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‘Climbing the Walls,’ Griffith Review

Last year there was a call for submissions for the best new writers in Asia under 40.

I was 39. At the Asia Pacific Writers conference in Singapore they changed it to 45 and I panicked! More candidates! More experience! Oh no. I wrote my story and hesitated countless times before submitting it. I almost didn’t do it.

I need not have worried… and received a ‘congratulations’ email which I read, re-read and then showed a friend to make sure I understood correctly.

Yes my story ‘Climbing the Walls’ was published this month in Griffith Review: New Asia Now. A huge accomplishment. A renowned Australian quarterly publication. You can buy it in book stores around Australia and some places in Asia as well as online at: https://griffithreview.com

 

You can now read my short story Climbing the Walls, Griffith Review

“Griffith Review49: New Asia Now showcases outstanding young writers from the countries at the centre of Asia’s ongoing transformation. They write about the people and places they know with passion, flair and insight.”

‘Healing through Hip Hop in the Slums of Phnom Penh,’ Rupkatha Journal

Healing through Hip Hop in the Slums of Phnom Penh’, Rupkatha Journal, Special issue on Performance Studies, 2013

​”Local non-government organisation ‘Tiny Toones’ is the first and only of its kind in Cambodia, to use hip hop to engage with, and empower the most disadvantaged children and youth in Phnom Penh. Working with young people from backgrounds of drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, gang life, family violence and extreme poverty, it offers creative arts alongside education and life skills….”

Read Article: Healing through Hip Hope in the Slums of Phnom Penh

Australia Network Interview

Kate Arnott from ABC’s The Australia Network interviews Romi Grossberg, Manager of Tiny Toones Cambodia.

Romi brought her Cambodian hip hop group from ‘Tiny Toones’ on tour to Melbourne Australia to perform on stage at Chapel Off Chapel. Tiny Toones is a local Cambodian NGO working with street kids using hip hop and breakdance as the primary tool to engage with the underworld of Phnom Penh in the slums. The former street kids and now the teachers. Also featured in the interview are – Beaver, Fresh and Diamond.

Tiny Toones tour in N.Z.

My beautiful Cambodian ‘Tiny Toones’ ( hip hop centre working with street kids) family with founder ‘KK’ at the head, and I went to Auckland to tour their self-choreographed life stories of poverty, addiction, broken families and of course hope against all odds.

We performed at numerous high schools in poorer areas and met with similar centres to our centre in Cambodia. The aim of the trip was to meet with teenagers who understand hardship and share stories of hope and recovery through conversation and through hip hop and breakdance. The trip was a great success. Pain and recovery, shattered dreams and new hope are themes that cross all language and cultural barriers. I was the speaker at all of these events – the explanation in English, the intro to my dancers, to their stories. Hip hop was the real voice.

 

‘Wefree’ event. San Patrignano, Italy

In October I flew to San Patrignano, Italy with KK, the founder of Tiny Toones and four of our Cambodian teachers/mentors aged 16-21.

San Partignano is a drug rehabilitation community and completely self sufficient and sustainable up in the mountains near Rimini, housing 2-3,000 former drug addicts. Each year they bring together people from all over the world to celebrate WeFree Day – We are Free of Drugs in a 5-day meeting, learning and sharing of knowledge on the topic of drugs and young people through the creative arts. Hip hop and breakdance NGO’s from all over the world were invited to participate- Cambodia (that’s us), Uganda, Canada, Portugal, Columbia, Italy and more. I spoke in a number of different forums with an Italian translator by my side but to be honest the heros of this trip were without a doubt my kids and all the break dancers there.

 

Tedx Phnom Penh

In Febraury 2011, Cambodia held its first ever Tedx in Phnom Penh.

As Manager of Tiny Toones I was asked to present. Of course I wanted founder ‘KK’ to do it with me even though I knew I would get a certain “no.” KK is a humble and shy man. I did however manage to convince him to be recorded on video which we shot on my balcony over endless laughs (the offcuts could make a video on its own!).

Those that know me know I would never go anywhere without ‘my kids’ – the beloved staff and students of this hip hop centre. When asked to perform, my first question was “can I bring my kids up on stage?” which was initially met with silence. After explaining who they were and no they are not little children but teens and older… I was given permission.

Below is the Tedx presentation we did. The performance by ‘my kids’ was choreographed by them under the guidance of KK.

… and yes I did write a story about the lead up to Tedx: the fear, anxiety, excitement and the ultimate performance. Sections can be read in imprint 14: ‘A Perfect Statue’ or for those who can’t be bothered reading, you can watch it on video here in the blog from when I performed the written story at open-mic in Thailand.

We called it ‘Dance Your Life Around.’

 

Kha’s unbelievable solo.

Kha and Slick’s ‘dance fight’

The team

And I couldn’t have done it without Shhort…