After hours of furrowed-brow deliberation the winners of this year’s national youth slam championships, SLAMbassadors, have been announced!

Head judge poet Lemn Sissay spent the day in the darkened back room of the prestigious Poetry School, alongside poet Joelle Taylor (Artistic Director and UK Coach) and Tom MacAndrew (Poetry Society).  

Before the judging even took place there was a long process of shortlisting, whittling down hundreds of films to just the 30 to screen to the head judge. In the end, Lemn was shown a record 47 films, all of which we would have been happy to welcome into the team. But competitions are competitions (excuse Brexit-like non sequitur) and as such there must be winners.

The 7 winners this year represent what we believe to be the best in emerging spoken word across the nation. They range from delicate impassioned pieces around the meaning of masculinity, to the horrors of immigration detention centres, and on into prayers for the forgotten people. They are emotional, nuanced, impassioned and uncompromising poems which promise a new generation of spoken word that takes the best of performance based poetry and of page based poetry, and finds a compelling balance between the two forms.

All judging processes are of course subjective. While there is a sincere attempt to highlight those whose work we believe achieves excellence in its form, some did not make the cut simply because the poems would work better in a book than on a page. Some because the filming itself was so experimental that it was difficult to discern if the subject was a strong enough performer.  Still others entered poems that they hadn’t taken the time to learn. While they were all strong poems, we had to select those who we felt were ready to step up to the next level.

The next level will begin on Saturday 29 October when the team will make their way to the Poetry Society Studio in Covent Garden to participate in a 2-day masterclass that will be led by Joelle Taylor, with support from Naga Emcee. Over the 2 days the winners will each write a 10 minute set that they will perform live in their debut professional gig on the early evening of Sunday October 30th at the 100 Club in support of Joelle Taylor and headliner Lemn Sissay.

As many of you now already know, SLAMbassadors is grieving a beloved member of our team, the mighty Pace Cold Fire, aka Thomas Kareem Crosbie. You will have already read in the tributes how I first met Thomas when he was 12 years old and continued working with and gigging alongside him until his tragic passing at the age of 27 in September. We miss him.

In his memory the Poetry Society has founded the Cold Fire Award. This is in recognition of an artist/ group working in the rap or emcee form who is a resident of London at the time of entering. We will be presenting this award live on October 30th in the legendary 100 Club during the live showcase finals, and are honoured to welcome Thomas’s mother and long-time ally Maggie Crosbie to present the prize.

Finally, if you took part this year but were not one of the winners or the Highly Commended, please do not throw down your pen in self-doubt but use it to keep writing and refining your art. Prove us wrong.

The Winners

please note that the films not on You Tube will be added over the next week, with permission from the poets.

Inaugural Cold Fire Award:

The Gig

Sunday 30 October 2016


100 Club

100 Oxford Street

London W1D 1LL

Nearest tube Oxford Street or Tottenham Court Road


Tickets are free but must be reserved beforehand. Please email