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EPISODE: Fearless and never giving up. Talking sexuality with Joelle Taylor and never giving up despite her disability with Ruby Khan


Ruby and Shaheen Khan


Ruby and Shaheen Khan
Ruby Khan shares her story of feeling suicidal due to a speech-language impairment which caused me to speak and write with difficulty, how her mother was advised not to have her daughter and how they fought back. 

Ruby Says...

I am Ruby Khan. 21 years old from north west London. I have experienced a melancholic journey but am stronger and confident despite my past.  I suffered from huge insecurities at the age of 5 I was diagnosed with a speech-language impairment which caused me to speak and write with difficulty. As I grew up it was challenging. I got bullied throughout my childhood due to not being perfect with being able to speak and write properly. My mum sacrificed everything for me. I was a premature baby born weighing only a pound. My mother and I have experienced a lot of trauma throughout our journey. Without my mother’s support, I wouldn't be here today and would be who I am. Embracing my traumatic past has made my mother and myself stronger and living our lives with more courage and confidence. We received invaluable support from a charity called Contact a Family, who organised trips to places around London. Through speaking to people more, this helped me build my self-confidence. I started attending special needs school but then slowly progressed into the mainstream. With all the support from my mother, I am now successfully at university which I never thought I would be possible. I am currently studying fine arts BA at The University of East London. Doing fine art at uni gives me the freedom to express my experiences, journeys, and memories to the world.

I give all the credit to my mother who has supported me since the day I was born. She always tells me that she said I was a miracle My mum has sacrificed me the strong more fearless person I am today.

Ruby Khan - BA Fine Arts Student

Joelle Taylor

Joelle Taylor - Fighting Back

Joelle Taylor shares her brave story of how she fought back from being abused and coming out about her sexuality.

Joelle is an award-winning poet, playwright, author, and editor. She has performed across the UK as well as internationally, both for the British Council (Zimbabwe, Brazil, Botswana, Australia, and Singapore) and on solo projects across Europe.

She has read in a diverse range of venues from the 100 Club, the 02 Arena, the Royal Festival Hall and Ronnie Scott’s to the Royal Court, the Globe, the ICA, Buckingham Palace and various prisons including Pentonville and Holloway.

She has published three full collections of poetry: Ska Tissue (2011, Mother Foucault Press), The Woman Who Was Not There (2014, Burning Eye Books), and her latest collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me (2017, Out-Spoken Press).

Her most recent collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me (Out-Spoken Press) was inspired by fusing her own story of surviving sexual abuse with masterclasses engaging groups of vulnerable women across the UK. Speaking to refugees, prisoners, young mothers, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, the collection powerfully evokes the struggles women still face globally in the 21st Century.
“These poems of witness are a reckoning, where the poet says - woman I am you, I see you, I feel you.” - Malika Booker

Joelle’s previous collection The Woman Who Was Not There (Burning Eye) was named as one of the UK’s top ten recommended collections in the Morning Star and was described by Benjamin Zephaniah as ‘Fearless. This is poetry with purpose’.

She has been anthologised widely in English, Portuguese, Polish, Spanish, Estonian, Finnish, Arabic and Ndebele; and her work is a Subject for Study on the OCR GCSE English syllabus.

A former UK slam champion, she founded the national youth slam championships SLAMbassadors in 2001 for the Poetry Society and was its Artistic Director and National Coach until 2018.

She founded and is the Artistic Director and Lead Mentor on Borderlines - a new international spoken word project that links 10 UK cities with 7 European countries to discuss the theme of ‘borders’.

As an educator, she has lead workshops and residencies in schools, prisons, youth centers, refugee groups, and other settings for organisations including the Poetry Society, the British Council, Arvon Foundation and English PEN. She featured on TEDx Talks and Outsider Lectures, and was recently awarded a Southbank Centre Change Maker prize, in recognition of her life-changing work on the national youth slams. She has a Fellowship of the Royal Society of the Arts and was longlisted for the 2017 Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship.

In 2017 Joelle featured in a BBC documentary We Belong Here, about the role of poetry in post- Brexit Britain alongside Lemn Sissay, Jack Underwood and Sabrina Mahfouz. She was commissioned by the BBC to write a piece for the Hull City of Culture celebrations, broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb, and featured in Powerlines, a radio documentary for BBC Radio 4 about the role of the poet as social activist.

She has appeared on several television (Faking It, Blue Peter, the One Show, Vanessa Feltz Show) and radio programmes (Women’s Hour, Radio 1 Extra, the Edwina Curry Show). A documentary about her life and work Life Changing Verse was made by Don Productions in 2010 and broadcast on television. She recently featured in Educating the East End for Channel 4, as well as appearing on Sky News to speak about the role of poetry in UK schools.

She was the joint founder and Artistic Director of Spin/ Stir Women’s Physical Theatre Collective with Vanessa Lee.  Her plays include Naming (Oval House Theatre), Horror Stories (Oval House Theatre), Horror Stories II ( Oval House Theatre), Lucid Johnston (Kings Head Theatre and Oval House Theatre), and Abigail’s Play Party (Royal Festival Hall).

Her most recent spoken word theatre piece CUNTO (Battersea Arts Centre, 2018) was commissioned by Apples & Snakes and is in development for a full production.

The National Portrait Gallery has commissioned a portrait of her as part of their 2019 exhibition of Contemporary Poets.

Her collection of short stories The Night Alphabet is due for completion in 2019.

She is the host of London’s premier night of poetry and music Out-Spoken and a member of the curation team.

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