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Hussain Manawer, The Original Mummy’s Boy

A poet, writer, mental health campaigner and inspirational individual.

Hussain talks to SCTR about his poetry, his first published book (Life is Sad & Beautiful), his East London roots, and his continued commitment & dedication to driving awareness & understanding around mental health.

Photographer Hamish Brown

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Creative Director Keith Waterfield

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Video Director Lloyd Willacy

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Story by SCTR

SCTR spent the day in Poplar, East London with Hussain Manawer at his studio, an award winning & record breaking; poet, writer, and mental health ambassador, to celebrate the launch of his new book ‘Life is Sad and Beautiful’ – on sale now!

SCTR; Firstly, HUGE congratulations on the release of your first book – ‘Life is Sad & Beautiful’ – how does it feel to have your first book published?

HM; Thanks, I don’t actually know how it feels as it always feels as if I can’t rest, and as much as I’m trying to stop to take in this moment, I feel like there’s so much in this moment that needs to be done it’s not really allowing me to see what’s going on – which is a good thing I guess and I have always been like that.

But when I held the book for the first time, it was a very special moment and then I got a notification to say that someone was at the front gate, I had to put the book down and let them in – but I feel like I will be able to answer that properly later in life, when it has all sunk in.

When I held the book for the first time, it was a very special moment

SCTR; How has your childhood and upbringing affected your life and journey to where you are now/so far?

HM; Growing up in East London affected me massively, it inspired me, it shaped me, it taught me and it also in many aspects hurt me, but I love it, I absolutely love it and everything I have learnt from growing up on the streets of the East end absorbing the subcultures with in the cultures and the communities, prepared me for life and the world, as East London truly is one of the most diverse and multi-cultural places on this planet and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

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Growing up in East London affected me massively, it inspired me, it shaped me, it taught me and it also in many aspects hurt me, but I love it

SCTR; How did your poetry career start and what really instigated this for you?

HM; My poetry career started when I came back from being excluded from school, I came back and a supply teacher showed me a newspaper cutting he saw on the train that morning on his way to work, all about a poetry slam event and I had no idea what that was, but there was an event in Stratford east London, where poets got up and did there poetry thing. So, I went down there and performed and the piece I performed is actually in my book, it’s called ‘that boy’ and it went – ‘that boy just wants to be heard – he’s got a dream that nobody’s heard’

There was something about that moment on stage in Stratford, that lit something within me, and I guess from then it was written in the lines, and it became something I was totally fixated and obsessed with.

SCTR; As a mental health campaigner, what would you say is the most important bit of advice for anyone out there struggling with mental health issues or/and anxiety?

HM; The biggest bit of advice I can give to someone when dealing with their own mental health is to really understand that conversations save lives, and you have to enable yourself to be in a position where you feel comfortable to speak, and that sometimes doesn’t necessarily mean that you speak to the people that are closest to you, but you speak to someone that you feel comfortable speaking to. That could be a mentor or could be a personal trainer it could even be your hairdresser, it just allows you to share what it is you are going through so it feels a lot lighter within you and that’s the first step and from there you can take the second step, and that second step looks different for everyone. But I really truly believe that conversations save lives.

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Grief will always be a part of me, and it changed my character because it made me realize that time is short

SCTR; Greif plays a big part in your work – how would you say this has shaped/changed your character and personality?

HM: Grief plays a huge role in my work, and it really shaped me into being who I am today.
It broke me and it destroyed me, but then through that I found little pieces of magic and was able to piece myself together all in different patches and shapes and sizes. But grief will always be a part of me, and it changed my character because it made me realize that time is short, and it changed my personality because it made me realise, I must let people know that I love them as and when I love them and not assume that they know I love them.

SCTR; Grief has different ways of manifesting itself in different people and situations – how important is accepting grief as an emotion and speaking openly about it?

HM: When you feel comfortable to speak you should, that’s one thing that is really important about grief – only when you feel comfortable.

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When you feel comfortable to speak you should, that’s one thing that is really important about grief – only when you feel comfortable.

SCTR as a brand is centred around supporting and encouraging young creatives to really follow their career dreams & goals, how was this for you when you started on your journey, have there been many hurdles along the way?

HM; Wow my career has been full of…… I wouldn’t even call them hurdles bruv, I would actually call them…. I actually always say to myself, I’m chasing dreams while I’m fighting demons.
Chasing dreams and fighting demons because that is what they are.

There are people out here, there’s obstacles out here, there’s hurdles, barriers, potholes – all types of different things that will come and interrupt your flow, your rhythm, your energy. There’s racism, there is discrimination, there’s inequality, there is lack of opportunity. There are so many things and that’s why I wrote this line; ‘I had to book myself, I can’t hear another maybe’ I realised I had to enable myself to get to where I wanted to go as no one was going to do it for me, and there was not even an opportunity for a certain route for me to go down.

I eventually became supported to follow my creative dream at home, but from a young age it was not encouraged as it was never seen as sustainable and, yea it was very hard, very hard.

But I would never discourage anyone from doing it, but I would encourage people to link their dreams to a sustainable business model, as then you allow yourself to hold on to the sanity that you have and focus on getting to where you need to get to.

SCTR; How did it feel to receive an honorary fellowship from King’s for your mental health campaigning?

HM; Yea it was actually really good to receive a fellowship from Kings collage, as the work that I do around mental health is really important to me, and I have been doing it for so long.
Becoming a honorary fellow at Kings and a Doctorate of art at Oxford Brooks was great and my dad was also really happy as he got to come along to some events and see me going on stage to collect a certificate that goes on a fireplace, that I don’t have….. no, it was good it was nice to be recognised and that was in July 2018, so 4 x years ago.

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I’m chasing dreams while I’m fighting demons.

SCTR; What has been the defining moment in your career overall so far?

HM; I actually don’t know – but probably setting up my own studio you know, I can see the 02 from here, I see the sunrise, I see the sunset, I hear the water in the river Thames, I’m at peace here and it’s a beautiful happy little place that I love and that I take care of and it’s a purpose built safe space environment and I love it.

So, I think that actually the greatest achievement professionally.

SCTR; Any key advice you’d give to your younger self or to young people – Looking to follow a similar journey/path to you?

HM; The advice I would give to my younger self, is to continue to not listen to anybody!

SCTR; How do you typically deal with failures/rejections & how do overcome them?

HM; I deal with failure by mentally noting that specific failure, and then understanding that I will come back for it, like the terminator and demolish it!

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I would like to get involved with ensuring that more opportunities are created, more pathways are created and there is more going on for those from marginalized community groups.

SCTR; Hopes & goals for the future. Where do you see yourself 5 x years from now?

HM; Hopefully with a family, I would love to build my own family now, I think its definitely time for that.
Careers wise I don’t know, if I am actually still able to write poems and people are still interested in what I have to say then that’s wonderful, but if not, you may find me on a mountain somewhere hiking!

SCTR; What else would you like to get involved in?

HM; I would like to get involved with ensuring that more opportunities are created, more pathways are created and there is more going on for those from marginalised community groups.

SCTR; Any future projects coming up? what is next for you? (Project work / Blenheim palace, exhibition, more books).

HM; Yea I have an exhibition coming out at Blenheim Palace, that is now happening, which is so sick! the ‘Life is Sad and Beautiful’ exhibition.
I will also be supporting Bon Iver at Wembley on October 26th with CARM, an amazing band.

SCTR; Anything else you’d like to add?

HM; Yea – I would like to add one thing; ‘if you can make it out of your mind you can truly make it anywhere!

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