Adeola "Ade" Solanke is an award-winning British-Nigerian playwright and screenwriter. She is best known for her debut stage play, Pandora's Box, which was produced at the Arcola Theatre in 2012, and was nominated as Best New Play in the Off-West End Theatre Awards. Her other writing credits include the award-winning BBC Radio drama series Westway and the Nigerian feature film Dazzling Mirage (2014). She is the founder and creative director of the company Spora Stories, whose aim is to "create original drama for stage and screen, telling the dynamic stories of the African diaspora." Solanke has previously worked as an arts journalist and in radio and television, and in 1988 set up Tama Communications, offering a writing and publicity service, whose clients included the BBC, the Arts Council and the Midland Bank.
Early years and education
Of Nigerian heritage, Adeola Solanke was born in London, growing up in Ladbroke Grove in the west of the capital. She earned an MFA in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where she was a Fulbright Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa international scholar. She also has a postgraduate diploma in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London, and an honours degree in English Literature from the University of Sheffield.
She worked as a story analyst for several Hollywood companies, including Sundance, New Line and Disney. Her first screenplay, Femi’s Thirtieth, was a semifinalist in the annual Nicholl screenwriting contest in Los Angeles. For some years she worked as an arts journalist, writing for publications including The Times Literary Supplement, The Voice, The Guardian, the New Statesman and West Africa Magazine. In 1988 she set up Tama Communications, a writing, research and publicity service "sympathetic to the needs of the voluntary sector and black organisations", that was judged an "outstanding enterprise" in the 1989 London Livewire competition to find the best young business brains. She has also taught at several universities, among them Goldsmiths, University of London, and Pan-African University, Lagos, Nigeria, as well as at such institutions as London's City Lit and in Zimbabwe at the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich.
Her work for radio includes being on the writing team of the award-winning BBC drama series Westway. In 2009 she was commissioned by the NHS to write Family Legacy, a Nollywood-style film drama drawing on the real-life experiences of people living with sickle-cell disease, which has been disseminated widely on television channels and elsewhere in the UK, USA and West Africa, reaching more than 12 million people in outreach campaigns. She subsequently wrote the screenplay for Dazzling Mirage (2014), adapted from the novel of the same name by Olayinka Abimbola Egbokhare, produced and directed by Tunde Kelani.
Her first stage play to be produced, Pandora's Box, which was first showcased in July 2008 as part of Tiata Fahodzi's Tiata Delights at the Almeida Theatre, had its world premiere and sold-out shows at the Arcola Theatre, Hackney, in 2012, subsequently touring nationally in 2014. Reviewing it for The Guardian, Lyn Gardner wrote: "Pandora's Box buzzes with life and the tensions of real people struggling to make the best of their lives while dealing with the legacies left from the choices made by a previous generation." Another of several positive notices came from Sarah Lewis of the Hackney Citizen, who described the play as "At times laugh out loud funny, at times heartbreaking....essentially a very moving and funny play. Excellent." Pandora's Box is published by Oberon Books.
In 2015, Solanke made her directorial debut with her second play, East End Boys, West End Girls, in a London tour that began at the Arcola Theatre before playing in venues including CLF Arts Cafe in Peckham, the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, and the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham. Reviews variously described the play as "a grim view of a vast and disparate city...occasionally quite sweet and always earnest" and "thought-provoking....It goes beyond mere entertainment and poses some knotty but ever pertinent questions. The artful Solanke handles the social commentary with sensitivity and intelligence."
Awards and recognition
In 1989, Ade Solanke was named London's Top Youth Entrepreneur for her writing and media business, Tama Communications. In September 2012 she won the award for Best Playwright at the Nigerian Entertainment and Lifestyle Awards.
During the 2012 London Olympics she was featured along with other writers, including Diran Adebayo, Sefi Atta, Helon Habila, Zainabu Jallo, Nnorom Azuonye, Chibundu Onuzo, and Rotimi Babatunde, at the Nigeria House Literature Showcase curated by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East.
- 2012: Pandora's Box nominated as Best New Play for the Off West End Theatre Awards
- 2014: Pandora's Box nominated for the 2014 Nigeria Prize for Literature.
- 2015: East End Boys, West End Girls nominated at the 7th Black Entertainment, Film, Fashion, Television and Arts Awards.
- 2015: Pandora's Box and East End Boys, West End Girls nominated for the 2015 Alfred Fagon Audience Award.
- 2016: Awarded the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award by University of Sheffield
- "Winner: Best Playwright, Nigerian Entertainment and Lifestyle Awards, Sept 2012", Spora Stories.
- "Olympics 2012 Culture Splash: Meet Nigerian Authors, Books At Royal Theatre, StratFord East, London", Egg of Odumare's Eyes, 28 July 2012.
- "For Olympics, CORA Parades Nigerian Authors In London", The Guardian (Nigeria), 22 July 2012.
- "East End Boys, West End Girls nominated for Best Script, 2015 BEFFTA AWARDS!", Spora Stories.
- Matthew Hemley, "Hang and Play Mas shortlisted for Alfred Fagon Audience Award", The Stage, 1 September 2015.
- "Acclaimed writer receives Distinguished Alumni Award", Alumni, University of Sheffield, 26 July 2016.