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Photo: Alexis Chabala

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Akala: Comedy Tragedy History

‘I stayed in school partly because of Wu-Tang Clan. If it’s influential, it’s all influential or none of it is. My problem is the hypocrisy of it.’

Kingslee James McLean Daley – Akala – is a BAFTA and MOBO winning hip-hop artist … and a poet, historian, activist, author and polemicist. As a performer, he’s known for his versatile adventures with genre; in his writing, he’s known for his cutting appraisal of the social, political and historical conditions that underpin our global moment.

Published last year, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, explores the complexity – and denial – of race and class in modern Britain. Benjamin Zephaniah lauded it: ‘This is the book I’ve been waiting for – for years.’ Natives was preceded by You Can do Anything (Hip and Hop), a children’s book. Akala undeniably has range – there are few authors whose other projects include tours with the likes of Jay Z and M.I.A.

Akala’s insights draw from his experiences as a black child with a white mother; from his racialised encounters with powerful institutions, and his family’s, too (he has ten siblings, one of whom is highly successful musician Ms. Dynamite). In conversation with Andy Butler, he’ll discuss his incredibly varied skills as a writer, his ambitions for his work – and why the rules are glaringly outdated.

Readings will be our bookseller for this event.


Portrait of Akala


Akala is a BAFTA and MOBO Award-winning hip-hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur, as well as the co-founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company. He is also known for his compelling lectures and journalism – he has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent, and spoken for the Oxford Union and TEDx. His Sunday Times bestseller Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire is a searing polemic, covering everything from the police, education and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, speaking directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.

Portrait of Andy Butler

Andy Butler

Andy Butler is a writer, curator and artist. His writing on art and politics has been published widely, including in the Monthly, the Saturday Paper, Art + Australia, Overland and Runway, and in publications for major art institutions. He has curated exhibitions and exhibited his own work at artist run and public galleries, read or performed at national and international writers' festivals, and undertaken writing and artist residencies in Australia and overseas. His practice interrogates how dynamics of race and power shape cultural production. He sits on the board of SEVENTH Gallery and is a co-director of Mailbox Art Space.

How much?

$25 adults and $20 concession, plus 50c booking fee. Book your tickets


An alchemy of writers. An explosion of ideas.

Do you like your military history with a side of hip-hop? How about fabulist fiction beside trailblazing journalism? This May, take your brain out for a spin. You’ll meet Pulitzer-winners, YA stars, eminent historians, poets, rappers and some of the world’s best living novelists.

Event partners

Logos of partner organisations: Sydney Writers Festival, Auckland Writers Festival, State Library Victoria, State Library of Queensland and Byron Writers Festival


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