Young Identity

‘Cabaret for Freedom’ event held by Manchester Literature Festival features Tolu Agbelusi, Yomi Sode and Young Identity

  • Manchester Literature Festival have been hosting a number of live events this month
  • The event featured poets performing poetry and music on a variety of themes
  • The youngest poet was a boy of primary-school age 


On Saturday night, St John’s Church hosted the Cabaret for Freedom event with British-Nigerian poets Yomi Sode, Tolu Agbelusi and Manchester-based writing collective Young Identity.

The night kicked off with host and founder of Young Identity Shirley May reciting poem ‘Queen reigns in a city of bees’, which celebrates Caribbean culture and being born Black-British.

Speaking about the poems, May said: “I saw the city growing and changing, I saw the ugly bits and the beautiful parts.”

Other poets from Young Identity then performed, exploring a variety of topics and themes with their authentic voices ranging from mental health, natural disasters, identity and blackness among the many.

The poets were mainly young adults, however the youngest performer was a primary school boy from Stretford.

They performed poetry and music on the theme: ‘Such a time as this’.

Young Identity are a charity that began as a voluntary youth-arts performance project.

It was founded by May along with Ali Gadema in 2006, and is partnered with Home, Manchester’s centre for contemporary theatre, film, art, music and more. 

A published poet, May has appeared in numerous anthologies and is a part of Speakeasy Collective, with her first poetry collection titled ‘She Wrote Her Own Eulogy’.

She has appeared at venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York and the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica. 

 A ten-minute interval occurred at the event, during which up-and-coming vocal artist Shola Mcleod performed before more poets from Young Identity took to the stage.


Tolu Agelusi, a human rights lawyer and the founder of Home Sessions, a poetry development programme for young black poets, recited from her collection ‘Locating Strongwoman’, or Jacaranda, which explores the unperformed self, womanhood, and the art of living. 


Yomi Sode, Tolu Agelusi
Tolu Agelusi and Yomi Sode at the MLF

Yomi Sode, another performer and an international poet, ended the night by reciting three poems.

Sode won the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship in 2019 and has also contributed by writing an essay in SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space, which was published in 2019.

His first poetry collection Manorism is coming out in 2022 and will be published by Penguin. 

The full list of the ‘Young Identity’ poets are listed below:

  • Nasima Begum, known as Nasima Bee
  • P. A. Bitez
  • Saf Elsenossi, known as SAF-S2E
  • Roma Havers
  • Isaiah Hull
  • Jova
  • Katia Kennedy
  • Louis Registe
  • Reece Williams.

Young Identity are running a number of events this month such as the ‘And We Rise; Together’, a performance and protest poetry event which will be held on Thursday 28 at Manchester Central Library.  

The group also regularly run programmes which offer weekly poetry and performance workshops for young people, as well as providing professional mentoring, writing, dramaturgy and movement specialist classes.

These programmes take place at 7-9pm at Home every Monday and at Limelight every Tuesday.