Curiosity Conversations: A Chat with Harry Baker, The Sunshine Kid

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Harry Baker is a world champion slam poet, author and TED speaker, with a knack for occasional rap battles. This combination results in a light distinct to the Sunshine Kid. Read the following Curiosity Conversation to see for yourself.

What is the most beautiful thing you've noticed this week?
I am currently touring around Australia and I went snorkelling for the first time! So once I'd worked out how to not choke myself on salt water being up close to some fish was pretty special.

What does it mean to be interesting?
For me it's about being different enough from the norm for people to sit up and take notice. It's not about purposefully trying to be quirky it's more about being confident enough in who you are to not feel the need to dumb yourself down.

What is the most pressing question that you've had today?
I just performed in a School in Sydney and after a 50 minute performance to a whole year 11 year group the first question asked was 'do you have a girlfriend' which i think was a compliment but also slightly weird. Aside from that probably the above question!

What do you believe is the largest influencer of individual suffering in the world?
Okay this is now my answer to question 3. I would say inequality. Whether it is us comparing ourselves to others and focussing on what we/they do or don't have, or the more institutional unfairness that means depending on where you were born or the way you were brought up you will have a much easier/more difficult life as a result, I think it takes a lifetime to address and some of us are better than others at it.

Individual happiness?
Self-acceptance. This has been a big one for me and a key theme to a lot of my more recent poems. Once you are happier in your own skin i honestly think you can thrive in ways that weren't possible before, this overlaps with the idea of being interesting too, i think once you stop trying to achieve happiness through what others expect you can be a lot more in control of it.

What does a sustainable life look like to you?
Community. While I'm out here I am staying with old family friends of parents or friends of friends as well as other poets and teachers of schools I am working at combined with the occasional AirBnb place. Such a huge part of what makes what i do so enjoyable is the people i meet along the way and being part of this incredible global community, but i think locally people can energise each other and thats a far more reliable way to not burn out on a personal level.

What is your favorite thing about the human face and why?
Eyes that smile. I remember reading in Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl that the best thing about his dad smiling with his eyes was that you couldn't fake an eye-smile in the same way you could with mouth-smiles and that has stuck with me ever since.

What was the last moment you felt completely at peace?
I'm in a really healthy place at the moment, so probably last night! After being unsure where i was going to be staying in Sydney I was welcomed into the family home of a teacher from this school, and ended up reading bedtime stories to their children before sharing a curry and a beer and feeling completely comfortable with people I had never met until 2 hours previous.

If you had a megaphone, what one story would you tell to the world?
I'm pretty sure telling stories is going to be my life's work anyway, and i tend to switch off with shouty/megaphone people so i might politely decline the offer and hope people keep listening to me the way I'm doing things. If i had to shout about something it would be the injustice i witnessed in Palestine as i feel that is by and large misrepresented in the media/ a lot of the world over.

What was the most pivotal moment in your life so far?
It's hard to pinpoint one but definitely making the switch from studying medicine to Maths (with the aim to follow poetry!) was one as it's given me complete freedom to pursue my passion to the extent I've wanted to and I'm not doing it full time!

What one piece of advice would you go back and give yourself the day you were born?
Hang in there - It gets easier.

What is the very first thing you do in the mornings?
Check my phone. I wish it wasn't but especially here with the time difference everything back home happens while I'm in bed and vice-versa so there's only a couple of crossover windows. Otherwise it's usually showering or rushing out for a plane/train/bus to a gig somewhere because i haven't left myself enough time to eat or shower.

What one word describes you?
Hopeful.

What one word describes this world?
Potential.

Describe your work process.
Since going full time i am still trying to work on balance. A massive joy of what i do is i get to travel around the world with it but the fact that a lot of gigs are in evenings or at weekends means i don't have a social life that interacts with everyone around me. I'm constantly on the go, and always carrying a notebook with me to jot down ideas as they come from everywhere. At the moment my work process is promising myself I'll find more time to write but also saying yes to the many and varied opportunities that I'm presented with because i can't resist a challenge. Who knows how long that will last.

Describe your relationship with technology.
I wouldn't be able to do what i do without technology. I am halfway round the world and everything has been set up in advance through emailing and sharing links of my stuff, right up until the point that i turn up on their doorstep or perform to 100 people who i have never met before. I think it's easy to blame a lot of problems on technology when it's down to us how we use it. I do think people's attention spans seem shorter when there is a phone available and I'm a big fan of the character-building that comes from awkward small-talk in new situations so i hope we aren't wussing out of human interaction because it's easier to be online, but by and large I think technology is incredible and it's how we use it that can be difficult.

What, when, why, and where was the last book you read?
I finished 'Itch' by Simon Mayo this week in Melbourne, I am trying to read some Young Adult fiction for inspiration as I am working on my debut novel and most of the books I've ever read have still been from that genre, but as I'm probably going to involve maths in it somehow it was great to see how the science and adventure could be combined.

What is the most important thought you've ever had?
"Why not?"

What does extraordinary mean in this world?
It feels like there are so many videos or articles shared that promise to be the best thing ever and we can casually glance and discard them depending how bored we are at the time. For me extraordinary is still about witnessing a moment that can't be fully captured or recreated, and fully being in that moment. This could anything from finishing a book to hanging out with friends watching a glorious sunset, but chances are it won't be accompanied by a clickbait headline.

Who would you be most interested in seeing answer these Curiosity Conversations questions next?
Kate Tempest or Hollie Mcnish!