"GRETA BELLAMACINA A rebel activist spanning mediums with her call to action".
“I think poetry is so innate within us,” preaches Greta Bellamacina. “Why do we write poetry? We’ve been doing it for years. Why is poetry read at both funerals and weddings? It’s quite a profound language because it’s such a complex thing, it holds so many emotions. It has so much light and shade and I think that if it can touch you in a 100 years, and touch someone else in a 1000 years, I think that it’s doing a good job.”
The London-born actor, filmmaker, model and—you guessed it—poet tells me she can’t even remember when she began to compose her own works. Having grown up with a musician for a father, there was a lyrical quality instilled into Bellamacina from near enough birth (she’s wearing a Blondie pin on her leather jacket when we meet in Peckham). “Cleaning out my flat recently, I’ve come across some really old books,” she half laughs, half grimaces, “bad poems, stuff I probably wrote when I was 10.”
All that practise was worth it, Bellamacina was shortlisted as the Young Poet Laureate in 2014 after publishing her first collection, Kaleidoscope in 2011. Her signature is her penchant for social commentary, which led to her appointment as brand ambassador for knitwear label, John Smedley this season. She looks to the world around her not only when penning her own verses, but also when compiling the work of her peers. “I just published a book called SMEAR,” she explains, having set up New River Press with her partner, Robert Montgomery last year as a “fuck you” to the elitist club of publishing. “It’s a feminist, quite punk collection of 30 different female poets, all different ages, which I edited,” she explains proudly, and deservedly so.
A vital and eclectic anthology, SMEAR combines the work of emerging and established poets. Curated from an Instagram call-out, the collection centres on the joys and trials of womanhood “from abortion, to first kisses, to body image” and most personally for Bellamacina, becoming a mother. “I was really aware when I was given traditional motherhood literature, it was really patronising,” she scoffs with an eye roll under her post-shoot wisps of tousled blonde hair. “For me, writing poetry about that experience, it’s about the emotive side, nothing’s right or wrong, it’s not so binary, it’s more of a centralised place of emotion.”
After deciding to make her first documentary last year, Bellamacina offers an alternative perspective through not only her words, but her newest venture, filmmaking. The Safe House: A Decline of Ideas inspects the devastating closure of British libraries, sparked by the departure of Bellamacina’s local and supported by the likes of Stephen Fry, John Cooper Clarke and Irvine Welsh.
“I mean, libraries are how Britain became modern,” she reasons, explaining that the first public libraries were built by Scottish lead miners in the 17th century, and were undeniably a product of the working class. “It was an amazing symbol for the rest of the documentary… You realise when you travel through Britain how taking away just one library, and replacing it with luxury flats or a gym, it stagnates a place.”
After the success of The Safe House – entered into the long list for the BAFTAs – this year, Bellamacina has set to work on her first (semi- autobiographical) feature, Hurt By Paradise. Co-created with actress and writer Sadie Brown, the film follows “two unconventional women who don’t fit into society”, a struggling poet and a failed actress who strike up an “unexpected friendship”.
“My aim was to have complex female roles in it. I really love the style of Frances Ha, the way she talks about the same conversational things as you would with your friends. I guess it’s like that,” Bellamacina pauses. “But more of a London version! It’s about their story and struggling to find a voice in society. One of the characters decides one day to meet her online lover that she’s been talking to for three years, and she goes to Margate on a Megabus and it all goes terribly wrong.” Keeping schtum but promising me “big actors” all Bellamacina can tell me is that the film’s set right where we’re sat, south of the river. I was sold at the mention of Margate on a Megabus.
Taken from the Summer 17 Issue of Wonderland; out now and available to buy here.