Hainault playwright's fundraising bid to take up place on New York writing course

Humaira Iqbal, an actor and playwright has launched a fundraiser to help pay for an MFA at NYU's Tisch School of Arts.

Humaira Iqbal, an actor and playwright of 36 Hours in Iltown, has launched a fundraiser to help pay for a place at New York University's Tisch School of Arts. - Credit: Tom Lacroix

A writer from Hainault whose play about Ilford landed her into a writing programme in New York has launched a fundraiser to help pay for it. 

Humaira Iqbal, 28, describes herself as "an east London girl through and through" after being born and raised in Hackney before moving to Hainault when she was eight.

She said hers was only the second South Asian family to live on their road in Hainault when they first moved in and alleges they encountered racism along the way.

The youngest of five children, Humaira revealed she was a shy child and the mum of one of her classmates told her parents they should send her to theatre classes to build her confidence.

Humaira Iqbal landed a lead role in the Rabiah Hussain's play Spun at the Arcola Theatre, with Aasiya Shah (left). 

Humaira landed a lead role in the play Spun at the Arcola Theatre, with Aasiya Shah (left). - Credit: Shazad Khalid‏

Humaira told the Recorder: "The classes were only £12 a week but that was a lot of money for us. But still my parents did it to help build my confidence but then they said maybe I gained too much confidence from it."


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Her dad works at Stratford International car park but she said he would always save up money to take the family on trips so they could see the world.

One of those trips was to New York City when Humaira had applied to attend university there.

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On that trip she immediately felt that New York was her second home, but could not afford to study there.

She came back and studied at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

The youngest of five, playwright Humaira Iqbal was the first person in her family to attend university. 

The youngest of five, Humaira was the first person in her family to attend university. - Credit: Shazad Khalid‏

Humaira was told it would be difficult for her to play a lead role because of her dyslexia.

Despite this she got one in the play Spun at the Arcola Theatre in 2018 and has also appeared in plays at the Royal Court and Stratford East. 

In the last few years she has also started writing and was chosen to participate in writing programmes such as the Royal Court's intro to writing course and the Soho Writers Lab.

She wrote her first play called 36 Hours in Iltown, a true crime tale partly inspired by a personal story when she was 18.

The play landed her a place into the dramatic writing master in fine arts programme at New York University's (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts.

Set in the underground world of shisha bars in Ilford, Humaira describes the play as her "heart and soul".

It explores what pushes a woman to the edge and drives someone to commit murder.

"I never thought my play would resonate with the admissions team at Tisch but they loved it," she said.

"Tisch allows their students to be full-blown artists."

She said when she interviewed at NYU they found her accent and authenticity a key selling point.

"Being offered a place at NYU is an absolute dream come true, and if you know me personally, you know that it really has been a dream of mine for years.

"I have always believed the Big Apple to be a second home." 

The school has given her a partial scholarship but Humaira said she does not have enough money to pay for the rest of her fees and boarding, and is back to where she was when she was 18 on her last visit to New York.

This time around she is determined to go and has launched a fundraiser to pursue her dream and study at the alma mater of her favourite playwright Tony Kushner.

On her fundraising page, she writes: "I have created this GoFundMe to ask for your support in gaining a dream, a fresh start and to ultimately develop into a writer that will be a voice for the unknown and the unrepresented."

She has already raised more than £8,000 but is far away from her goal of £59,000.

To donate to her GoFundMe fundraiser, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-support-humaira-to-study-at-tischnyu

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