Decade Update

To celebrate a DECADE of SLAMbassadors in 2012 we have some of the incredible things that each of our winners have gone on to achieve. Several of the poets and spoken word artists have now become Poet Coaches for SLAMbassadors, and work closely with Joelle Taylor to take the intensive 2 day workshops out on the road. Their aim is to discover young people who were once like they were, to inspire them to write and to lead them by the hand up on to the stage. Other winners have forged independent careers as spoken word artists, or have had books published, or become signed to record companies or even to present radio and television shows. Whatever their chosen career path, each remain faithful to the transformative power of poetry in performance.

SLAM has changed many lives. It has been a best friend, it has been a family. It has been the first real words that a young person has spoken. First steps were taken on pounding stages. When we organised the first London youth slam in 2002, it was very difficult for to get anyone to support the idea. It was a new thing, this slam thing. It was an American thing. Worse still, it was a young thing. I might even suggest that it was considered a ‘ethnic’ thing (no, really: check the press from 2002).

The only organisation with a national remit that wanted to get involved with SLAM was the Poetry Society. It was their commitment and dedication in the early days that has helped make slam a word now defined by the Oxford English Dictionary. It is apparently a noun. I would contest that it is a verb. It is a doing word.

A decade on and most literature organisations, many schools, youth centres, libraries and even prisons have come understand the value of the art form – that it is not about the winner but the about the journey from the heart to the pen to the page to the stage. And home. It is about giving young people a voice and a strong platform from which to project it. It is about the content of the poems as much as the techniques used to create them. It is about changing the world, about writing ourselves.

Below is an update on what the SLAMily are up to now. If you have more news either about yourself of one of our alumni please let me know at jtaylor@poetrysociety.org.uk

Megan Beech 

Megan Beech at he 100 Club Showcase 2012

She has not stopped. Since wining SLAMbassadors UK and performing live in stage with Joelle Taylor and Dizraeli, she went on to write and record a poem with Fiona Shaw for the Peace Camp project, perform at WOMAD, and Larmer Tree festivals and then limber up her lips for even more slamming. Immediately after taking part in SLAMbassadors she went on to win the Poetry Rivals slam and to get to the final of Camden’s Roundhouse Slam. Not satisfied with this, she also acted as a shadow poet at Poetry Parnassus, the Southbank Centre’s prestigious celebration of world poetry which hosted one poet per country taking part in the London Olympics.

She has also performed in an open mic slot at the funkiest poetry night in the UK, Bang Said the Gun, winning both a paid booking and a festival gig from a few minutes hard gum thrashing.

Megan Beech will also be performing at the Royal Festival Hall for National Poetry Day Live on Thursday October 4th 2012 from 1pm, representing SLAMbassadors UK alongside Jamal Msebele and Charlotte Higgins – as we as some of the biggest names in poetry. The gig will be headlined by the father of performance poetry, John Cooper Clark.

 Renne Rascal

Renne Pascal live at the 100 Club

Although still attending school and only 15 years old Rene has already co-led workshop with Paddington Arts Centre and also recorded a poem with Fiona Shaw for her and Deborah Warner’s Peace Camp project. He will be performing for teachers in Buckinghamshire in October.

Harry Wilson

Hary Wilson gets serious on the mic gig at the 100 Club

Harry has had his face buried in a book since his magnificent performance at the 100 Club showcase, coming up for air only briefly to record a poem he had written for Peace Camp project. He continues to write soulful, clever and political poetry. Watch out for him at a gig near  you.

Charlotte Higgins

Charlotte Higgins opens her soul at the 100 Club

Such was the impact that his visceral young poet from Northern Ireland made during her stunning set at the 100 Club SLAMbassador Final that she has been in huge demand. She followed her set by recording a poem with Fiona Shaw for the Peace Camp project, and working as a Poetry Parnassus shadow mentor. She also took over from Joelle Taylor (who was ill) as a judge of the fabulous Shake the Dust national youth team slam. Happily, Joelle was well enough to rejoin the judging team at the final, and they worked tirelessly along with Charlie Dark, Khadija Ibrahiim and Stephen Murray to help select the winning teams. She also took part in a workshop and reading led by Joelle Taylor at Buckingham Palace, where they created poetry inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s The Anatomist exhibition. Charlotte will also be performing at the Royal Festival Hall for National Poetry Day Live on Thursday October 4th 2012 from 1pm, representing SLAMbassadors UK alongside Joelle Taylor, Jamal Msebele and Megan Beech – as we as some of the biggest names in poetry. The gig will be headlined by the father of performance poetry, John Cooper Clark.

Tamara Lawrance

Tamara Lawrance with the audience in the palm of her hands

Tamara won the Paddington Arts heat of SLAMbassadors UK and was quickly added to the shortlist by the national judges. Her performance at the Final Showcase was powerful and emotional, making use of raw feelings set against clever lyricism. One of the brightest of a new generation of female poets she has since performed at Keats House and for Peace Camp. 

 

                                                 Gabriel Akamo

Gabriel ‘The Voice’ Akamo preaches pure poetry

Gabriel wrote and performed a poem with Fiona Shaw for the Peace Camp project, before dedicating himself to his final A’level exams. He has continued to write epic poetry that it is impossible to read without hearing his rich, multi layered vocals. He also took part in a workshop and reading led by Joelle Taylor at Buckingham Palace, where they created poetry inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s The Anatomist exhibition. Gabriel’s poem I, John Milton about his experience winning SLAMbassadors can be found Here

Aaron ‘Icy’ Denyer

Ice Ice Baby

With the other SLAMbassador winners Aaron wrote and performed poem with Fiona Shaw for the Peace Camp project. He was also chosen to perform and deliver a speech at the Festival of the World Summit – representing SLAMbassadors along with Chris Preddie in the Royal Festival Hall.

Emily Anne

Emil Anne spits live at 100 Club

Emily Anne wrote and performed her first free verse poem with Fiona Shaw for the Peace Camp project before heading back to the studios where she is working on her debut album. Rumours of collaborations with underground rappers abound….

SLAM Alumni 2002-2011

NAGA

NAGA live at Rich Mix for SLAMbassadors UK

NAGA was only 11 years old when he first hit the stage for the Rise Slam 2007, going on to win his age category (although he was officially under age). Even at that age he was dedicated to his art and his success since has proven that commitment and courage are an artist’s best friends. Since then he has won SLAMbassadors National Slam Championship 2009, featured on Grime Daily, [email protected], BBC Asian Network and recorded several tracks in the studio, finally releasing a music video in 2011. NAGA, arguably one of the finest beat boxers in east London as well as a direct political lyricist, is currently touring Europe with Asian Dub Foundation. He is also a valued Poet Coach for SLAMbassadors

Catherine Labiran

Catherine Labiran live at the Drill Hall

Catherine won the national slams in 2010 and has since gone on to perform across the UK, lead workshops and set up her own company. She performed as a part of National Poetry Day Live at the Royal Festival Hal in 2011  alongside poets like Simon Armitage, Jo Shapcott and Jackie Kay. She was also one of the winners of Please Be Upstanding competition at Southbank Centre and was a performance there. Catherine was one of 5 SLAMbassador poets included in a NATE DVD poetry in performance resource sent to all secondary schools in UKShe is now a part of collective called Elephant in association with Roundhouse, has been chosen as one of 30 poets selected as Nigeria House Artists and has been awarded funding to begin her own project Twelve www.twelvetalents.com. Watch our for Twelve’s big showcase of talent on December 5th – we will be.

Catherine says

‘ None of this would have been possible without SLAMbassadors. SLAMbassadors made me realise that my words have worth. Also, SLAMbassadors truly made me believe that I can do ANYTHING. I am forever grateful to you’.

Watch her new poetry film LOVE produced by BlackMansion.

 Hussain Manawer

Hussain stormed into the winning team 2006 and soon won over the crowds with his combination of grime emceeing and flamboyant humour. Soon afterward he travelled to Africa where he met Will. I. Am and worked on building an orphanage. Not satisfied with that, he then climbed Kilimanjaro and performed a gig on top in honour of SLAMbassadors. Back in London, he became the presenter of the online music television show Breaks London. He was also a mentor for SLAMbassadors Spoken Word Summer Camp and has been a performer at Reading Music Festival, BoomFest and Bestival. In the summer of 2012 Hussain carried the Olympic Torch in London – a microphone in flames. He is now working in Los Angeles as Personal Assistant to actor Said Taghmaoui.

Hussain says,

“Before Slam I was getting excluded from school and was the BIGGEST underachiever in my year group. I was in all sorts of different types of trouble but you lot gave me a chance to excel and rise above that, and for that I thank you. The work you do I believe to be truly amazing and very inspirational and hope that you keep it up because you made a huge change in my life. You gave me the  confidence to perform on stage and do all sorts, more then I could even dream of. The people I worked along side within the competition were also amazing young talented people and I hope they have all gone onwards to a bright future. Since slam I have been doing all sorts of crazy things and have gone so far beyond my expectations and imagination.”

Anthony Anaxagorou

Anthony Anaxagorou – the first critical winner 2002

Anthony Anaxagorou was the first critic’s choice winner of SLAMbassadors UK in 2002 (known as Rise Slam at the time) and he returned to the slam the next year, before departing to make music with his band. He came back with a vengeance the following year, performing live for SLAMbassadors at the 02 Arena in memory of Stephen Lawrence. Since then Anthony has gone on to become an established and enormously respected poet on the UK spoken word circuit and has written 4 collections of poetry. There is little doubt that Anthony is one of the finest poets and impassioned speakers of his generation. You can keep up with him; book him for gigs or school workshops via www.anthonyanaxagorou.com. We cannot recommend him enough.

Jay Bernard

Jay Bernard won the Respect Slam (aka SLAMbassadors)  in 2004 and the Foyle Young Poet of Year competition in 2005. She has read her work on radio shows such as The Verb, The Green Room and the Today Show; and appeared at venues from Trafalgar Square and Shakespeare’s Globe, to the Vienna Lit festival in Austria and Bluestockings in New York. Her poems have been published in magazines such as Chroma, Poetry London, Magma and Dazed and Confused. Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl is the title of her first pamphlet which was selected as the Poetry Book Society’s pamphlet choice for summer 2008. As well as writing poetry, Jay was commissioned by the Royal Opera House in London to write a libretto based on Rake’s Progress by William Hogarth. She is also a DJ for the Poetry Society and podcasts regularly. Jay performed with SLAMbassadors at the Trafalgar Square 7/7  Memorial and at the Globe Theatre’s Human Rights Watch show. In addition, she is also a respected illustrator and will be working on the front cover of Poetry Review ion Winter 2012.

PACE

PACE backstage at Rich Mix

PACE was on the winning teams of the Rise Slam 2003 to 2006, and was one of the reasons the SLAMbassadors project began. A strong grime vocalist and rapper, PACE inspires audiences wherever he performs. His infectious energy and commitment to his crafty make him a popular host for many spoken word events in the capital. He has also toured with the SLAMbassadors and is now part of the core Poet Coach mentoring team. PACE has performed with the SLAMbassadors at the Trafalgar Square 7/7 Memorial, 02 Arena, RoyalCourtTheatre, Globe Theatre. He has appeared on radio and television, including Blue Peter with Ms Dynamite. He is the process of recording his second album, parts of which can be heard here.

Chris Preddie OBE

Mr Preddie keeping it real at the 100 Club

Chris stormed to first place in the London Rise Slam championship 2006 and quickly became an established part of the national team, touring with SLAMbassadors UK several times over the intervening years. He is a SLAMbassadors Poet Mentor, as well as running his own company Make Dreams Reality who also lead workshops in schools. He performs all over the UK, and in 2011 he was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s for his work persuading young people to find alternatives to joining a street gang. Chris is a compelling performer and a popular workshop leader who has made links across the UK and continues to do so.

 

 Kayo Chingonyi

Since taking first place in the Rise Slam 2005 Kayo has forged himself a strong career which bridges both spoken word and page poetry. He has toured with SLAMbassadors as well as with the British Council, taking in South Africa. He is a poet in great demand on the UK circuit and was Larmer Tree Festival Poet in Residence for 2011. His poems are published in City Lighthouse (Tall-Lighthouse, 2009), The Shuffle Anthology (Shuffle Press, 2009), Verbalized (British Council, 2010), Paradise By Night (Booth-Clibborn Editions 2010), Clinic II (Egg Box Publishing, 2011), The Best British Poetry 2011 (Salt Publishing, 2011), The Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt Publishing, 2011), Bedford Square 5 (Ward Wood Publishing, 2011), Out Of Bounds (Bloodaxe, 2012) and The World Record (Bloodaxe, 2012). Kayo has performed his work across the UK at such venues and events as London Literature Festival, The Big Chill, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, The University of Bradford and Buckingham Palace and internationally at Manarat Al Saadiyat (Abu Dhabi), State Theatre of South Africa (Pretoria), New Space Theatre (Cape Town) and Museum Africa (Johannesburg). As a creative writing tutor he has devised and delivered workshops for The National Theatre, London School of Economics, Royal Shakespeare Company, YMCA, Poetry Society, English Pen, Half Moon Young People’s Theatre, Pop Up Festival of Stories and Apples and Snakes as well countless universities, schools, youth centres and writer’s groups across the UK and internationally.  As well as poetry, Kayo leads workshops in collaborative practice, theatre, life writing, fiction, song writing and performance skills. He is a writer-in-residence at Kingston University and his first pamphlet of poems, Some Bright Elegance, is available from Salt Publishing.

 Jamal Msbele

Jamal Msbele supporting Linton Kwesi Johnson

Jamal published Kaleidoscope, first poetry collection aged only 13, and in the same year went on to join the Winning Team of the Rose Slam in 2006 and 2007. Not satisfied with only winning the London slam, he went on to win SLAMbassadors UK national youth slam in 2010, sharing the stage with Linton Kwesi Johnston. Jamal works in both free verse poetry and as a grime emcee (known as Eclipse) and has extensive experience of leading workshops in schools and less formal settings.  He was included in the NATE DVD poetry in performance resource sent to all school in UK. One of the UK’s brightest spoken word stars, Jamal will be performing at Royal Festival Hall for National Poetry Day Live in 2012. Go to his website www.jamalmsebele.com for full details on his next performance or opportunity to be lead by him in a workshop. London’s answer to Gil Scott Heron.

 Aisling Fahey

Supporting Benjamin Zephaniah 2010

Aisling Fahey was a winner of SLAMbassadors UK 2009/10 where she performed on stage alongside Scroobius Pip and Benjamin Zephaniah. She was later highlighted as a poet of the future and performed at the Royal Festival Hall, National Poetry Day Live event – on the same bill as the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Aisling’s poetry was included in NATE DVD poetry in performance resource sent to all school in UK. She is a member of the Barbican Young Poets and works closely with the Roundhouse Collective when not at university. Her website is here. Aisling also attended the workshop and reading at BuckinghamPalace with Joelle Taylor.

Tiana Oldroyd aka BaddaBoomTee

BaddaboomTee smashing it at the Drill Hall 2011

BaddaBoom Tee is one of the UK’s finest female beat boxers as well as a complex lyricist. She works in both music and spoken word, and after winning in 2010 immediately became a Peer mentor for SLAMbassadors UK. She has been a judge of two  SLAMbassadors UK regional  heats and has accompanied Joelle Taylor in leading workshops. She is included in NATE DVD poetry in performance resource sent to all schools in the UK. Go to her You Tube channel here

Vanessa Kisuule

Vanessa was a winner of SL AMbassadors UK 2010, performing on stage alongside Linton Kwesi Johnson at the Drill Hall. Her clever, complex and cutting style makes her a favourite of the UK scene, and she has performed at several festivals including Glastonbury, BrizzleFest and Larmer Tree. She has won Poetry Rivals slam and two Farrago slams and performed at leading cutting poetry night Bang Said the Gun. She is one the leading slam poets of her generation, and when she leaves university I fear for the safety of any other poet’s position. While her poetry is often witty and bright like teeth, she has a depth and texture to her work that is rare.

Louise Hill

SLAMbassadors tour 2010

Louise Hill was on the winning Rise Slam teams 2004 – 2006, and her dramatic monologues and sensual poetry coupled with her arresting performances quickly established her as a core member of the SLAMbassadors Poet Coach team. She worked closely with Joelle Taylor and Chris Preddie to introduce the project into North Somerset and is now North Somerset Poet Laureate (awarded by the Poetry Society). Louise is now working with schools in the area to organise a regional slam championship separate to SLAMbassadors UK. We wish her massive success and look forward to her next stunning London performance.

All of the poets and rappers outlined above are available for gig bookings and workshops. Please be aware that they cannot perfrom or lead a workshop without payment; they are professional artists. If you are interested in booking them please email jtaylor@poetrysociety.org.uk in the first instance.

For a round up the poets from 2002-2007 got to here

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