My London: Writer Dean Atta

27-year-old writer Dean Atta shares his thoughts on singing, dancing, writing, the London riots and learning to accept rejection…

I still live in Wembley in the house I grew up in so I still have one foot in the past but I don’t think I could justifiably live in London and not live in my family home because it’s just so expensive.

My mother has always encouraged me to follow my dreams from day one, whether taking me to auditions, rehearsals and shows as a child, to supporting me as an adult in those times when my writing wasn’t making me any money. Her belief in me has given me the freedom to become who I am and write what I do.

Happiness is doing what you love doing and being with people you love being with every single day. Happiness is my life as a writer.

I’m still a fan of East London, particularly Bethnal Green Road. You’ll often find me in Shoreditch House or watching a film or performance at Rich Mix. I go to Rich Mix quite often to have meetings in the café or to use the free Wi-Fi. I also adore the Southbank and everything along that stretch of the river and make good use of the free Wi-Fi at the Royal Festival Hall.

Before I got into writing poetry in my late teens, I was really into acting, singing and dancing. Being part of major West End productions at such a young age was a huge part of my formative years and memories and it means I rarely get stage fright as an adult because I literally grew up on stage.

My perfect London day would involve sunshine, Hyde Park, a picnic, an iPod and speakers and all my closest friends. My perfect night in London would consist of a meal with my closest friends followed by some great live music and then an amazing DJ so we could dance all night long.

The diversity of the London people, whether they’re tourists, students, working here for a short time, recent immigrants or second or third generation immigrants, you can literally find someone from any part of the world living in London. I mean where else could my mum and dad – from Cyprus and Jamaica – have met but here in London?

I’m a big fan of autumn and winter because I get to wear my scarves, which I seem to be amounting a large collection of. Also because it’s my birthday on Halloween, then it’s Guy Fawkes Night, then it’s Christmas and New Year and I get to spend loads of time with my family and friends.

I feel most creative when I am with my poetry collectives Rubix – based at the Roundhouse in Camden – and Keats House Poet’s Forum – based at Keats House Museum in Hampstead. Being a writer is often a very solitary experience. I joined these groups to meet some new people and get some new ideas and I found myself in community of like-minded people all on similar journeys and supporting each other’s development. I would recommend joining or starting a writer’s group to any young writer. For me it makes writing so much more fun. You don’t even have to meet; you can set up a virtual group and support each other online.

I really love food and eating out but I’ve never been to the restaurant on top of the OXO Tower or to Gilgamesh in Camden or The Ivy or anywhere that looks too expensive because I assume I can’t afford them.

Gary Trowsdale is my favourite Londoner. He is the main man behind the Spirit of London Awards (SOLA) know as the community Oscars for young people. I won a SOLA Award in 2009 for ‘Achievement Through the Arts’ and from the first day I met Gary he has been a huge influence in my life by connecting me to so many amazing young people who are doing such positive things for this city.

I think the hard-working, community-spirited young people of London are our best-kept secret. Especially since the riots, the young people of London have received so much bad press; it’s in everyone’s interest to turn around this negative image of young people for the sake of the city’s economy, morale, pride and happiness. You don’t have to look far in this city to find a young entrepreneur, community leader or positive role model but they are not getting the press they deserve.

The song at the moment that encapsulates the feeling in London right now is song called London Bridge by United Vibrations featuring rapper Conrad the Scoundral. This track was written pre-London riots and pre-Occupy London movement but with time it has become more relevant.

I work a lot outside of London and when I’m away I really miss knowing that at whatever time of day or night I could text or Tweet one of my friends and there would be something fun, creative or inspiring for me to attend.

The cost of public transport has become ridiculous. That’s part of the reason I’m working from home as much as possible at the moment because the January increase in fares was a shock to the system and the wallet. I’m having more and more meetings on Skype these days because people don’t want to travel.

‘If you don’t ask you don’t get’; a piece of advice my mother gave me early in life and allows me to be bold in what I ask for because the worst people can say is ‘no’. Once you’re past your fear of the word ‘no’ and stop attaching a personal sense of rejection to being told no you allow yourself to be much braver. As an actor you go for auditions all the time and get told no because you’re not right for the part or someone else was better, I think this early experience of rejection toughened me up.

Why not start your journey into the spoken word scene by coming to London Liming Presents Come Rhyme with Me on Thursday 9 February? We have seven of the best poets in London performing that night: Inua Ellams, Floetic Lara, Jasmine Cooray, James Massiah, Dougie Hastings, Deanna Rodger and myself.’

Tilt’s London Liming: Come Rhyme with Me is taking place at 7.30pm on Thursday 9 February at:

Rich Mix
35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road
E1 6LA

Info and booking tel: 020 7613 7498

Image courtesy of Naomi Woddis

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