Anna Chen is a, writer, performer, poet and blogger who writes and presents programmes for BBC Radio 4 as a freelance. Her blog, Madam Miaow Says, was shortlisted in the 2010 Orwell Prize for blogs, and longlisted in 2012.
Anna was the first British Chinese comic to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Suzy Wrong — Human Cannon in 1994, and the first to appear on British television, in Stewart Lee and Richard Herring’s show, Fist of Fun (BBC2) in 1995. She is the author of I, Imelda 1998; Anna May Wong Must Die!; Taikonaut; and The Steampunk Opium Wars.
Her programmes for BBC R4 are regularly Pick of the Day or Week in the national press. They include: A Celestial Star in Piccadilly: Anna May Wong; Chopsticks At Dawn; Madam Mao’s Golden Oldies; China, Britain and the Nunzilla Conundrum; St Ives and Me; and the groundbreaking ten-part series, Chinese in Britain. She wrote and narrated the Radio 4 play, Red Guard — Yellow Submarine.
She has written for the Guardian, Morning Star, New Internationalist magazine, Tribune and South China Morning Post.
Her first poetry was published when she was 14 in the Jonathan Cape anthology, Fire Words. Her first collection of poetry, Reaching for my Gnu, is available as an eBook on Amazon and published in paperback in February 2013 by Aaaargh! Press.
She has been in a Bond movie, dated a rock legend and been dressed by Vivienne Westwood. She organised and directed the press for several campaigns to hit national and international media including: the Chinese Foot & Mouth Disease smear in 2001; the Socialist Alliance in the London (2000) and general elections (2001); the Stop the War Coalition anti-war protests culminating in the million-strong London demonstration February 2003; and helped kick off the RSC Orphan of Zhao protest by the British East Asian Actors group in 2012.
“Just imagine, the whole place being upset by one little Chinese girl in the scullery.” (Piccadilly, 1929)
“Charming, witty and sophisticated.” Sunday Times
Charles Shaar Murray writes:
It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you to a variety of different views into the world of Anna Chen: actor, playwright, poet, singer, songwriter, comic, cineaste and martial artist.
Anna was the first homegrown British Chinese comedienne to appear on UK television via a guest appearance on Stewart Lee and Richard Herring’s Fist Of Fun on BBC2, and in 1994 she became the first east asian woman comic to write and perform her own show for the theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Suzy Wrong – Human Cannon was, like its creator, challenging, insightful, witty, politically informed, transgressive to the toenails, thought-provoking and very, very funny.
These truths, which we hold to be self-evident, were duly recognised with a blizzard of ecstatic reviews (find a selection under Press) praising Ms Chen for her formidable wit, ingenuity and intellectual prowess. Suzy Wrong was followed by an all-too-brief outing of I, Imelda, and The Opium Wars, a stand-up comedy show about, well, the Opium Wars in the 19th century.
There are occasional sightings of Madam Miaow in performance or on radio for the eagle-eyed and eared, while 2009 saw her new show Anna May Wong Must Die! debut.
Anna has written and presented for radio. Her play, Red Guard, Yellow Submarine, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in November 2004. She wrote and presented the acclaimed groundbreaking ten-part history series, Chinese In Britain, her half-hour profile of Hollywood’s first screen legend, Anna May Wong: A Celestial Star In Piccadilly, was broadcast in 2009, while her investigation into Western clichés of Chinese music, Chopsticks At Dawn, hit the airwaves in 2010. More commissions have been confirmed for 2011.
She is currently working on her first novel Coolie, a tale of the Chinese workers who built the first transcontinental railroad across America. ‘I started writing about this in 1993 so it’s already taken longer than the construction of the actual railroad.’
By the way, she’s also a magnificent chef, hell on wheels in quizzes and a formidable authority on all things cinematic, but it was when I saw her making really good shadow animals that I realised I was in the presence of true genius….
Charles Shaar Murray
PRESS FOR REACHING FOR MY GNU
“The poems in this collection are graceful, muscular, playful, rich in both emotional depth and intellectual rigour; brimful of righteous anger and piercing wit; intent on revitalising both the truism that ‘the political is personal’ and its obverse – that the personal is political.” CHARLES SHAAR MURRAY
“As a poet Anna Chen is brilliant and dangerous. In Reaching For My Gnu she operates one wild-ride roller coaster that soars to altitudes of unfettered wit and then plunges with a startling and implacably knowing anger, stripping away pretence and pretension and targeting both ancient oppression and contemporary crime. ‘What work of depravity is a man who amasses more than he can spend in a lifespan?’ Her deck of cultural references includes Poe and Freud, Stalin and Hemingway, junk food, Marlon Brando, Moby Dick, and Anna May Wong, and she deals these cards face up with a unerringly sense of history uniquely coupled with a perception that’s as topical as tomorrow.” MICK FARREN
“… a strange rendezvous of language, wit, and the imagination. … She fully integrates the movingly personal, the vibrantly social and the diablolically political. Her rhyming is frequently quasi-Byronic, full of surprise and acerbic invention … Burning words, full of life and truth.” CHRIS SEARLE MORNING STAR
” … heartfelt, funny, satirical, accessible and strong.” LABOUR BRIEFING
“ It’s saucy, devilish and delightful!” MY ASIAN PLANET
“Superb.” GREG PALAST
“Fucking great. I couldn’t put it down.” WILKO JOHNSON
“Anna Chen is fighting the good fight with fierce, funny, moving and sulphurous poems. You wouldn’t want to cross her, but you want to read her.” HEATHCOTE WILLIAMS
Reaching for my Gnu is available on Amazon as an ebook and in paperback.
More press here.