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Stay at Home Comforts: Dami Okhiria

Dami Okhiria is a slam poetry contest champion who has performed at Tramlines Festival and on BBC Radio Sheffield.

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Previously President of the Sheffield University Poetry Society, Dami is currently helping with data collection for Public Health England while she finishes her medical degree.

Hi Dami. How are you and what have you been up to today?

I'm great thank you. I baked a cake today; it was lovely and full of caramel. A little post-birthday treat.

If you had to sum up your lockdown experience so far in one sentence, what would it be?

Zoom! House Party, and the realisation that I need a better internet connection.

Are you doing anything in particular to keep your spirits up?

I've made a lot of cake and cocktails so that's kept me pretty jolly. I've been going on lovely walks and runs as well since the weather has been nice.

Do you have any music, book, film or TV recommendations you'd like to share?

I'm currently reading Michelle Obama's Becoming - that's really good and inspiring - interspersed with William Sieghart's The Poetry Pharmacy Returns which is really uplifting. I May Destroy You is a fantastic new show on BBC One, and there's still time to catch up.

Is there a particular restaurant, cafe or pub you're missing, or a local delivery you've enjoyed?

I'm really missing Bambukat right now. It's a fab Indian restaurant on Fulwood Road.

How has your experience of the last few months impacted your poetry, in terms of how you work and/or your subject matter?

Lockdown forced me to really slow down initially, which encouraged me to share more of my page poetry, since that tends to be my slower-paced stuff, so that was quite nice.

I was also able to do some online workshops - yay Zoom! That was really great for me, because I don't often get the chance to do writing workshops.

You're used to performing for a live audience, but during lockdown you've posted recordings from your living room to your Facebook page. Has that felt very different to normal readings? And has it been easy to stay connected to the poetry and spoken word community with no events happening?

It's definitely weird not having the audience to bounce off, but it's been really fun to continue sharing my work with people, even if it's through a screen.

It's been surprisingly easy to stay connected to the poetry community, though. Lots of people have risen to the challenge and put on amazing open mics, slams and full featured sets via all sorts of mediums: Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram... Honestly, it's been great! If anyone wants to check them out, here are a few I can remember: Whisky & Beards Publishing, Creation Poetry Open Mic, Risk aVerse.

You've achieved creative success while training as a doctor, a role many people would see as objective and scientific. What are your thoughts on the role of arts - poetry or otherwise - even in situations where immediate and practical solutions can feel far more important?

Well, I feel like the arts are as essential as breath is to life. We're all heavily relying on artists to stay sane and entertained right now as we remain in our homes. NHS and other key workers are obviously doing an amazing job of caring for our loved ones, keeping us all safe and fed. It's clear we need it all. We need the objective and subjective, the practical and the playful, to make it through difficult times.

What's the first place in Sheffield you want to visit once lockdown rules are relaxed?

Honestly, Western Bank Library. Never thought I would miss a library, but here we are.

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