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The Only Question: Nottingham and Durban – Leanne Moden and Adiela Akoo

Тhe Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Program Directorate continues publishing The Only Question - new international project - materials. 40 authors from 18 UNESCO literary cities (or related cities) participate in the project.  Authors from Ljubljana and Melbourne – Andrej Tomazin and Jo Langdon – are the new guests of the project.

The organizers invited writers, poets, playwrights, translators from UNESCO literary cities, to imagine that they have the opportunity to ask an author from any other literary city, just one question. The initiative will help to introduce the authors from the literary cities to each other and establish their dialogue. The project will also let us understand what issues are of concern to authors from different countries today. Besides, it will provide an opportunity for readers to get to know new writers and poets.

Questions and answers by the authors (in Russian and English) along with a short biography of each participant and links to their publications will regularly appear on the Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Website, other literary cities' websites, and social media, etc. Writers' dialogs will also be offered for publication on the project partners' platforms (literary magazines, libraries, literary media, and mass media). As a result of the project, in summer 2022 an online anthology will be released (in Russian and English) with all the conversations.


Nottingham and Durban – Leanne Moden and Adiela Akoo

Leanne Moden, Nottingham

How does the current political climate in your country affect your work – both in terms of what you write about, and how you connect with artists, readers and audiences?


Adiela Akoo, Durban

The widely broadcast, widespread corruption, mismanagement, and looting of state coffers has negatively impacted all aspects of life in South Africa, including the arts. Institutions that once hosted essential literary festivals have been forced to shut their doors due to a lack of funding while others are struggling to stay afloat. This directly limits exposure and connection between artists, readers, and audiences. Also, artists, actors, writers, etc. with little to no source of income during the pandemic have been largely unable to receive any departmental grants to help tide them over.

The current climate certainly filters through into my writing as writing is a cathartic way for me to process my emotions.

With regard to leaders across the world, I often think of the saying, ‘Heavy lies the head that wears the crown’, meaning that this person is responsible for the wellbeing and welfare of every living soul under his or her jurisdiction. No easy task! Though most modern leaders don’t wear crowns, it would be wise to take note that it is also a reference to the crown chakra – a clear reminder that any ‘rule’ should be from the perspective of the Highest Self and that one’s soul is ultimately held accountable for all one’s earthly deeds and actions.



Leanne Moden

Leanne Moden is a poet, performer and educator, based in Nottingham. She’s performed at events across the UK and Europe, including recent sets at WOMAD Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Sofar Sounds, and Bestival on the Isle of Wight, as well as shows in Estonia and Spain. Leanne performed at the TEDx WOMEN event at UCL in 2016, and was a semi-finalist at the BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam in 2019. She is currently working on her first full-length theatre show, Skip, Skip, Skip, which is about identity, music and belonging, and her second pamphlet of poetry, ‘Get Over Yourself’ was published by Burning Eye Books in 2020.


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Adiela Akoo

Adiela Akoo was born on the 4th of May in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, though mostly raised and educated in the neighboring city of Durban, where she also received the prestigious Dux Award.

Apart from writing, she has a background in banking and comprehensive healing and in her spare time loves creating art and crafts using mixed media, watching movies, playing scrabble and chess, creating in the kitchen, or chatting to the birds out in the garden, among other things.

She was nominated as one of the Top 7 ‘Most Promising Literary Influencers’ in the GBC Awards 2020 and received the Silver Star Award from the Global Literary Society for her ‘excellent contribution to world literature’, among others. She was included in the Best Emerging Poets of 2019 series, has won poetry contests, and been published in a variety of journals and anthologies across the world. Her poems have been translated into four languages to date. She has also represented the Durban UNESCO City of Literature in collaborations with other cities of literature.

‘Lost in a Quatrain’, her deep, soulful, debut collection, was written over a period of 18 years and is a thought-provoking read on a journey to becoming, a journey of hope and healing. The book was the first runner-up for poetry in the South African Independent Publishers Awards 2021. The poem ‘Whiplash’ from the book was quoted in The House of Parliament. ‘Pre Natal’ was nominated ‘Poem of the Day’ on the popular poetry platform, PoemHunter, and the poem ‘Within’ (English with Russian translation) received a Certificate of Excellence from Demo Gog, St. Petersburg, Russia & Everychild Lifeline Foundation International Literary Award 2020, among others. Her second collection will be released in 2022.

As an ambassador of literacy, she volunteers her time in the position of Vice-Chair of Litasa, KZN – The Literacy Association of South Africa. She is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the new literary journal, The Quilled Ink Review.

Adiela is married, to a medical doctor, and they have three children, a son and two daughters.


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