Iggy London Talks … Mandem

Mandem is an anthology exploring Black masculinity.

The collection of short essays are written by some of our finest contemporary Black writers with themes of vulnerability and raw honesty.

Iggy is an award-winning filmmaker, artist and writer whose work touches upon themes of identity, community and coming of age. Known for his distinctive style and gripping, unexpected stories, his work crosses many mediums from film to poetry to photography.

We spoke to Iggy about the Anthology and its conception …

Please introduce yourself …

My name is Iggy London and I’m a filmmaker and writer, born and raised in Newham, East London.

Can you tell us how and why you got involved with Mandem?

I started the book after a conversation that I had with a friend, where we were questioning the idea of a so-called “blueprint” of the Black male experience. What does Black manhood look like? How does it relate to other experiences? And is a holistic view of the Black male expression within the UK even needed in today’s day and age? With so much literature being written from a US gaze, I contemplated the idea, if there was a book dedicated to the Black male experience, what would it look like? What would the stories feel like and who would be the people to tell those stories? Through this introspection, I came about with Mandem; a word to describe a group of boys, usually associated with a gang. The idea for Mandem was to be a book that encapsulates and expresses some of the experiences of Black men, allowing others to connect with it from a cultural way, which felt nostalgic and new. But it was also important for it to showcase brilliant contemporary literature that reflected us and the times. It felt only right to create an anthology of all different stories from writers of all different disciplines, to discuss the topic.

Please tell us about your contribution to Mandem

I wrote the beginning and closing chapters of the book, but my main contribution was a chapter called The Audacity of Heartbreak. It essentially follows me during the summer of 2021, when I was in the thick of heartbreak for the very first time during COVID and the preconceptions of Black manhood that are all wrapped into the idea of heartbreak.

How were the writers found, and the stories chosen?

The writers were found in an organic way. There were a number of contributors that I had been following their work for a long time such as Yomi Sode, Sope Soetan and Jordan Stephens. I knew they were contemporary thinkers who were excited about the idea of writing in unique ways. I knew they would be able to contribute something powerful within the medium. But I also was intrigued about other writers who had been at the forefront of these conversations in different ways. I researched a lot and found a number of writers that I thought would be great for the book, such as Athian Akec and Dipo Faloyin.

Tell us about your editing process …

The editing process was a fairly organic process too. I spoke to all the contributors and asked them what they wanted to cover in the book. It was important to feel like the story was driven by them, but I also wanted the stories to have a correlation. To follow a clear direction. There was a lot of back and forth with certain writers, going through their contributors, making edits and asking the right questions to get the best out of each contribution. But in the end, it all worked out. By the last submissions, there was a clear direction that the book was going towards and so each contribution felt like another part of the puzzle, slotting neatly together. What’s so great about the book is that you don’t have to read it chronologically or need further context from more than one chapter. It’s like an album, it is meant to be read at your own pace and time and in any order.

How did you navigate giving feedback to the contributing writers – especially considering that some contributions are quite personal?

The editing process worked well for the most part because the feedback that I had with the contributors was in line with their own thoughts. I think it only got difficult when we were at odds with fundamental things, such as certain opinions within the book or the different ways of writing. As creatives, I think we can try to protect our work, however, because of the way in which everyone was so invested in the project, we were able to find a lot of common ground.

What does Mandem mean to you personally?

That young Black boys and men shouldn’t have to figure out life on their own in the closure of their homes, where the true dark and deep secrets were kept. That we, as a group of people, have more similarities than differences and we should share them. To finally be able to write in a language that was recognisable to us mandem. J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in The Rye sums it up the best: “Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement.

What’s next?

I’m currently writing and developing ideas for new mediums of storytelling. I’d love to develop Mandem and the anthology into a short series or TV show, enveloping all the characters from each story and putting them in a fictional world.

How do we keep up to date with you and your work?

Instagram: @iggylondon Twitter: @iggylondon Website: www.iggylondon.com

Where can we get a copy of Mandem?

Mandem is available in most UK book retailers such as Waterstones and Daunts, as well as available online.

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