Listen to the interview here
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a writer. I’ve always written little stories, weird songs and diaries. When I was around 13 or 14 I saw a poetry competition and entered it. I wrote the poem in about 20 minutes, but I ended up coming second. I went all the way up to London for the ceremony and I was the youngest person there. I loved the environment. I knew I wanted to keep doing poetry.
I got involved with the West Sussex Youth Cabinet a few years ago, when I was around 14, and had to write a manifesto. In my manifesto I said that I was a poet. Louise Blackwell, who runs Creative Crawley, read it and reached out to me. She was talking to me about the work she’s doing and I instantly was like, ‘wow, this woman is amazing’. And I was so honoured, especially at the age of 14, that this amazing lady was saying I can do so much with my work and she would help me with it.
Louise asked me to write a poem for Aura’s Odyssey. We had a conversation and she told me Aura’s story. It resonated with a lot of the things about her and could relate it to what my family has been through: being an immigrant, finding your place in a land that you aren’t familiar with. My dad is from Sri Lanka. He was one of the first in our community to move to Crawley about 20 years ago. There were only about 10 Sri Lankan families here. Now there are a few hundred. I was born and raised in Crawley until I was nine, then I lived in Sri Lanka for a couple of years, where my family is from, and then at the start of secondary school I moved back here. There’s a really personal connection to this poem, but it’s also about Aura’s story.
My poetry is definitely a part of me now, it’s a part of my life. For the last three or four years I’ve shared my work on Instagram and Tiktok under the pen name Nutshella. My grandparents are over here at the moment, it’s the first time they’ve visited this country, and they’re coming to the event. I can’t wait to show them my hometown, and can’t wait for them to hear my poetry.
Iffat is performing a specially commissioned poem to welcome Aura around 12.15pm in Queens Square on Sat 13th August. Find out more about Aura’s Odyssey here.
Interview by Tim Bano