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.