and @nerdsproject
Instagram : @nerdsproject

Barry Tench has been writing poetry for 40 years and has MA in creative writing from Goldsmiths.

He writes most days, and has more notebooks than WH Smith. He reads a lot of contemporary poetry, especially American poetry. His poetry is influenced by Elizabeth Bishop, Ashbery, O’Hara and Amira Baraka; by psycho-analysis, art, film and music.

He says his poetry is “humorous; that it flows with breath, with the emotion of the content. That the reader should have a gut reaction to it and trust that reaction”.

Maria Whatton was born in Liverpool but moved to the Midlands in the 1990’s. She is a multi award winning storyteller, who tours nationally and internationally telling ancient myths, legends and folk tales.

Maria was awarded the commission for 2018 at Festival at the Edge, England’s oldest storytelling festival, where she will be performing the premier of “Ways of the Wild” an Irish legend, with the folk musician Sarah Matthews.

Maria’s short story Silver in the Quarter was published by Orion in 2018 alongside Stewart Lee’s In the Ape’s Shadow as part of the Home Town Tales series.

Liz Xifaras lives in Warwickshire. Her work has been placed and shortlisted in numerous competitions, including Fiction Desk, Exeter Writers, Ted Hughes Writing Competition and Remastered Words  and appeared in Idle Ink and The Sunlight Press.

She has been selected for the Womentoring Project, WriteNow Live, Fiction Feedback through Spread the Word and shortlisted for the Curtis Brown Yesterday Scholarship. A graduate of the National Academy of Writing course, she has recently completed a historical novel about witches and murder in 17th Century Lancashire.

Twitter: @LizXifaras




Born and based in Birmingham, Laura Yates has worked in the creative sector for many years as a writer, fundraiser and producer. As a founding member and current Chair of Cucumber Writers, Laura has produced programmes of activity and script-in-hand performances at venues including mac, The REP and The Blue Orange Theatre.

Laura is looking forward to taking more time to focus on developing her creative practice, particularly writing short and long-form fiction.