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Metropolitans: Dean Atta, poet and playwright

I have…lived in North West London all my life, but for three years I lived in Brighton when I was doing my Philosophy & English degree at the University of Sussex. I moved straight back home as soon as I graduated and began my career as a writer. London has such a fast pace which is both exciting but sometimes overwhelming.

The area in London I call home is… Wembley, which is an absolute nightmare to get in and out of when there’s a big football match or gig on at Wembley Stadium or Wembley Arena. I’m not really into football so I never know when the matches are coming up and get caught out when I go to the station and see floods of fans in the streets. I feel sorry for the people of East London when the Olympics hit them.

I’ve got to have a meal at…the theatre. I’m a massive fan of the Caribbean food served at Oval House Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East. I think it’s such an exciting bonus for a theatre venue to serve good food because it makes the experience of going to the theatre even better than just the show you’re there to see, when you gather your people together beforehand and have a meal. If the food is really good, sometimes you might just go there for the food without even seeing a show.

I tend to get my threads from… my mum. I know mum used to get a lot of my clothes from Wembley Market when I was younger and now she gets them from charity shops like Traid. She loves a bargain. I’ve inherited her love of second-hand shops and markets but I don’t have as much patience as her and if I don’t see something I like within 10 minutes I’m out of there. I like to look presentable but I wouldn’t say I was particularly fashion conscious.

To enjoy London’s nightlife, you should… check out London’s massive spoken word poetry scene. There are too many events to mention them all but there is a group on Facebook called Poetry In London that sends a monthly listing. There’s also a new blog which features events and breaking news in the spoken word scene.

If I was mayor, I would… take it very seriously. I would actually like to be Mayor of London one day. I’ve met Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson a number of times and have been invited to panels and events at City Hall and have a good relationship with the Peer Outreach Team who are an incredible group of young people who work for the GLA. If I was mayor I would make an even greater effort to make sure more young people knew how they could get involved with how this city and this country are run.

My favourite spot to check out art isTate Modern or Tate Britain. I have been commissioned to write three poems for Tate, two of which were direct responses to works of art and two of which were performed at the notorious Late at Tate events, these are really exciting opportunities for audience to visit a gallery in the evening and not only see the exhibitions but also enjoy live performances free of charge. Lots of museums and gallaries in London do these special Late events. I recommend everyone check them out.

I’d kindly tell a tourist to… go to the theatre, but not just in the West End. Check out the Straford Circus, The Albany, Oval House, Theatre Royal Stratford East to see the theatre that matters to real Londoners. Go for long walks by the river and the canals, especially on the Southbank and by Camden Lock. Visit Camden Market, Portabello and Spitalfields.

The things I miss when I leave London are… being able to go write or walk by the river, having the option of 3 or 4 shows to attend each night whether its theatre, poetry or music event and sometimes just deciding to just stay home with my mum and sister and watching Dr Who.

My soundtrack to London would include

Adele, “Hometown Glory” –  I love Adele and both her albums. This is my favourite song from 19 and it has a very cinematic feel to it. Whenever I hear it I picture myself walking through central London in slow motion with everyone rushing around me.

Ed Sheeran, “The A Team” – Ed Sheeran is someone I know and have seen achieve great things in a relatively short space of time but he remains ever humble.  The A Team was a song he wrote when he was doing voluntary performances at a homeless shelter for Crisis at Christmas. The song is inspired by a real life story of someone down and out in London.

Dean Atta, ” Key to the City” – My poem was a way for me to realise how hard other people have it in this city and all over the world. There are people without family, without love and without hope. When it comes down to it, what more do you need than food, shelter and someone to love?

Find out more about Dean Atta at:


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