SLAMbassadors UK Winners 2015 Announced!

October 15, 2015

What an incredible year this has been.

The SLAMbassadors Poet Coaches spent most of it travelling across schools, colleges, youth centres and youth offending institutions, performing and leading workshops in an effort to talent scout the next generation of spoken word artists. And in spite of ciuts to the creative curriculum in schools it seemed to us that every other young person we met was a poet. sometimes they wrote emcee bars, sometimes they wrote free verse. Mostly, they wrote themselves.

In September the entries began flooding in, crashing my email account several times. Even to the last second, films were being forwarded to me. Each one a life story. A plan. A manifesto. A passport. A statement of intent.

On October 1st the judges met in the studio of the Poetry Society, battling cold viruses and London transport to make some of the hardest decisions in the 15 year history of the slam. Anthony Anxagorou was the lead judge this year – and will be our headline act at the final showcase in the Royal Festival Hall on Ocotber 25th (4-7pm).


After much lip biting, arguing, coffee, and tongue pacing we came up with these 7 who will now form the UK Solo Slam Team:

Abi Cooke – Metamorphosis

Jay Hulme – I Am A Man

Ruth Awolola – Sorry

Damayanti Chatterjee – House of Words

Georgie Smith – Poem

Damilare Haastrup  – Mascara

Issy Prior – Time Passing

Click on the video below to scroll through the playlist.


As well as the overall winners we have made some commendations which will also be presented after the performance at the Royal Festival Hall. These are the ones to watch out for over the coming year, many of whom will be hitting stages even as I write this. It is an exciting time for spoken word. We are on the television again and on the radio. We are profiled in the media. But there will never be anything more important and fundamental than a poem that reaches in and plucks out the heart of the nation. These seven represent the hundreds queuing up behind them, and we hope that they will act as an inspiration to you.

Remember: poetry is not the new rock and roll.

It was here centuries before.



Aakifah Aboobakar on Why You Should Enter SLAMbassadors

August 20, 2015

It’s 2013. We are in the Clore Ballroom of the Royal Festival Hall. Hollie McNish is back stage along with Inja, who is ready to stir the audience’s minds into serious thought.

While Inja works, I am at the side of the stage with that year’s SLAMbassador final 6. They are an amazing and magical team, the first all female UK slam team; a fact that inspires The Guardian to write a feature on the rise of women in spoken word. The energy they give to each other and in turn to the audience is breath taking.

One of the young women takes to the stage and we are all nervous about how the audience will react to her. Why? Because she is a young muslim woman who performs in full niqab and burqa and addresses stereotypes applied to her faith, directly tackling prejudices levelled against her personally in her winning piece One Word, One Name. We need not have  been concerned. Supporteed by her team mates, Aakifah Aboobaker raises not only the roof of the Royal Festival Hall, but also the hearts, minds and consciousness of those watching.

Here is a film of Aakifah, explaining why you too should enter


Anthony Anaxagorou announced as Judge 2015!

July 7, 2015



Over the last 14 years of slamming, SLAMbassadors UK has worked with the most high profile and pretstigious names in contemporary performance poetry and spoken word, including Benjamin Zephaniah, Hollie McNish, Linton Kwesi Johnston, Adisa, Dorothea Smartt, Mark Grist, Dizraeli and Kate Tempest. This year, we have someone who is not just a Great Writer, but also a poem in himself.
I originally met Anthony Anaxagorou when he entered the very first London wide slam championship in 2002. He was a shy, complex poet whose words were brighter than the stage lights but whose self-confidence was a discarded poem. In spite of the many challenges he faced with performing his work for the first time, he went on to be one of that year’s winners. Over time he slowly unravelled from that origami boy into the well-respected artist he is today.

He has published 8 collections under his own label Outspoken, formed a spoken word club that has been at the forefront of making spoken word and poetry popular enough for the media to notice again, published a collection of short stories The Blink That Killed The Eye (Jacaranda), written for Cirque Du Soleil, created an album of poetry and music with Karim Kamar (It Will Come To You) and completed a tour of Australia. His You Tube hits are even bigger than his IQ.
And so it is with great joy and anticipation of a cycle finally completed that I welcome him back to the stage that gave birth to his career, this time as our feature act and judge. He will help select the 6 overall entries (last year we had 900 separate artists enter) that will go on to form the SLAMbassadors UK team, representing the country. He will headline the showcase featuring the 6 selected spoken word artists on October 25th in the Royal Festival Hall, Clore Ballroom.The event will also feature a perfromance from Joelle Taylor, poet, playwright , author and Artistic Director of SLAMbassadors UK.
Tickets are free but please book in advance via this email
It will be an incredible evening. Take paper and pens. And your head; always take your head with you.


‘Look out for Anthony Anaxagorou. A near spiritual experience’ Sunday Times
‘One of the most powerful performances I’ve seen’ Evening Standard

Change Maker

June 2, 2015

I am very chuffed to announce that I have been named one of the Southbank Centre’s 67 Change Makers! The Change Makers are described as people who ‘use creativity, innovation, courage and determination to make changes that have a positive impact on people’s lives. Some have used the arts in powerful ways to demonstrate that music, dance and literature all have the potential to transform lives.’

Amazing. It’s really good to see that spoken word is being recognised as a positive factor in the transformation of lives.

Why 67? They chose that number is honour of Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of public service. Like I said, well chuffed – even to be named in the the same sentence as him. Even more chuffed to be honoured among some of my personal heroes like Peter Tatchell, Dame Doreen Lawrence, Shami Chakrabarti and slam sister Shirley May.

To celebrate the award Jacob Sam La Rose, Shirley May, Ali Gadema (Frisko) and me will be performing in the Clore Ballroom of the Royal Festival Hall from 6-7pm. Full info here

We are the seeds of dreams.


Break Through

April 2, 2015

I have co-ordinated the SLAMbassador slams for around 14 years. In that time, I am asked at least a couple of times a day what a participant might win if they went all the way to the finals. I tell them the obvious: you win a master class,  a gig, you win long term mentoring and continual guidance on developing you career – exploring stages and publishing opportunities. You win the love of the people you work with in your team. You win someone always standing stage-side urging you on toward the microphone. You win the sound of applause settling in your stomach like butterflies. You win self respect.  You win a straighter spine. You win the right to write your future.

You win art.

Oh, and a small trophy.

And then just when you think you’ve won everything you possibly can, the door to the future swings wide open.

I have just had great news about 2 very different poets from different winning teams of SLAMbassadors: Aakifah Aboobakar and Tommy Sissons.

Aakifah Aboobakar and her passionate assault on Islamophobia One Word. One Name. has made it through to the finals of the Amnesty International Youth Awards 2015. She will be travelling to London to accept her award on April 29th, and will have our hearts with her. Huge, huge congratulations from all of us.

Secondly, Tommy Sissons – who only won SLAMbassadors in late 2014 – has become a featured poet on Channel 4’s Four to the Floor, opening the whole series. The series features artists to watch out for, those that Channel 4 believe are about to break through. We couldn’t agree more.

Watch the Possibilities video here

And that’s not all.

Two more SLAMbassadors were published in the highly acclaimed OUTSPOKEN LDN anthology of poetry as well – Ollie O’Neill and Charlotte Higgins – and the book was launch earlier this week in the spectacular Forge jazz venue in Camden. Make sure you buy your copy and support the creation of underground art.

And then of course there is the phenomena of Megan Beech, who was published by Burning Eye Books within weeks of winning SLAMbassadors and whose book When I Grow Up I Want To Be Mary Beard has become an international hit, selling across the UK, USA and Canada.

We are very proud of all you, and look forward to the future with you.

SLAMbassadors UK Open

March 26, 2015

SLAMbassadors UK is now open for entries!

To enter download an Entry Form and post it to

Joelle Taylor

Poetry Society



or scan it and email it to

With the Entry Form please either send a copy of your video to the email above or a link to the You Tube page where you have uploaded it.


The theme is Identity and the Closing Date is 30th Spetember 2015.


Good luck!

SLAMbassadors UK 2014 Winners Announced!

October 24, 2014

Last week the legendary Kate Tempest sat next to me in a darkened room in the heart of Covent Garden before a pull down cinema screen and a projector. We sat there for seven hours, during which time we scrolled through 70 films. She was there – along with the magical Bea Colley from the Southbank Centre and Tom MacAndrew, leading light of the Poetry Society – to help us select the SLAMbassadors UK national youth slam, from a long list of around 900 films. I shortlisted the final films that Kate would watch.

The films entered this year were intensely powerful, personal, political, heart beaten and pure. Some were written with great poetic techniques, some were written on the back of hands, the sides of tongues and the edges of fists.

I found myself rising from my chair as I sat mutely watching some of them. Others I shouted at or along with. The hairs on my arms stood to applaud them. It took a long time to create a shortlist that could conceivably be viewed in only one day. This was our biggest year for entries, and another huge increase of the number of young women slamming it out too. We sat down quietly, opened our notebooks, dunked our faces into thick black coffee and began. We swore a lot. We smiled a lot. And yes, there were inevitable tears – both of horror at what the young spoken word artists were writing about, but also of pride at what a pen, some paper and a microphone can help to achieve. Words change worlds.

We asked you to speak your silences. You did. You are all winners.

Thank you to all of you who entered. I am truly, profoundly grateful to each of you for telling your truths and sharing them with all of us.

As you know though, we could only select 7 poets to perform at the Royal Festival Hall next Friday. The will each perform their debut professional sets in support of Mark Grist, along with live DJ sets from Hussain’s House and VJ-ing provided by the mighty VJ Danielle Harper, along with VJ’s Ben Evenett and Florence Kennard. It will be a breath-stealing show.

Click on the names to see their winning films.

The winners of SLAMbassadors UK 2014 are:

Tommy Sissons

Sadia Ahmed

Jemima Higgins

Abdullah Alselami

Ibukun Badmus

Katie Walters

Saoirse Lennon


We will also be honouring 13 Highly Commended spoken word artists.

Tickets to the performance are free and can be ordered here. Simply specify the number you require.


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