Students at a Bermondsey school got a talk this week from a Peckham author whose book is being adapted into a Netflix film with Daniel Kaluuya.
Femi Fadugba, author of The Upper World, which is set in Peckham, spoke at an assembly for Compass School on Drummond Road on Tuesday (October 5). Femi talked about his childhood, school experiences and his reasons for writing the book, which is about time travel and the tough experience some young people face in London.
The pupils were fascinated by his ideas about time travel and inspired by his message that we all have something hidden inside us, waiting to be discovered.
One student said that he wasn’t going to buy the book but that he was “really interested in the topic after the assembly” while others asked when Femi could return to speak to them again.
Emma Walkey-Williams, the assistant principal of Compass, said: “Today’s visit showed how powerful these kind of events are in encouraging our young people to read and offering them books that speak to their life experiences.”
The Upper World follows a 16-year-old boy called Esso over the course of a school day in Peckham. He is close to being expelled and caught up in a dangerous feud. But then he unexpectedly gains the power to see into the future and the past, which could save his life.
The book uses concepts of physics to illustrate its ideas, drawing on Femi’s time at the University of Oxford and the University of Pennsylvania.
He said when the film was commissioned: “When I was at university, I wrote a quantum physics paper that got published in the same journal that Einstein shared many of his famous ideas in. It led to me receiving a national award and the unforgettable opportunity to make a speech at the House of Commons.
“On the same night as the speech, I came home to Peckham, where blue and white tape fenced off a crime scene on the estate. A kid had been stabbed. He was 15, tops.
“A 20-minute bus ride was all that separated those two completely different worlds… Then one day, came a mad realization – that I could combine the story of a kid from South London with the physics of time travel. And maybe even make it gripping enough that the nerds, the hustlers, the jocks (and the rest of us in between) would all want to read it.”
Daniel Kaluuya is an Oscar-winning British actor who has starred in Get Out, Black Panther and Judas and the Black Messiah, among other films.