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Getting To Know Matilda Ibini

Wed 18 June 2014

Soho Writers’ Lab member, BBC Writersroom participant and all-round excellent person Matilda Ibini chats to Jess Mordsley about her recent work and her relationship with Soho.

Jessica Mordsley: I know you’ve been working with Soho Theatre for about three years now, could you tell me a bit about how you got involved?
Matilda Ibini: It was about 2011 and at the time Soho were doing a course (Writers’ Lab) – once a month you’d meet with other writers, learn the ins and outs of playwriting and hopefully have a play at the end of it. So I was really impressed, I thought, “I’d love to do that,” so I applied and got a place. I turned up to the first session and it was really great. I submitted a play I’d written during that course to the Soho Young Writer’s Award, and it got shortlisted. That was a really pleasant surprise, I was like, “oh cool, that means I can write plays and if I can write one, I could write another.”
So I stayed on for the next year and at the end of that I had another play on my hands. I submitted that to the Verity Bargate, and that got longlisted, so it was like, “oh wow, I think I’m on a roll.”

JM: What impact do you think it’s had on you as a writer?
MI: It’s given me a variety of ways to approach subject matters I’m interested in, there are millions of ways to write, but it’s about finding one which suits you. It’s equipped me with lots of tools in my toolbox, something I can whip out if I’m struggling, either at the beginning or in the middle or nearing the end of a play.
It’s given me confidence as well, definitely – writing can make you feel quite insecure because you don’t know if what you’re writing is good enough, or if it makes sense, if you’re writing for an audience.
Also it’s given me the chance to network – I’m quite a shy person so networking’s quite hard, having to approach people and start conversations. It pushed you where you needed to be pushed but you didn’t feel like you were overwhelmed or in the spotlight or anything, it was the right kind of push.

JM: What do you plan to do as part of the BBC Writersroom scheme?
MI: I guess the idea is to develop as a writer for a year but more intensely, so attending workshops and masterclasses. They want to support you in becoming a commission-able writer, I think that’s the biggest thing about it. Because you’re partnered with a theatre, the hope is that also you could possibly write something they could put on their stage, because, I guess, they believe in you, which is very exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.

JM: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the journey so far or your plans for the future?
MI: It’s been – not daunting – but challenging, but Soho’s been supportive every step of the way. The first two years I attended their workshops using a crutch and they always provided a stool, they always checked accessibility, they’d phone you up if the lift was out of order and that might disrupt a performance you were coming to see, or being able to sit on a stool in the theatre during a performance, that’s really helpful. Now that I’ve transitioned to using a wheelchair they’re very accommodating and it doesn’t feel like a big deal, so I like the idea that they’re open to being as accessible as possible, because that’s a big part of me being a writer. Wherever the world is limiting, in writing you can be unlimited, and Soho’s very much in the forefront of that – wanting to make sure anyone and everyone can come to their shows.

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