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Family Affair has received National Lottery Project Funding from Arts Council England. R&D for this project was completed in 2021.

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Photo: Ashley Karrell
Photo: Ashley Karrell

Family Affair is a live, solo dance performance incorporating original music and film.


Family Affair delves into the conflict that a person of African heritage often experiences when 21st century western cultural ways of living clash with their traditional African family values.

The idea behind this work is inspired by my own and my peers’ experiences of family life as people of African heritage living in households spanning at least two generations. Understanding and expectations of success and fulfilment in life can vary significantly depending on one’s age and also the time of one’s arrival in ‘the West.’ African parents often have a precise vision of their children’s future and the route to what they consider a ‘successful’ life which is at odds with their western influenced children.





But what happens when one doesn't meet their family and community’s expectations as they reach adulthood? How does one navigate the divergence of growing up in a ‘western’ society with their passion for their family’s culture, heritage and tradition? What is our place in the juxtaposition between the two communities we live and function in which often present very different if not opposing values, belief systems, outlooks on life, attitudes to gender roles, sexuality and religion? How do we deal with the guilt and shame of not being what your parents expect?


In my research for this project, I have collaborated with black people who are familiar with this experience. I want to capture their stories, challenges, the impact on their sense of personal identity and their relationships with their families and communities. I want to explore how young people of African heritage can find ways to balance their heritage with their futures and the challenges they face living between worlds.



With all my projects,  I want to find outlets for the work to be shared with non-arts attending audiences. With Family Affair I want to prompt discussion on the challenges experienced by the 2nd generation immigrant communities, living in the UK, and in particular in the North East, bringing issues within the African community to the fore, such as“are Western societies spoilt?”, “can Elders ever be questioned and undermined?”, “why is sex before marriage considered a taboo by some?”, “what is considered to be a successful career and why?” 




Family Affair is the start of a discussion on how to support and address this clash of cultures, values and behaviours that creates such a challenge to young Africans growing up in the UK as well as raising awareness among the older (or 1st generations) of families of African descent, starting a dialogue between the older and younger generations on these issues.  Although the work is specifically targeting‘2nd generation immigrants’ from African communities, at the heart of it is “inclusion” and I would hope that it might raise issues that have parallels to any person struggling with issues of “acceptance” within their family.  




Photo: Ashley Karrell
Photo: Ashley Karrell
Photo: Ashley Karrell
Family Affair Trailer | Dance City (2021)
Video: Ashley Karrell
Length: 2mins 25secs
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