Tottenham mother of four Sue Allen, began performing spoken word in 2016 when her daughter encouraged her to go to a friend's poetry event. Since then she has continued performing as Mumma Sue, at venues and festivals around the UK. This Friday we're excited that she'll be performing at our first birthday celebration and International Women's Day gig with Tottenham promoters Helkat. Rachel Ho caught up with Sue ahead of the event.
Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?
I grew up in England, Germany and Belgium and spent my secondary education in a boarding school in South East London. After that we lived in Hong Kong for a year.
My dad was in the army up until I was 17, he then retired from the forces and later joined the fire service in Cheltenham.
My mum was a secretary and PA.
Photo supplied: Sue Allen aka Mumma Sue.
We got to travel a lot, quite frustrating as a child having to pack up every 3-5 years and start over making new friends, but when I look back on my life I feel very blessed and privileged to have had the opportunities I’ve had.
What is your relationship to Tottenham?
I started working for Middlesex University, at the Tottenham campus in 1993 and at the time was living with friends in Hackney. I actually began living in Tottenham after giving birth to my first child in 1994. I have lived here now for over 25 years with my 4 children, 3 of whom are now fully fledged adults!
How did you get into performance poetry?
It’s something I had wanted to do for a very long time but never quite plucked up the courage to do.
Photo supplied: Mumma Sue performing.
We were at a restaurant for my eldest daughter's 22nd birthday back in September 2016 when her friend, Gabriel, was talking about a new poetry event he was putting on that week in Dalston. My daughter, Channon, told me that I should go to it knowing it was something I had always wanted to do. She also knew how many years I'd been writing and personally sharing my poetry for. So I agreed, but I'm not going to lie, we had had quite a bit of prosecco!
Two days later when I'd forgot about the encounter, Channon came home from work and asked me if I was ready, to which I replied “Ready for what?”, and she gently reminded me “To go do your poetry at Gabriel’s event.” I was so tired as I’d been up most of the night trying to pack up the house, so I told her I was too tired. She was having none of it! She basically, quite rightly, reminded me that I’d given my word to Gabriel and I was nothing without my word. she even got so mad that she asked if she should go read my f’in poetry for me!!
So off we went to Blondies In Dalston and I stood shaking by the mic with my book of poems and read a piece called "Grown". To my surprise people wanted to hear more. It was the best feeling in the world; so freeing and empowering. From that moment I wanted to go perform again and again. I did; I basically went out every week to open mic events around London and performed my poetry and the response was always amazing. Writing is my therapy and being able to share is my healing.
What inspires you for your poetry pieces?
Life... quite simply.... life. Family and everyday encounters. I usually write about things that I either can not process or understand and need to work though in my mind only instead I choose to put it on paper. I have to say I believe my poetry is more about reflection, realisation and self empowerment.
As a woman, how do you think Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change?
Now there’s a question; a lot and not a lot if I’m honest!
I’d like to see more facilities and free accessible services for the youths. Everyone is quick to ridicule the young ones for always hanging about etc, but if you take away what little youth centres and services there are, what else are they going to do?
Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?
I still work full time at Middlesex Uni and I am trying to grow my own business designing and making bespoke silver and gold jewellery. So when I’m home and have free time (and the weather is good) I like to take my youngest son, who’s 7, out to Bruce Castle park or for a walk along the canal at Tottenham marshes.
Photo supplied: Sue with her son.
Find out about Mumma Sue:
Get tickets to the International Women's Day Event at The Cause this Friday: