August 18, 2014

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful summer rain. I have been busy touring festivals and running a few workshops – and getting set to record some more entries into SLAMbassadors UK this weekend at Shambala Festival after my set there.

If you are between 12-18 years old, are a poet, a spoken word artist or rapper/ emcee and you will be at the festival, come and hunt me down. I’m performing at Wandering Word at 7.30pm on Friday night and the next day at 11am I will be leading a workshop session to help identify the next generation of spoken word artists.

Come and find me so I can find you.

And for the rest of you, remember: the closing date is October 10th 2014, and joining me on the judging panel will be the legendary Kate Tempest.

We hope to be watching your films.



Kate Tempest in confirmed at Judge for 2014!!

July 1, 2014

Legendary spoken word artist and alternative hip hop emcee Kate Tempest is joining the Judging Panel for the 2014 SLAMbassadors UK finals!




MASSIVELY popular, Kate Tempest started out when she was 16, rapping at strangers on night buses and pestering mc’s to let her on the mic at raves. Ten years later she is a published playwright, novelist, poet and respected recording artist. Her work includes Balance, her first album with band Sound of Rum; Everything Speaks in its Own Way her first collection of poems, plus the critically acclaimed plays Wasted, Glasshouse and Hopelessly Devoted. Brand New Ancients, her self-performed epic poem to a live score, won the Ted Hughes prize 2013 and the Herald Angel at Edinburgh Fringe. It has sold out tours in the UK and New York and is published by Picador. Her second collection of poetry, Hold Your Own, will be published by Picador on October 2014. Her debut novel, The Bricks That Built The Houses, sold in a highly competitive auction to Bloomsbury and will be published in territories including the UK, US, France, Holland and Brazil in Spring 2015. Excitingly, each track on the record correlates with a chapter in the novel, in a ground-breaking cross-genre experience.

Her single Our Town, with producers letthemusicplay was released on Greco-Roman records. Kate has featured on songs with Sinead O Connor, Bastille, the King Blues, Damien Dempsey and Landslide. She has toured extensively, supporting Billy Bragg on his UK tour, as well as supporting Scroobius Pip, Femi Kuti, Saul Williams and John Cooper Clarke. She is 2 x slam winner at the prestigious Nu-Yorican poetry cafe in New York and has played all the major UK and European music festivals either solo or with Sound of Rum. She’s headlined Latitude festival and has been featured on the BBC’s Glastonbury highlights, Channel 4, BBC Radio 1,4 and 6, as well as XFM and the Charlie Rose Show (Bloomberg) in the US.

Kate’s new album Everybody Down was released in May 2014 on Big Dada records and was BBC Radio 6 Record of the Week. Kate is currently working on a new collection of poems, (to be published by Picador in 2014).

Open to all 12-18 year olds resident in the UK. CLOSING DATE OCTOBER 10TH 2014




SLAMbassadors UK 2014 IS OPEN FOR ENTRIES!!!

April 16, 2014

SLAMbassadors UK is now officially OPEN to accepting new entries for the 2014 national youth slam championships!

This is your opportunity to take your career one step further on. Not only will you get the chance to perform at a Regional Showcase, but you will also have the opportunity of your film being watched by a panel of judges who may select you to represent the UK, and perform alongside at the Royal Festival Hall. Megan Beech, a winner from 2012, recently said this about the project in an interview with The Huffington Post.



We will begin talent scouting across Tower Hamlets – a borough of London that has brought us emcees like NAGA – who has recently returned from touring with Asian Dub Foundation, and is now a Poet Coach – and spoken word artists like Samilah Naira, one of the 6 UK winners last year. We will be leading free workshops in collaboration with the Tower Hamlets Library Service in 9 secondary schools.

With an increase in funding we now have space for another 2 schools. If you are interested in hosting the 2-day workshops please email me at All workshops will take place between May and the end of June.

We have been working closely with the borough since the inception of SLAMbassadors in 2001, and have unearthed some breath taking talent in that time. Long may it continue. For 2014 we will be holding the Regional Showcase on July 3 in the fabulous Wilton’s Music Hall.



We will also be beginning a 3-year series of free workshops across the boroughs of Camden, Ealing and Brent – working in secondary schools, colleges, youth centre and community groups. This year we have made a special focus of the project the uncovering and telling of stories from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Traveller are among the most prejudiced against minorities across the Europe, and racism against them leads to children dropping out of schools, which leads to low literacy levels, which leads to non-access to the Welfare State and subsequent long term health issues. The average life expectancy of a non-Traveller (a Settler) in the UK is 80.5 years. The life expectancy of a Traveller is more in the region of 50. This is obviously unacceptable, and racism and the consequences of that prejudice is something that SLAMbassadors is dedicated to re-addressing. The only way we know how to alter the experiences of Travellers is to allow them the space to speak, and to share their truths.

We will also be beginning a 3-year series of free workshops across the boroughs of Camden, Ealing and Brent – working in secondary schools, colleges, youth centres and community groups. This year we have made a special focus of the project the uncovering and telling of stories from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Traveller are among the most prejudiced against minorities across the Europe, and racism against them leads to children dropping out of schools, which leads to low literacy levels, which leads to non-access to the Welfare State and subsequent long term health issues. The average life expectancy of a non-Traveller (a Settler) in the UK is 80.5 years. The life expectancy of a Traveller is more in the region of 50. This is obviously unacceptable, and racism and the consequences of that prejudice is something that SLAMbassadors is dedicated to re-addressing. The only way we know how to alter the experiences of Travellers is to allow them the space to speak, and to share their truths.

 If you are from a Traveller organisation or a secondary school/ college in one of these 3 boroughs of Camden, Brent or Ealing and are interested in hosting a free 2-day spoken word workshop please contact for more information.



Some of our finest spoken word artists, poets and emcees have been discovered via independent entry. We actively encourage young people between the ages of 12-18 to forward us videos or MP4’s of their pieces on the theme of Identity (see notes) to For more information see How To Enter.





From Stage Fright to Page Fright

December 18, 2013

SLAMbassadors UK is not only the longest running and – in fact – ONLY solo national youth slam but a project that aims to give words back to the silenced; to scrub away years of censorship, either self-imposed or socially applied. And the workshops that lead to discovering new and intriguing talent are undoubtedly successful. But many of our real success stories are hidden, and never make it to the stage.  These are the stories of young people who finally find the words to express an experience or emotion that has haunted them. Words when not well used can become in-grown and stick in the throat. And so finding the right word has always been our priority.

Equally important though is guiding those same people to look beyond their own words and experience other people’s poetry. With this in mind, the idea of encouraging those participants of the slam workshops into reading started to take root. Those roots took hold and finally broke through into the light and grew a few leaves. The leaves are the pages of a book. The book is called Page Fright.


The idea behind Page Fright is to encourage broader and deeper reading among young people who find themselves alienated from and perhaps even by the written word. It is a kind of spoken word application that can be used to link different areas of reading to live performances, to stimulus subjects, photographs and paintings, rare notations and reference materials, and back again to the live performance.

Just as we as performers struggle with stage fright, we all also suffer from page fright. This is a term we have invented, and so perhaps needs a little explanation. Page Fright is the fear of the written word, fear both of committing yourself to sitting down and absorbing a book, and fear of putting your own words in wet ink on to a page.

While spoken words artists have much in common with music and many cross the boundaries between the two art forms, we also have a powerful relationship with the written word. We simply choose to present it differently, making use of the physical skin script and the semantics of performance as much as the words on the page. But we are all also essentially writers and (drum roll) readers too.

With this in mind we contacted a few well known spoken word artists for support and this week began filming them.




hjoelle taylor, benjamin zephaniah and hollie mcnish  We met in the newly created Blue Studios    recording rooms in the heart of artistic  edginess, Dalston in east London.  It was  early, a dusty and dim kind of day, when Benjamin Zephaniah, Hollie McNish, Dizraeli and Joelle Taylor met up to film their contributions. Each poet performed one of their best known pieces to camera, and then delivered a cover version of a classic poem or poet in the English language.

Benjamin Zephaniah chose to cover Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gently into That Good Night and performed it with an intensity and passion rare in a simple reading of heritage poem. Staring directly into the eye of the camera the lines on his face spoke as loudly as the lines that fell from his lips. This is a poem about someone pleading with their father not to die, to put up a furious fight against death, to stay.

Hollie McNish began with a cover version of Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade, a poem famous for making a relatively small incident in the context of the Crimea war into an event known and repeated world-wide. It was also the first poem to be recorded. Hollie’s delivery makes the extraordinary familiar; she brings us to the simplicity at the heart of powerful and enduring poetry.


Dizraeli chose the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem Ozymandias, a piece in the Romantic tradition about the impermanence of all regimes, all societal structures that think themselves eternal and mighty but will one day be defeated by Time. It is a poem in a sense about pride before a fall. His performance was literally off-the-hook as can be perhaps expected of an artist who has lived his life behind a microphone.

dizraeli page frightJoelle Taylor opted for Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est, one of the most powerful, disturbing and immediate poems relating to war that has ever been written. It is uncompromising, bitter and stark, and did what all poems try to do: change the world or the way in which we see it and speak about it.

None of the spoken word artists used ‘poetry voices’ to present their cover versions – they kept their own diction, rhythm, recognisable delivery style and accents. They made the poems fit their mouths.

The completed films will be available next year –watch this space.



the SLAMbassadors are re-writing the whole world…

November 25, 2013

It has been one joyful  shriek of a journey for SLAMbassadors over the last fortnight.

First we had an incredible, magical, stomach-punch of pure poetry in the Royal Festival Hall for the SLAMbassadors Final Showcase. Over 500 people booked in to witness the beginning of a new wave of spoken word smash across the shores of the Southbank. It was an utterly awesome night that featured a headline set from Hollie McNish and freestyle madness from INJA, to a backdrop of jaw-dropping visuals provided by VJ’s Emily B and Naomi G under the guidance of VJ Harper.


Six overall winners of the national solo youth slams took to the stage after an intensive masterclass with me (Joelle Taylor), and stitched together stories of the truth beneath the veil, of sexuality and homophobia, rage, love, of inconceivable loss and of abandonment. There were tears. There was laughter. There were a thousand poems written on the bus on the way home.



While each of the performances was literally off-the-  hook one of the enduring images for me was of a small  woman in full burkha and niqab spitting sense into a  microphone. It is an uncommon sight, an uncommon experience, and we are privileged that she chose SLAMbassadors to speak out for her beliefs and community. You can take a look at some of their films here and get a sense of the night. A film of the finals will also be made available as soon as possible. Along with a live soundtrack to the gig. Thank you massively to all who took part and watched. You are stunning. You are well written. You finish the poem.

And THEN we were invited to Buckingham Palace for a Reception to Celebrate Contemporary British Poetry. Around 300 poets and spoken word artists from across the UK were invited to attend as representatives of a far greater number. There were the Poet Laureates, the Gold Medal winners, the page poets, the spoken word superstars, the slam poets – and the SLAMbassadors! It was deeply heart filling to see that not only I had been invited but former SLAMbassadors winners as well – Jay Bernard, Kayo Chingonyi and Aisling Fahey.

And if that were not enough we then HIT Parliament on Saturday to take part in the GLA’s historic Parliament Week Finals, to celebrate Women in Democracy. I led 2 poly-vocal workshops during the day which fed directly on to the stage. The young people who took part were phenomenal, brave and uncompromising. I was helped massively in this impossible task by the Spoken Word Educators who turned up with a whole crowd of kids wanting to take part. In total over 600 young people came to the gig. Wow.

There are always opportunities for talented and committed emerging artists here at SLAMbassadors HQ. Please check in regularly for updates, or like The SLAMbassador Sessions Facebook page for information on gigs and workshops.

The Final Countdown

October 26, 2013


It’s now only 6 days to go until SLAMbassadors UK 2013 winners hit the stage of the Royal Festival Hall in London!

They will be performing a brand new spoken word set each live in support of Joelle Taylor, INJA and headline act Hollie McNish. And they will be incredible.

Next Thursday the winners will converge on the Poetry Society from across the country and work with Artistic Director and National Coach Joelle Taylor to re-write their worlds in just 24 hours.

Think they can do it? Think they can’t? Get down to the Clore Ballroom at 4pm on November 1st to find out. And in the meantime, check out this film from winner Ollie O’Neill





September 30, 2013

The Winners of SLAMbassadors UK 2013 have been announced!

On September 24th 2013 the judges Joelle Taylor (Artistic Director and National Coach), Hollie McNish (spoken word icon) and Bea Colley (intrepid producer at the Southbank Centre) met in the Poetry Society studio to watch a shortlist of 33 films and select just 6 from that number to represent the UK.

After 8 hours of serious deliberation they came up with the following 6 young spoken word artists:


‘A beautiful, elegant writer of passionate free verse poetry that she breathes further life into on stage’. Nefeesa was also the overall winner of the Buckinghamshire Slam Championships, also organised by SLAMbassadors. She is a poet who will work well on both the stage and the page, and who will endure. Prepare to hear much more about her over the coming years. Get on the bad wagon now, before it leaves town without you.


A poem about a homeless man walked quickly past at the edge of a road. ‘Extraordinary use of metaphor, simile and wild, passionate imagery’ that immediately stunned and won over the judges. Jenny is also a winner of the prestgious Foyle Young Poet of the Year Awards – the most sought after competition for young page poets.  A remarkable achievement.


‘Dark, haunting, powerful, magnetic…’ These are just some of the words that go some of the way to explaining O’Neill’s writing and performance craft. Quite stunning. Her winning piece reflects on the names we are branded with, from school to the end of days. She speaks of these words and insults as thought hey are tattoos that we spend a life time trying to come to terms with and own. Dyke is a positive and power-filled poem that will inspire thousands of people to be proud of themselves and their journeys.

AAKIFAH ABOOBAKAR – ONE WORD. ONE NAME (film not available for public view)

Aakifah has chosen  not to share her film with the general public for religious reasons. As a devout Muslim she chooses to wear niqab when in the presence of men who are not from her family. Her winning poem details the reasons for this choice and literally had the judges on their feet from the first few lines. It is a strong and beautiful defence of all women who demand the right to choose what they wear. Stylistically her poem is full of stark images, internal rhymes and some serious hip-hop influenced flow.


Samilah is a writer of complexity, passion, fury and layers. Some of her lines literally had the judges slapping the tables. It is difficult to believe that she is only 14 years old and she has written something that helps to define life itself. The spoken word world needs artists like this.


Rose Ann has written some of the most confrontational and soul-ripping poetry we have ever heard. Her poem ‘She’ will be remembered for years and years to come. In our estimation it is one of the most profound pieces written by a young woman coming to terms with gender identity in 2013. Her use of language is powerful, heart breaking and imagistic beyond belief.

Joelle Taylor writes:

‘I cannot wait to meet this year’s winning SLAMbassadors UK solo slam team. It is always difficult if not heart breaking to whittle down such amazing and soulful entries to a small number, and the first thing I and the other judges want to do is to thank all of you for your bravery in entering. Whilst we know we have selected a very strong team this year, we also think of those who did not make the final cut and want as a group to encourage you to KEEP WRITING KEEP PERFORMING – and keeping sending me your films, and details about where you are performing and what you are doing. We exist to help all of you forward in your careers and not just those who will stand on the royal Festival Hall stage this November.

It may interest you to know that some of the Poet Coaches on the SLAMbassadors team never actually won a slam themselves – they just kept working hard, letting me know what they were doing, and improving their craft. That level of commitment is as valuable as a winning poem.

In the end we all win.

When the 6 winners make it down to London on October 31st to take part in the Master Class with me they will be joining a huge national team formed over 11 years. They will also be joining an ethic: that of unity no matter what race, creed, religion, sexuality or gender they are. We are united in poetry.’

Put this date in your diary:

November 1st 4pm Royal Festival Hall Clore Ballroom Free.

The event will also include a headline performance from

Hollie McNish & Joelle Taylor with special guests

plus live VJ projections from Ideas Tap young VJs Emily B and Naomi G (mentored by VJ Harper)  plus DJing from Hussain’s House.

We are also very pleased to announce that The Blue Studios will be recording the live gig to create a soundtrack to the future


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