Anni Domingo is an actress in Theatre, Television, Radio and in Films, touring Europe, USA and Australia extensively, as a Shakespearean Actress. Her company ‘Shakespeare Link,’ runs workshops on Shakespeare in schools, youth clubs and various theatres all over the UK. She has written several workbooks on Shakespeare used in many schools. Anni has worked for the BBC radio and other stations as Actress, Broadcaster, and Interviewer. Her children’s plays have been performed in various schools and her poems have been published in the poetry anthology Secret and Silent Tears. Outside of the arts she sits as a Magistrate in Cambridgeshire. This interview was first published in our anniversary issue of Alt A Review in 2019, Anni was one of the writers whose work appeared in New Daughters of Africa. Anni is currently on stage in Three Sisters at the National Theatre.
AA: When did you first start writing?
AD: I have always written. I can remember even as a child telling and writing stories for my younger brothers. I seriously started writing, however, when I had my own children and they started asking questions about colour and race. They were outraged as I told them about slavery, segregation and apartheid but I could find no books to help them get a wider picture. So, I started writing it for them. More importantly I took the stories to their school and read them to their classmates. It was about educating not only my children but their friends too. I believe that only by all of us having knowledge and understanding will we be able to move to true progress and understanding
AA: You started out as an actor tell us a bit about that journey and working in theatre?
AD:I have always acted and danced. Acting, dancing, singing has always been part of my life. During the war my parents were semi-professional ballroom dancers in England, my mother was a singer and a very good amateur actress. On returning to Sierra Leone they first had their own radio programme playing requested records, reading out messages. I started doing radio, reading the children’s request. My first performance on stage was at four in the school play. I loved it and knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started learning ballet and Jazz and when later my parents had their own TV programme, teaching ballroom dancing, I was pulled in to demonstrate various dances. I helped my mother learn her lines whenever she was doing a show and I soon began acting and directing shows at the British Council. No one was surprised when I said that I wanted to train as an actress! I returned to England to train at Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama and I have worked in Radio, Theatre, TV and Films ever since, as an actress and now as a director and writer too.
AA: You have worked on some iconic British TV shows, what was it like working on The Professionals?
AD: It was a great experience working on The Professionals. Most of my scenes were with Martin Shaw and he was so kind and helpful. I learned a lot from him, as an actor and as a person. He was gracious and encouraging.
AA: What was the first piece of work you published?
AD: The first piece I had published was a poem called Empty Cradle in an anthology called ‘Secret and Silent Tears’. The poem was based on my experience, an experience many women go through, longing for a child, going unsuccessfully through IVF until finally being able to adopt a beautiful boy.
AA: How did you get involved with New Daughters of Africa, what was the process?
AD: I knew that Margaret Busby was going to edit New Daughters of Africa to celebrate twenty-five years after the original Daughters of Africa. I understood that this new anthology was going to be for published writers, so I just looked forward to its publication. When a friend sent me information about the competition and that Myriad Editions (the publishers) were looking for a new unpublished voice to add to the incredible list of authors I, only a few days before end of submissions, decided to send my extract to the competition. I cannot begin to tell you just how thrilled I am, that as joint winner, an extract of my novel Breaking the Maafa Chain is going to be part of this prestigious publication.
AA: ‘Shakespeare Link’, tell us about that project?
AD: Shakespeare link is a company I set up a few years ago. I trained as a teacher as well as an actress and I love working with students of all ages. Shakespeare is my passion and again and again I would go into schools and find the students hating Shakespeare, saying it was too difficult to understand. I realised that it was sometimes due to the teachers not knowing how to excite the children about Shakespeare. I live just north of Cambridge and worked with Cambridge Arts Theatre, school’s programmes department. I did many Shakespeare workshops with 8 -13 year-olds in the Summer break. The theatre also sent me to schools in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk to do workshops with the students as preparation before they came to see a touring Shakespeare play at the theatre. I later formed my own company, Shakespeare Link, to take workshops on Shakespeare into many more schools. This led to me writing several workbooks on Shakespeare’s plays, to help anyone running a Shakespeare workshop.
AA: Let’s talks about Margaret Busby, why do you think this book celebrating African “diaspora” voices is important?
AD: Yes, let’s talk about the phenomenal Margaret Busby. She is a writer and editor who was also the UK’s youngest and first black woman publisher when she co-founded Allison & Busby. This makes her very relevant. She has long campaigned for diversity in publishing. Amongst all the other firsts she has accomplished, and the various authors works she has published, she had the forethought and persistence to compile and publish ‘Daughters of Africa’, twenty-five years ago. This latest book, ‘New Daughters of Africa’, celebrating African ‘diaspora voices’, is important because thanks to Margaret we will get to know many authors old and new who could easily sink into obscurity, their voices unheard. It is truly exciting to have Margaret Busby edit and put her stamp on such a publication.
AA: Tell us about your contribution to the book?
AD: My contribution is an extract from my soon to be publish first novel- Breaking the Maafa Chain. This novel has taken a while to come to this stage and I am very grateful that it is having this recognition as part of its journey towards finally being published
AA: Where do you call home?
AD: Although I spent part of my childhood in Freetown, Sierra Leone and went to school there, I have spent all of my adult life in England with short spells in USA and Australia. England is where I have my children and my house. England is where I call my home, but I am home wherever I am.
AA: What makes a good novel?
AD: A good novel should have a good story. The theme most capture our imagination, the plot, structure, characters, setting, style and tone must all come together to give the reader an experience that touches their senses. In other words, a good novel is one that makes you regret getting to the last page because you have been transported into a world you are not ready to leave just yet.
To find out more about Anni go to: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0231451/