Owen Davies - Commercial Photographer



If creativity was an object, what would it be?

Over two years, I invited Lyrix Organix artists to reveal a personal belonging that influences their art, or is an essential part of their creative process. Where did they come from? How and why do these belongings still inspire them to create?

Through a series of portraits and still life images, twelve performing artists - jazz musicians, world champion beatboxers, award winning poets and rappers - reveal the stories behind their most precious objects.

Object/Create features:

Dean Atta | Ayanna Witter-Johnson | Toby Thompson | Deanna Rodger Solomon OB | Sophia Thakur | Hobbit Beatbox | Dan Tsu | Natty Speaks | Paul Cree | MC Zani | Grace Savage

About Lyrix Organix

Lyrix Organix are a pioneering live events and youth education company celebrating their 10th anniversary in 2019. Their stages have seen pivotal live performances from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Akala and Kate Tempest. Lyrix Organix explore the space between language and music, specialising in artistic social action projects across the world; from Ethiopia to Kazakhstan, Roundhouse to Tate Britain and the streets of London to their own infamous stage at Glastonbury Festival.

portrait of performance poet and mc solomon ob

"These sketchbooks mean a lot to me. 

My life is in these words." 

Notebooks / Solomon O.B. 

“Each page turned reflects a snapshot of my life and it’s amazing how far they can take you back. You remember where you were and how you felt with each entry and the process of writing becomes a deeply personal experience. 

They serve as a reminder for how far you’ve come as an artist and keep you inspired to achieve all you’ve set out to do.

Recording and performing are their own unique experiences but writing holds a special place within me. Meditation, catharsis and self-actualisation all take place between these pages.

Each book has it’s own personality and each have taken me on a journey that I’m eternally grateful for.

I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t write. I think I’ll do this for the rest if my life”

Solomon O.B. first performed at Lyrix Organix as a beatboxer (2010), where he was paired up with a young Ed Sheeran. He evolved into a spoken word artist, rapper and musician, going on to become National Poetry Slam champion (2016). 

portrait of performance poet deanna rodger

"Dolly was the first audience for my innermost thoughts"

Dolly/ Deanna Rodger

"Dolly is about 70 centimetres tall. Now with holes and inconsistent stitching, she was a gift to me from my granny. I was three years old.

My granny is my hero. I like to think that she and I are very similar. She is bright in mind, humour, and attire. 

My granny paints her fridges yellow and adorns her walls with pictures, trinkets, and even outfits!

She is honest, kind, and generous, and admits she can be vicious. She drinks copious amount of tea and smokes copious amount of cigarettes. 

She has tried to teach me; how to garden, how to sew, how to hand-wash wool and cashmere, how to play Mozart Sonata in c major k545.

I have learnt how to how to appreciate a view, how to ask and listen, and finally how to hand-wash! 

There is comfort in being ‘listened’ to, not judged, fully accepted. Perhaps I am a writer and performer because of this. Perhaps my dolly taught me how to love something that couldn’t love me back. Perhaps she taught me how to tear apart and stitch back up, when to put things through the wash. Perhaps she taught me how to look after gifts.

Dolly was the first audience for my innermost thoughts and, though she is an object, she facilitated a space for me to chat out my thinkings and feelings at an age where language was new and clunky.

Language is still clunky and still being discovered. Now I play with it in solitude on paper and edit and rehearse before I perform. Perhaps I should return to the indeterminate messy chatter of a child?"

Deanna Rodger is an international performance poet, published writer, theatre- maker and facilitator. She has been commissioned by BBC, Young Vic and teaches alongside Benjamin Zephaniah at Brunel University. 

portrait of lyrix organix founder dan tsu

"My career is built on the art of listening.

Sharing music makes me happiest."

Headphones / Dan Tsu

"I bought these Sennheiser HD25 Headphones from a guy in a Vauxhall Astra outside Hammersmith Apollo in 2007. Boxed, new, probably stolen.

These DJ headphones have travelled the world with me. They amplify my ears. They are eyes for music. A window to my soul. Of all the activities I do within the sphere of music - produce events, write blogs, host stages, perform, facilitate workshops - being behind two Technic 1210 turntables and a mixer is where I feel most alive.

The soft cushions of these headphones are like a loved sofa, stained with the mud of Glastonbury Festival. Curiously Glastonbury is one of the few places I regularly DJ (at the venue I manage, the Rum Shack). Every year I pinch myself.

They have followed me loyally on my DJ journey over the last 10+ years. Mexican festivals. Sweaty house parties in Manor House. Wealthy clubs in Azerbaijan. Empty Sunday residencies in Camden.

If I could I would play Bashment/Dancehall all day. But also UK Garage, Grime, Hip Hop, Afrobeat, Jungle/Drum n Bass and obscure Bass-led Electronica. Back in the day when we didn’t have a mic, we would plug these in and MC into the headphones.

Whenever I wear them I experience music differently. Not just because of the fidelity of sound, but the way I approach the music. I tune in. Ears are my tools.

My career is built on the art of listening. Listening to music. To poetry. To people. Most of all - the reason I do everything - I love to curate listening for other people. Sharing music makes me happiest."

Dan Tsu is the founder and director of Lyrix Organix. An event producer, promoter, workshop programme director and facilitator. Dan started his music career as a Drum’n’Bass MC. He has self-financed Lyrix Organix since 2009 and remains committed to platforms for youth and social activism. 

portrait of performance poet and writer toby thompson

"The stuff I make is rarely very visual

It’s nice to switch realms every once in a while."

Scrapbook / Toby Thompson 

"Last summer I bought a book of blank music manuscript paper. Around the same time I found a collection of illustrated Vogue covers from the mid 20th century, and started slicing them up with a scalpel and ruler. I spent two days binge listening to the audiobook ‘My Family And Other Animals’ and it’s sequel ‘Birds, Beasts and Relatives’ by Gerald Durrell, sitting in bed making the front and back covers in a mess of glue and offcuts. Then I started figuring out how to notate some songs I knew and others I wanted to learn.

My mum has a book a bit like this from when she used to play piano and sing in bars and restaurants. I always found it kind of bewitching seeing the handwritten lyrics and chord names scribbled on those pages, in ink that sank into the paper long before I was born. I’ve grown up hearing her play those songs, and that book has been for me like a time portal through which i can travel back to the moment she first set about wrapping her fingers and voice around those songs.

I guess I also wanted to do some collaging that was just for me. I think maybe I wanted for the book as an object to represent for me the very idea of having a hobby. Playing piano isn’t something I do professionally, but it’s one of the deepest sources of satisfaction in my life. I liked the idea of having a physical home for the journey of learning I’m going on with it. Having something to prioritise for its own sake rather than in order to further my career or any future centric thing like that. Also the stuff I make is rarely very visual at all, it’s all sound and language, so it’s nice to switch realms every once in a while."

Toby Thompson is a performance poet from Bath who first performed at Lyrix Organix aged 17 years old, with Akala’s Hip Hop Shakespeare Co (2011). A founding artist of Lyrix Organix ‘UnFOLD’ (2014), Toby recently won a Pleasance Indie award at Edinburgh Fringe for his one-man show

‘For The Record’ (2018). 

portrait of performance poet and writer sophia thakur

"The excitement, the trust and the selflessness of it all."

Chain / Sophia Thakur

"My object is a chain.

Someone who believed in me bought it for me.

It reminds me of when I first started poetry.

The excitement, the trust and the selflessness of it all. 

A me that I can’t afford to forget."

Sophia Thakur is a performance poet, writer, speaker and model.
Since joining Lyrix Organix for ‘UnFOLD’ (2017) she has performed Lovebox, Tate Britain and Glastonbury Festival.

Sophia’s first published collection will be released in 2019 with Walker Books. 

portrait of beatboxer MC zani

"When I’m in that zone, nothing can stop me."

Keyboard / MC Zani

“I’ve owned this Mini MIDI keyboard for 4 years. It goes with me wherever I go. When I’m travelling - I travel a lot for my work - it is my little escapism between gigs.

When I’m on a plane or train, I plug it into my laptop, put my headphones on and start making music - I’m completely detached from the outside world. When I’m in that zone, nothing can stop me. My father was a musician. He was my first exposure to music, we had lots of instruments around the house.

For me, there’s two versions of creativity - good and bad.

Good: Ideas pop into my head and I’m desperate to get them down before I forget it. Once I get in front of my keyboard, time seems to fly by.

Bad: it can take forever to get something I’m completely happy with. I’ll spend ages trying, but nothing seems to feel right. Usually I have to record at least something, take a break and do something else for a few hours (or days) and then revisit with fresh ears. Often after that time has passed, I like what I’ve recorded and I start feeling more inspired again.” 

Dean Hosenie (‘MC Zani’) is a beatboxer and MC, touring with the likes of Foreign Beggars and Jay Sean.

One of the original UK Beatbox Champions (2008), Zani is World Beatbox Team Champion (2018) and co-produces UK Beatbox Championships. 

portrait of musician and beatboxer grace savage

"My most creative moments are triggered when I’m doing something ordinary"

Lead / Grace Savage

"I often work alone from home and it can be quite isolating and difficult to motivate myself to work/find inspiration but ever since having a dog in my life, things have changed.

I now HAVE to leave the house for at least an hour everyday, get some fresh air, gather my thoughts, speak to strangers in the park, run around and laugh with the silly little mutt and forget about anything that’s stressing me out. Having that time to take in nature and be with my thoughts is now a vital part to improving my mental well being and creativity. It also gives me a bit of the routine I’ve always craved and never really had as a freelance artist for the past 9 years. I often find my most creative moments are triggered when I’m doing something “ordinary” and repetitive like the washing up or walking the dog because I’m not forcing myself to come up with ideas - instead they’re coming from a more spontaneous, subconscious place.

I’m always jotting down voice memos, lyrics and beat ideas when I’m on a walk and then feel refreshed and rejuvenated to come back home and get ideas going. I had the idea for my “Waiting Game” cover whilst I was in the park and remember walking home so fast to get on the loop station and get the idea down - it ended up on SBTV a few months later and is still one of my favourite tracks to perform live."

Grace Savage is a singer songwriter, actor and beatboxer. Since first performing with Lyrix Organix in 2012, she has gone on to become a four- time UK Beatbox Champion and was named by ELLE as ‘100 Most Inspiring Women’. Her latest track ‘Running Under Water’ was recently Radio One’s ‘BBC Introducing Track of the Week’. 

portrait of performance poet and writer dean atta

"I don’t have attachments to my belongings 

...the Flamingo became a metaphor"

Flamingo / Dean Atta

I bought this flamingo teddy at Larnaca airport before boarding a flight back home to London from Cyprus after a holiday to visit my grandparent in 2015.

Whilst I was visiting Cyprus, there was a sighting of black flamingo on one of the salt lakes. It was on the news and everyone was talking about it.

It got me thinking about my experiences in Cyprus visiting my family over my lifetime and how because I’m black and don’t speak Greek I’ve always felt like an outsider within my family.

The flamingo became a metaphor for this and I have gone on to write a novel called The Black Flamingo inspired by this experience.

When I was asked to pick something for this project, I was a little worried as I don’t tend to have big attachments to my belongings. The flamingo is really just a way of relating to a concept. I was looking through my room at all the stuff I have and most of it, if I lost it, I wouldn’t be very upset, it’s just stuff!

There were 40 or so of these flamingos in the airport, but it does represent something I’m creatively exploring at the moment.

Dean Atta is an acclaimed performance poet, published writer and was included in The Independent’s ‘100 Most Influential LGBT People’. Dean toured with Lyrix Organix ‘Relay’ for London 2012 and his book The Black Flamingo will be published in August 2019 by Hodder Children’s Books.” 

portrait of performance poet paul cree

"A mug that heats the thoughts whizzing around in my messy little brain."

Mug / Paul Cree

My object is a mug, a mug for my tea.

A mug that I like holding in my hand with a hot brew inside.

A mug that reminds me to breathe and slow down, which is the space I like to be in when writing.

A mug that keeps me company while I’m writing.

A mug that keeps my palm warm.

A mug that heats the thoughts whizzing around in my messy little brain and a mug that reminds me to stop and a have a little giggle about life!

Paul Cree is a storyteller, rapper, poet and theatre maker. His debut collection ‘The Suburban’ was published in 2018 and he works regularly with Battersea Arts Centre. Paul also founded the Hip Hop Theatre Company ‘Beats & Elements’. 

portrait of singer songwriter and cellist ayanna witter-johnson

"The tile is a symbol of fertility. The femininity of nature."

Tile / Ayanna Witter-Johnson 

My object is a green hand painted ceramic tile by artist Daniela Yohannes. It’s unique shape is an eight point star, featuring a centrally placed silhouette of a female body surrounded by leafy plantlike tendrils.

The tile was a gift from Daniela who is a close friend of mine following a collaboration with artist Boris Aldridge. Knowing both of them, I was intrigued to see the fruits of their collaboration and was delighted with what they had created - raw, delicate, simple, intricate, symbolic.

For me, the tile is a symbol of fertility. The femininity of nature. It lives in the grate of the Victorian fireplace in my room, forming the centre piece of an altar I have created within the disused fireplace.

The tile is surrounded by candles, images, a bell and a variety of symbolic ornaments. It’s the space before which I meditate, practice yoga and reminds me of my inner essence, beauty and connection to life itself. Its inherent beauty is calming and centres me for the day ahead.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson is a singer, songwriter, cellist and composer.
A MOBO Award nominee and the only non-American winner of Amateur Night Live at Harlem Apollo, she first performed at Lyrix Organix in 2011. 

portrait of beatboxer hobbit

"By wearing this I feel like he can be with me"

Necklace / Hobbit

A pendant on a chain that was my Father’s with a heart, anchor and cross in it. After he passed away I wanted something to be with me that reminded me of him, so I had this as it can always be with me.

I wear this pendant always and whenever I perform I try to have it out above my shirt as a nod to him. He never got to see me perform and really do what I do, so by wearing this I feel like he can be with me.

It’s something special to me as with him being a musician, I see him as one of the main reasons/inspirations why I got into music and performing and chose this route as what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Jack Hobbs (‘Hobbit’) is a beatboxer, Loopstation and voice artist who has become a World Beatbox Champion (2018, team) and 5x UK Beatbox Champion (team/loop). Jack is the co-director of beatbox agency Fifth Element and UK Beatbox Championships. 

portrait of musician and mc natty speaks

"The ring means a lot to me. 

It has deep sentimental value."

Ring / Natty Speaks

My object is a Ring that was given to me by my Nan from Mauritius when I was younger and its all that I have.

She sold her chickens to have the gold ring made for me.

The fact she managed to save and buy me this ring is incredible when you consider she lived in a Tin house with very little.

My Nan gave it to me as a gift when I was leaving Mauritius one year. Or at least to my parents for me, that’s how I remember it.

The ring means a lot to me as it’s symbolic. I stopped wearing jewellery many years ago and I either gave away my jewellery or sold it but I kept this as it has deep sentimental value.

My Nan was not rich and I know the struggles they went through to send my Dad to the UK to study.

When I was younger, my Nan would always sing to me Santè babu, Dancer babu. It’s something that has always stuck with me, reminding me of Mauritius and a time when it still seemed to have an identity.

Nathaniel Sobhee (‘Natty Speaks’) is a rapper, host MC, musician, Princes Trust youth ambassador and workshop facilitator. Co-director of Mexico Beatbox Championships. The beating heart of Lyrix Organix youth programmes, he first performed at Lyrix Organix in 2010. 

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