Posts Tagged ‘London Teenage Poetry SLAM’

Buildings reflected in 'The Bean' in Millennium Park, Chicago

So, I’m back from Chicago, though I’m trying my hardest to pretend I’m still there. Last week was, without any doubt, one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far. I’m still digesting, thinking about the best way to convey just how powerful it was. I’ve been walking around smiling, like a person who’s just fallen in love. And this love is going to last a long time… for the city, for the people I met there and for the work that’s going on at Oak Park & River Forest High School, through poet and educator Peter Kahn and his Spoken Word Club.

I’m beginning to write about my experiences through poems (which aren’t ready to be public yet) and on the SLAM in Chicago blog (which I’ll be contributing to more as the week goes on). I planned to keep a steady diary while I was out there, but there was so much going on that what I have is more of a map of the trip, with some diary entries, notes, lesson plans, poems, feedback notes for students and Peter’s hand-drawn attempt at explaining the Chicago grid system to me (I’ll make sure that image appears soon). I’ll be back with more. Still thinking.

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Yes, it is really happening – I’m off to Chicago with the London Teenage Poetry SLAM for a week of poetry, performance and (I’m expecting) life-changing experience… Together with Artistic Director Jacob Sam-La Rose, poet and SLAM coach Shane Solanki and eight talented young poets from Kingsford Community School in Newham, I’ll be hosted by Oak Park River Forest High School in Chicago. Needless to say, I can’t wait… and I should really get some sleep.

I’ll be keeping a diary while I’m out there and will definitely fill you in when I get back…

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Just before September hits, I thought it’d be nice to round up the ‘year’ (I still seem to think in academic years) by looking back on what I’ve been doing over the past twelve months. It’s certainly been a year of new things – my first out of full time education for a start. I’ve worked with some hugely inspirational people, in particular Jacob Sam-La Rose, who’s been my mentor since September 2008. It would take many more words to convey just how much I’ve gained from this relationship, but the number of times his name pops up below gives an idea of just how many doors he’s opened for me…

The London Teenage Poetry SLAM 2009
From January to June, I worked as Project Administrator for the London Teenage Poetry SLAM. Run by education charity Lynk Reach and Artistic Director Jacob Sam-La Rose, this year’s SLAM gave 12-15 year olds from 11 London schools the chance to work with an experienced poet for five months and compete in a SLAM Final at the Albany. Working closely with Jacob, I was involved in pretty much every aspect of the project and was able to gain a real sense of how an educational poetry programme of this scale works. Every year, the Highest Scoring Team gets to visit Chicago for a week in November….and this year, guess who gets to go too?!!

Fresh Text @ Spread the Word
Fresh Text is a cross-genre group for writers aged 17-25 that I started running last year with support from London literature agency Spread the Word. This year we’ve been meeting every other Thursday for workshops, sharing, play and general experiments in writing. In July, writer and actor Dean Atta commissioned us to write pieces in response to a track by DJ Halo, which we performed at PenPals, a networking event for emerging writers at Battersea Arts Centre.

Barbican Young Poets
I’ve learnt a lot about poetry and teaching this year. From March – July, I assisted Jacob Sam-La Rose on a new youth poetry programme at the Barbican. The 14-19 year old poets we worked with are seriously talented people. One of the best parts of the programme was getting to visit Barbican shows and exhibitions to write poems in response to art and performance. I’ve loved all the education work I’ve done this year, but Barbican Poets was something special. Everybody really wanted to be there and to push themselves and their writing.

Slow Down London
Moving from poetry into creative letter writing, I ran a Snail Mail Workshop at Foyles, Charing Cross as part of the first Slow Down London Festival in May. The idea was to see what happens when people pick up a pen to communicate instead of texting, emailing or instant messaging. Participants wrote letters to friends, important objects, fictional characters and themselves and discussed how they feel about writing and communication. Slow Down London and Foyles have invited me to run a series of these workshops in autumn 2009. Watch this space…

I also co-ran the London Canal Write, a creative workshop and walk along Regent’s Canal with WRITELondon’s Jasmine Ann Cooray.

Poetry in Schools:

Erith School Residency
My first official ‘residency’ in a school, shared with Jacob Sam-La Rose and Kayo Chingonyi. I taught five whole days of lessons for years 7 – 11. When I performed my poem ‘We Can Still Dance’ to my first class of 12 year-olds, I knew I’d never be scared of performing in front of adults again!!

Pod Club @ Nower Hill High School
I led a series of poetry sessions on the themes of bullying, gangs and sexism for an after school group for 11-16 year-olds from different schools in Harrow. This was part of a wider project which culminated in a whole day of poetry with Jacob and myself and a CD of students’ poetry.

Little Ilford SLAM
An intense all-day SLAM with Year 10s at Little Ilford School in Newham, working alongside Sifundo, ShortMAN, Rosie Knight and Chicagoan poets David Gilmer and Adam Levin. The day started with a room full of reluctant teenagers and ended with some really striking performances.

Graveney School, Tooting
Another whole day of poetry for Year 10s, focusing on identity and working alongside poets Charlie Dark, Polar Bear and Inua Ellams and hip hop artists Curtis James and Maxwell Golden.

To prepare myself for the challenge of teaching, I shadowed Jacob Sam-La Rose on a number of projects including a term of poetry at Morpeth School in Bethnal Green and the Young Cultural Curators project for PRU students at the Horniman Museum and Abbey Manor College.

Workshops @ the Albany
As well as working part time in the Albany Box Office, I’ve been involved with the creative side of things there too. I ran a poetry and performance workshop for young people with Yemisi Blake for the Albany Open Day in March and Spoken Beats, a workshop on writing in response to music for the Summer Arts Season 09.

Since June I’ve been Project Assistant for UrbanWords, a literature consultancy specialising in writing and regeneration run by writer Sarah Butler. You can read more about this on the forum I helped set up: www.shapingplace.ning.com

So, those are the things that have been occupying me over the past months… Recently, I’ve been taking some time out and focusing more on my writing. I’ll keep you posted.

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What’s been taking up my days, and why have I disappeared slightly over the last month? Well, one reason is that the London Teenage Poetry SLAM, a beautiful and time-worthy project I’ve been working on since January, is moving into its final stages. On 27 June, it’s the SLAM Final, where students from 11 secondary schools across London showcase their poetry and spoken word in the fiercest youth poetry SLAM of the year. More about that later…

But before that, there’s another SLAM event I’ve been putting my mind to. “What’s Next”: The 2009 Senior SLAM is a mini-SLAM for emerging poets who “graduated” from the London Teenage Poetry SLAM in previous years:

‘What’s Next?’ The 2009 Senior SLAM


Ever wondered what happened to the student-poet stars of the Lynk Reach London Teenage Poetry SLAM? This year, the SLAM legacy continues as ten talented young poets take to the mic for the 2009 Senior SLAM, all hoping to win fame, kudos and a performance slot at this year’s SLAM Final in June.

Contestants come from different schools and different years of the project; what they share is a passion for words and a desire to keep on writing and performing. Competition will be fierce as poets are given the chance to shine in two rounds of performance, watched by a panel of poetic experts: Jay Bernard, Charlie Dark and former SLAM contestant Rosie Knight. The event will feature guest slots from inspirational performers on the London poetry scene.

Teachers, poet-coaches and students from previous years of the project will take over the Rich Mix Bar for a reunion and celebration of SLAMs past and present. If the London Teenage Poetry SLAM ever meant anything to you, you need to be there!

‘What’s Next?’
Date: 31st May
Time: 6.30pm
Price: FREE
Venue: Rich Mix, 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA
Directions: www.richmix.org.uk
Nearest tubes: Old Street or Liverpool Street
Website: www.londonteenagepoetryslam.net
Image: Students performing at last year’s SLAM Final

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