Rommi Smith is a poet and playwright, who works to fuse spoken word and music together. She has been performing her work since the age of 14. A spellbinding, dynamic and powerful performer, Rommi works in collaboration with dancers, music producers and musicians (and with her own band), to create a synthesis of lyrical spoken and sung word.
Performing her work regularly, both nationally and internationally, at arts, music and literature festivals (including The Guinness Jazz Festival; Ilkley Literature Festival, Sight Sonic; Crossing Borders, Amsterdam; Nuyorican Poet’s Café, New York; Prix Europa, Berlin and Vienna Literature Festival) Rommi has achieved a reputation for sharp, socially conscious poetic imagery, fused with astute harmonies, and jazz, funk and soul rhythms.
Rommi has been commissioned to create new work which has been broadcast extensively on various media, including: BBC Online, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Arabic Services Radio and BBC World Service. She is a contributor to, and performer on, numerous programmes including: Late Junction, Woman’s Hour, Fine Lines, The Verb, Poetry Please! Rommi and her band were commissioned to create new work for Late Night Lines from the Lowry (part of Radio 4’s Poetry Festival). Print and audio versions of Rommi’s work are featured on the BBC website (see the Links Page for details). Rommi was Chair of the first ever people’s jury for the Booker Prize.
Rommi has held numerous residencies in England and abroad. In 2001, Rommi was invited to take up the post of Poet in Residence for BBC Music Live, the first post of its kind in the history of the festival. In 2002 Rommi was BBC Artist in Residence for the Commonwealth Games, writing for broadcast on BBC World Service, Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, BBC 2002 Commonwealth Games Radio and BBC Television. In 2005, Rommi was appointed Writer in Residence for BBC Radio 3’s Africa Season, writing extensively for BBC. Her role explored her Nigerian and English heritage, as well as stories of other people of African heritage in the UK. As part of this residency she wrote and performed a documentary about the cosmology of African naming, for the Twenty Minutes documentary series on BBC Radio 3. These poems were fused with music in collaboration with bassist Ken Higgins and percussionist Danny Templeman, for programmes such as Late Junction and The Verb.
In 2006, Rommi was invited to work for the British Council as Poet in Residence at California State University in Los Angeles. Whilst in residence, she worked with faculty and students to create Blues, Boats and Hurricanes, a response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
As an actor, Rommi has performed in Eve Ensler’s, The Vagina Monologues.
As a playwright Rommi has been commissioned by Paines Plough Theatre Company, BBC Radio Drama and Pentabus Theatre. Rommi’s play, Take a Pinch Of was an afternoon Drama for BBC Radio 4, featuring soul diva, Ruby Turner. In 2005, Rommi was commissioned to write and perform a new play, Fairtrade and Fairytales as part Flight 5065, an evening of live performances on the London Eye to raise awareness of Africa, Fairtrade and Debt Relief. In 2006 Rommi’s play Rain in his Suitcase was a European commission aired on BBC Radio and as part of Prix Europa celebrations in Berlin. Her short play Mountain Knows Me (commissioned by Pentabus and BBC Radio 4 Drama) was part of the Edinburgh Festival, before transferring to Soho Theatre in London’s West End and then onto Stockholm. The play has been developed and will be broadcast on Woman’s Hour in 2007. The play is published by Oberon Modern Plays as part of White Open Spaces, a collective commission from seven writers, which was nominated this year for a South Bank Show Award.
In autumn 2006, Rommi was invited to write an edition of From Fact to Fiction, the BBC Radio 4 series where writers are commissioned to write about the week’s news. Rommi wrote Our Deep Sorrow, a poetic examination of the public reaction to Tony’ Blair’s non-apology, but ‘deep sorrow’ for Britain’s role in the Slave Trade. The piece featured actor Burt Caesar and music by London Community Gospel Choir and bassist Ken Higgins. The piece was directed by Peter Leslie Wild.
Rommi dreams up and leads imaginative writing workshops for groups of all ages. A qualified teacher, Rommi tailors workshops to Key Stage subjects. Rommi teaches creative writing at Leeds University and is a regular tutor for the Arvon Foundation.
Rommi second collection, Mornings and Midnights, which is inspired by the lives of divas, is due from Peepal Tree Press. The chapbook of poems from the full collection was selected as Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice.
Rommi is delighted to have been appointed Parliamentary Writer in Residence. Employed by the House of Commons, Rommi’s work focuses on creatively exploring the Parliamentary exhibition: The British Slave Trade, Abolition, Parliament and People. This is the first time in history a Parliamentary Writer in Residence has been appointed. It is also the first time in history there has been a Parliamentary Writer in Residence for a Parliamentary exhibition. As part of her role, Rommi is producing dynamic and imaginative educational resources which will be available for download via the Parliamentary website for the exhibition.
Rommi Smith will be Bicentenary poet-in-residence at Ilkley Literature Festival in autumn 2007.
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