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Continuing from the success of our SPOKE: EARTH project, the third and final season of SPOKE kicked off in May with SPOKE: AIR, and involved even bigger, bolder and more inventive community projects. 

AIR brought together many of the strands that made up SPOKE: work in schools and communities, the Young Poet Laureate for London and loads of activities in the Park itself, and finally rounding it up with WORDCUP2014, a giant slam poetry final at Stratford Circus. SPOKE: AIR was a season not to be missed.
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 THE POETRY POTTING SHED 

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“In sunshine or heavy rain the shed drew in the most amazing crowds of people who dug, planted and grew their own poetry…” - Laurie Bolger

After great reviews from community members about their times at the Poetry Potting Shed last season, we decided to keep the dream alive and reopen the shed for AIR at the South Plaza Fountains. Laurie Bolger was poet in residence at the shed and helped by shadow artist Becci Fearnley, Laurie facilitated some incredible workshops for members of the public, of all ages and abilities, helping them to realise their inner poets and make new connections within the community along the way.

In her follow-up blogpost Laurie tells of the curious Westfield shoppers investigating “what it was all about” at the shed, soon writing odes about love and grief that had everybody in tears.

Have a listen to a handful of incredible poems written by the public during one of Laurie’s workshops.

With workshops, live poetry readings and revolving poet residencies, the Poetry Potting Shed became an intimate and inspiring poetry hub for  the community.
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JAWDANCE BARKING

Jawdance upped sticks and moved over to The Broadway, Barking, for a night of rhyming hullabaloo in East London. Hosted by native East Londoner Kat Francois and including very special guests Piel Café and Yvonne Eba, also hailing from the Eastern side of town, we were all set for a very unique Jawdance indeed.

With a score of open-mic performance slots, featured poets and poetry films to sit back and enjoy, Jawdance Barking was a buzzing night of creativity and warmth, getting the people of East London to the forefront of the spoken word scene.

We’ve got some lovely photos of the Barking bunch doing what they do best here on our flikr if you’d like to have a look!
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REPREZENT RADIO RESIDENCY

The SPOKE Radio Residency worked with young people in East London to get their voices heard in spoken word today.
We ran a series of workshops facilitated by the acclaimed spoken word artist Mr Gee, to create new and original spoken word broadcasts that would represent the verbal talents of East London’s young people.

All material was recorded through a series of workshops for East Londoners aged 18-25 at 3 Mills Film Studios, to be broadcast the following day on Reprezent 107.3FM. By encouraging the myriad of styles and voices that are present in the young community in East London, the Reprezent Radio Residency became a fantastic platform  for budding artists to establish themselves as the future sounds of spoken word.

You can listen to the themed broadcasts here, each with an introduction from Mr Gee and brief interviews with the young spoken  word artists.

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WORDCUP2014

Coinciding with the football World Cup, WORDCUP2014 was the finale event of SPOKE: AIR and of SPOKE as a whole project, so we really wanted to make it count. WORDCUP was a celebration of spoken word for young people, helping them to hone their writing and performance skills and gain confidence in their voices through a series of workshops with professional poets, and culminating in a giant slam championship at Stratford Circus.

  “It’s so great to see how each team member is developing in their own way. Students who wouldn’t typically work together are supporting each other and creating some excellent pieces full of energy and meaning.” - Katherine Teacher at Eastlea School.

“The cool bit for me at the moment is the ‘trying stuff out’ as all the insecurities have gone, each team member wants their piece to be as good as it can. They are no longer afraid to fail so as a result are succeeding more” - Kes Gill-Martin, Shadow Artist.

Check out this video of Joelle Taylor’s team at St Paul’s School in Greenwich workshopping some ideas.

After weeks of preparation, the WORDCUP2014 finale took place on Saturday 12 July, with over 300 young people and families from across East London gathering at Stratford Circus to cheer on the teams.

Check out our full write-up of WORDCUP2014 here.
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 POETRY POTTING SHED COMMUNITY POEM 

Finally, we brought in slam champion, theatre-maker, popular performance poet and Stratford East poet-in-residence Kat Francois to take over from Joelle Taylor at the Poetry Potting Shed. Kat ran drop-in poetry sessions for the public to create the SPOKE Community Poem – a massive collaborative poem to be exhibited in the Park itself!

The poem was a great collaborative effort by the public, helped by both Kat and illustrator and textile artist Cath von Isenburg, who transformed the community poem into a tactile, stage-stealing piece of art.

Take a look for yourselves!

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THE FINAL SPOKE SHOW 

Last on our SPOKE agenda was The Final Spoke Show! An epic afternoon of spoken word from some of the biggest names on the London scene, The Final SPOKE Show was headlined by Mr Gee, Laurie Bolger anIMG_9694d Cat Brogan and featured six all-star supporting acts: Roundhouse Poetry Slam 2013 winner Antosh Wojcik, Young Poet Laureate for London 2014 shortlister Rachel Long, Early Doors Poetry Collective member Cecilia Knapp, Roundhouse Poetry Slam 2011 winner Zia Ahmed, poet, actor and theatre maker Kes Gill-Martin and Young Poet Laureate 2013 finalist Jolade Olusanya. What a line-up!

The Final SPOKE ShowArchivist-100x100 took place at the beautiful The Proud Archivist,  a deluxe gallery/cafe/bar/restaurant and events space nestled along a quaint canalside path in Haggerston, East London. Both the poets and the venue were incredible, and there was a great sense of achievement at the progression and development of SPOKE as a project as we all said our goodbyes to the Final SPOKE Show and to SPOKE as a whole. 

All in all, it’s been a brilliant and rewarding three seasons of SPOKE. What these events showcased, and what SPOKE has aimed to support and facilitate over the past year, is the truly awe-inspiring levels of talent and creativity that thrive in the East London community, from young residents to old, spanning seasoned poets to rhyming novices.

We’ve had a fantastic time working with you all on SPOKE, and we hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have!

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Our Friends, The Enemy is an acclaimed one-man show combining theatre and spoken word to tell the story of the Christmas truce from the First World War. Here, writer Alex Gwyther explains the development of the piece from initial idea to finished production…

The First World War has always held a particular fascination for me. Perhaps I fought in it during a past life. There is something about it which strikes a chord in me, as I’m sure it does with many others. I can’t pinpoint it myself, but in particular, one of the stories which has always captured my attention is that of the 1914 Christmas Truce – the event which most people remember as the time they had a game of football in No Man’s Land against the Germans. Having written a spoken word piece about the Christmas Truce entitled December 24th 1914 (which you can listen to here), I was invited by Apples and Snakes to participate in their Word’s A Stage project in 2012. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, writers are invited to create a 20 minute piece of writing for the stage, whether it is poetry, theatre or prose and, with the help and support of a mentor and through a series of guidance sessions, develop this for a performance. I had many ideas of different stories and themes I wanted to explore, but upon looking through different pieces of poetry and pages of ideas, I chose to develop my spoken word piece December 24th 1914. The reason for this is I felt there was more to tell and expand upon with characters, dialogue and the events surrounding the days before and after the truce. It was a broad subject and I knew there was a lot more to it than what I had portrayed in the poem.

I expanded on the stories I had in the spoken word piece by developing the writing into more of a spoken narrative with influences of spoken word. After seeing the likes of Inua Ellams and Steve Camden (Polarbear) deliver stories through their one man shows, it was something that I wanted to begin with the Christmas truce piece and a form of storytelling which I knew worked. I used two books to conduct the research into the truce, highlighting and making notes of the page numbers of anything which struck me, from images and stories to events and factual pieces of information. Everything I had ever written before had been subjective and personal where upon I would rely on my own experiences or responses to create a new piece of writing. As this was set within a historical time frame, I wanted to make sure that everything was accurate in terms of setting, soldier’s ranks, the time frame of events etc, just in case a military historian just so happened to be passing by and decided to highlight one or two errors and make me look like a complete turnip.

The 20 minute sPamela_Raith_Photography_Our_Friends,The_Enemy_006cript was complete, the story was performed, the feedback from the audience was very encouraging and the whole process was a big learning curve. I’ve spoken to a number of writers who all agree that it’s a big stepping stone for anyone used to doing 20 minute sets of smaller poems to begin the process of writing something bigger for the stage and with the help of Apples, I had got that slightly larger piece. At this point I thought to myself, Well I’ve got 20 minutes worth of material so I might as well continue it towards an hour.

So for the next year, I fleshed out my 20 minutes / 3,000 words of material. I researched the books more thoroughly and began to sequence the events of the truce into bite-size stories which I could write. I found this massively helpful as I find thinking about a large piece of writing quite daunting, so I always like to complete sections of the piece. At the end of the year, I had approximately 65,000 words complete. Not necessarily an amazing 65,000 words. Some of it I knew was absolutely pants, but I had the bones of it all written. This was well over the 1 hour mark which I had set myself, but there were so many stories and ideas that I just wanted to get everything on paper. I began to chip away at the 65,000 words in one huge mass edit, picking apart what worked, what I thought didn’t and what I wanted to expand upon. Slowly, but surely, after many late nights and time spent in front of the laptop, I got it down to a neat 6,000 words. The first draft of my script was completed. Not a brilliant 6,000 words I might add, but the first actual draft of Our Friends, The Enemy was complete.

I continued to edit it down and change bits and chip away at it as much as I could. I think in total it went through around twelve different drafts. During this time I was traveling Australia and New Zealand and was recommended by Sabrina Mahfouz to send my script to New Wimbledon Theatre’s Fresh Ideas team who offer a great package to get your play up off the ground. It was where she began her journey with Dry Ice which went on to do brilliantly. OFTE got accepted and I went out to celebrate at some beach bar knowing that in February 2013, I’d have a 60 minute play at New Wimbledon Theatre. As exciting as this was, the whole concept of standing in front of people for an hour with this story, having no direction, props or sound became the next daunting thing.

our-friends-the-enemy-2014-w500h250One of the most important steps I took in the development of Our Friends, The Enemy was looking for a director. I think this is a really important step for anyone looking to take spoken word into the theatre. There are many reasons, but I believe the main two are: 1.) when you’ve spent so long on a project, you become a little lost in it and need another person’s opinion and help to clear things up a little. As the piece would become more theatrical and more of a performance, it was very refreshing to get someone who wasn’t a writer to look at the script and to see what they thought 2.) it’s a big step, developing a 4 minute poem into an hour long one man play. You need someone who has knowledge and contacts within theatre to develop your piece into an actual show. It needs direction for the performance, and if you want to really take advantage of the theatrical space, then it needs a lighting, set and sound designer. Personally, I feel unless you’re a household name (the Kate Tempest and John Cooper Clarke’s of this world) I think it’s unfair to ask people to pay £10+ to come and see you talk for an hour. You need to give them a show, something worthwhile for them to invest their time in. Getting a director did exactly that. Tom O’Brien read the script and became interested in directing the piece. He was able to arrange rehearsals, knew who needed to come on board to turn the piece into a play and invited industry professionals in theatre to the performances. So, by the beginning of February, Our Friends, The Enemy had a lighting designer, stage manager, set designer, composer, sound designer and director.

It was quite overwhelming during the first production meeting to see all these new faces who would be collaborating with me. The play enjoyed a week run at New Wimbledon Theatre with two sell out shows, attended by industry professionals and attracted the attention of private investment to take the show onto Edinburgh Festival where it enjoyed a successful 20 performances with just under half being full houses or sold out. It received Arts Council funding to fund a Spring Tour in 2014, was published by Oberon in April 2014 and is about to embark on a two month Autumn tour across England, Scotland and Belgium.

The script evolved throughout the different stages of the play and even after its first performance in February 2013, parts of the script were rewritten after audience feedback. From what started off as a 4 minute poem is now, what I hoped it would be, a theatrical show combining theatre and spoken word storytelling which takes full advantage of the theatrical space. The show currently has ten people involved with the production and I’ve realised that how something as small as a poem can grow into something so much bigger when given the right opportunity. The process is a massive collaboration. The script is yours, but the play is everyone’s and OFTE has been fortunate enough to have a brilliant production team working on it. I now look at many of my pieces of poetry to see which ones can potentially grow into something else.

Our Friends, The Enemy will be touring England, Scotland and heading into Belgium between October-December 2014. For more information, tickets and tour dates visit www.ourfriendstheenemy.com

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The Apples and Snakes Poet of the Month position is an exciting opportunity for us to showcase some of the very talented poets that we work with. October’s Poet of the Month is the multi-slam winning AJ McKenna. Here, AJ shares her thoughts on the position of trans people within the performance poetry scene. 

How do you feel bBLOGAJefore going to a poetry night? As an audience member, do you worry about the quality of what you’re going to see? As a performer, do you hope for a receptive audience? If you’re after an open-mic slot, do you hope you’ll get there in time to sign up?

Or do you worry about whether you’ll be hassled at the venue for using the ‘wrong’ toilet?

As a performance poet I’ve travelled to venues from one end of the UK to the other; and as a trans woman, that’s a question I’ve asked myself at every venue where I’ve performed. And I’ve been performing, and transitioning, for around three years now.

If you’re trans, the bathroom thing is always a source of concern: it’s what my most well-known poem is about. And it’s an issue that still causes controversy: I know, because I have a Google Alert set up for the phrase ‘trans bathroom’, and because of that I can tell you that, in the past week alone, news outlets across the US have covered the case of an eight-year-old trans girl harassed by a parent over her bathroom use; an astroturf group have taken out a scaremongering advert in a Minnesota newspaper about changes to their high school sports league policy on trans access; and the Daily Mirror tried to whip up a good old-fashioned moral panic about a primary school introducing unisex toilets.

Why do people make such a fuss about this? I think it’s because bathroom panic provides an emotive issue which transphobic people and groups can use as a cover for what they really want, which is to drive trans people out of any space at all. I’ve written before, in my capacity as Deputy Editor at LGBT lifestyle magazine So So Gay, about the fact that some people will abuse trans women for daring to appear on a daytime quiz show. Behaviour like that is designed to send a message, and that message is: keep out. Keep to yourself. Stay away from ‘normal’ people.

That matters because being ostracised from society makes you vulnerable in a number of ways. For one thing, you’re more likely to commit suicide: a study in the US found that 41% of trans and gender-nonconforming respondents had attempted suicide – a figure which is nine times the national average for that company – but which isn’t surprising when you consider how social exclusion makes life difficult for trans people in other ways. While gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equalities Act, the culture in many workplaces still lags behind the law, and many trans woAJBLOGmen, not seeing conventional work as a welcoming environment, wind up drifting into sex work – which can make them more vulnerable to violent clients and harassment from the police. And the ultimate, tragic consequence of trans social exclusion can be seen in the Transgender Day of Remembrance list, which memorialises all those killed in the previous year in acts of violence against them because of their gender expression.

That’s why I’m grateful to Apples and Snakes for making me Poet of the Month this October, and why I’ve been happy to find that the poetry scene as a whole has been so welcoming compared to other parts of society. I’m pleased to say I’m not ploughing the trans poetry furrow alone: there are many exciting trans poets writing in Britain right now, including Rosie Garland, Lyman Gamberton, Roz Kaveney, Carol Robson, Elaine O’Neill, and many more. And it isn’t just trans people saying this: Dominic Berry, a cisgender (non-trans) gay poet, wrote movingly in the introduction to his second book of poems, Wizard, about the fact that he found a welcome in poetry that he never found in the mainstream Manchester LGBT scene; and some of the most exciting names in contemporary British poetry, such as BBC Slam Champion Sophia Walker, Other Voices organiser Fay Roberts, and Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum, the joint force behind Edinburgh’s Rally and Broad, are absolutely committed to making sure that poetry remains open to a plurality of voices, rather than just straight, white, cisgender people from a particularly privileged stratum of society.

I don’t know how significant it is, but all the people and organisations mentioned in the preceding paragraph have another thing in common: they’re all involved in poetry that’s experienced best in performance, rather than just on the page. Too often, the ‘guides to getting published’ that I read when I first started taking an interest in poetry are full of rules about what you shouldn’t do: rules about how to write a covering letter, whether to double or single-space your submission, and other hair-splitting rules, down to the recommended size of margin you should leave on the page. When you actually do find yourself in the margins, you don’t have time to worry about stuff like that.

And that’s why I love performance poetry too. Through Apples and Snakes, I’ve been to gigs where I’ve seen established poets blown away by kids from council estates who’ve been through our workshop programmes, I’ve got to perform for and interact with audiences I’d never normally be exposed to, and I’ve learned that, in a world where too many people in politics and the media are intent on denying people like me any kind of space, I can create my own. And that’s why, ultimately, while I might worry, for a moment, before going to a performance poetry gig, that I might have to face bathroom-policing, I know that, ultimately, I won’t have to worry: because trans people belong in performance poetry, just as we belong in many other sectors of society – and, unlike many other places, this is a scene that’s serious about making us feel that we belong.

And if you’re interested in what else can be done to include trans people, particularly in lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) spaces, please do think about coming along to Conway Hall this Friday, where I’ll be performing, then taking part in a panel discussion on ‘What it’s like to be the T in LGBT?’ alongside trans performers Mzz Kimberley and CN Lester, and trans academic and journalist Natacha Kennedy. Doors open at 7:00pm , the event starts at 7:30pm and, yes, to answer one of the most important questions in organising poetry gigs, there is a bar. 

To find out more about AJ, visit her poet’s bio page. 

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Apples and Snakes’ Snakebaskets are monthly newsletters tailored for each region we work in. Here you will find lots of exciting spoken word stuff and more about what we are up to in your area. Sign up here to receive our monthly Snakebaskets!
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175x200TellingTalesFrom London co-ordinator Russell

The fallen leaves that jewel the ground,
they know the art of dying
and leave with joy their glad gold hearts
in the scarlet shadows lying.

Incredible String Band there with ‘October Song’, pop-pickers.

Hey, now that’s poetry. And October, of course, is a month much-beloved by poets everywhere, as it includes the wild rumpus that is National Poetry Day. And how are we celebrating? Well, we’re galumphing off to Canada Water Space for another Queer’Say : a happ’nin’ show in a happ’nin’ venue in a happ’nin part of London!

Richard Purnell will be debuting his one-man show Bathtime on the 9th. It’s a murky descent into the plughole of everyday suburban life – and we all know how horrible plugholes can get. But the show, like the water, is lovely. See you there.

We’re Jawdancing again on the 22nd. If you were there last month, you’ll know that we’re becoming victims of our own success, and – heck, sometimes there are just too many dang poets. Maybe we should borrow Poetry Unplugged’s raffle-ticket selection-system.

There’s an exciting series of masterclasses coming up with Dzifa Benson: poetry and genetics! Sign up for some or all of them. It’s a rare opportunity to talk about love, literature and chromosomes with one of the high-flyers of the poetry scene.

And with Telling Tales for the teens (25th) and Storycraft for the tinies (12th & 20th), we think you’ll agree that our October programme is exquisitely rounded in all the right places.

Ten-ten till we do it again.

Read the whole London Snakebasket here
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451_From South-East co-ordinator Pete

Hello basket readers,

Coming up this month we have the multi-star-garnered spoken-word play ‘Wingman’ at 451 on the 20thWingman is written and performed by Fringe First Winner and BBC Radio 4 writer, Richard Marsh. Richard will be joined in Wingman by Jerome Wright. Also on the bill is Archimedes Screw Showcase audience choice Simon McCormack and there’ll be you, in the open mic, if you get there on time.

We’ll also be saying bon voyage to the C>RT at the end of the month as it leaves for the shores of the Isle of Wight carrying with it arty and wordy treasures from young people of Southampton, Portsmouth and Isle of Wight, but before it goes, the exhibition will be on display at Mettricks Cafe, High St, Southampton and we’ll be having a sending-off drop-in session on the 25th from 3-5pm. You are all welcome to join us. At everything.

Read the whole South-East Snakebasket here

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readourlips From North-East co-ordinator Kirsten

Oh my good lord, where to start?

Any poet within shouting distance of Middlesbrough can bring a piece to Read Our Lips on Saturday 4 October and in just one day turn it into a filmpoem under the expert tutelage of Writers Block North East. Further up the Tees, poets can do the same thing in Barnard Castle on Saturday 25 October.

Everyone can experience poetry inspired by the art of Louise Bourgeois, in amongst the art itself – Women Without Secrets is a special one-off event at mima, featuring Sophia BlackwellSheree Mack and the Tees Women Poets on the 11th . It will be intimate, sensual, beautiful.

Poets can Find Their Funny with the amazing Scott Tyrrell at Scratch Club on Sunday 19 October, when he brings his powers on stand-up to bear on spoken word delivery.

Live literature at Live Theatre returns with a dazzling display on Thursday 30 OctoberDouble Bill brings together spoken word with other art forms, and this time there is music and poetry from our own Matt Stalker plus the magical mix of poetry and perfume that is The Shipwrecked House by Breton poet Claire Trevien.

Home Cooking podcasts take a short break while we arrange for a new radio station slot – but watch this space, our next show is the splendid Never Mind the Fullstops! from Dan Simpson and Paula Varjack, expect it in November…

HEADS UP FOR NOVEMBER! If you’d like to take a spoken word show to the Edinburgh Fringe next year, join us for a free Power Plant master class on Saturday 1 November.

Read the whole North-East Snakebasket here.

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From South-West co-ordinator Gina

Welcome to October, a month of autumnal changes, Halloween and poetry cross breeds! Yep, that’s right this month we bring you a Rhymewarp and Forked Special on Thursday 23 October, a beautiful poetic mongrel is born! Enjoy all the delights of a Rhymewarp evening, hosted by Mama Tokus plus a headline set from razor sharp tongued Thick Richard, all part of this year’s Plymouth International Book Festival, what’s not to love!

Spokes Amaze is taking a break this month whilst the infamous Exeter Poetry Festival Slam takes hold of the reins in its place. We will be back on Sunday November 2 though, with the sweet descriptive, all together delicious voice and stories of Inua Ellams. It’s going to be a busy night so get your tickets early to guarantee a seat.

See you there x

Read the whole South-West Snakebasket here

 

 

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richard-purnellLibraryIn anticipation of the scratch night for Bathtime – his new, darkly comic poetry show about love, death and bubble baths – Richard Purnell shares his experiences during the creation and development of the show…

Standing at the top of the Royal Mile, at the fag-end of the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe, limply flyering alongside a serially glum Gary From Leeds, surrounded by fire-breathers and beatboxers blithely rinsing tourists of their hard-earned, we realised

we are surrounded by gimmickry. Gimmickry. Not even disguised. The kind of gimmickry that comes right out with it and says:

“Hi, I’m a gimmick! You know what I am. And you will succumb.”

Me and Gary – Gary and I – didn’t have a gimmick. We had irony, which isn’t quite the same thing. And poetry, which is the polar opposite.

Rob Auton had a gimmick. He had a show about the sky and called it The Sky Show. He took the whole sky and owned it. Since then, he has moved on – brilliantly, but if we may be frank, somewhat empire-buildingly – to faces. Rob Auton is the Steve Jobs of poetry.

Now, brace yourselves for Karl Schultz. The great comedian had a show called Start The Karl. Like start the car but…start the Karl.

Presented with such incontrovertible evidence, we knew that if we were to come back to the Edinburgh Fringe we must come brandishing gimmicks like a rookie fireman brandishes his hose.

Gary came back this year with a show called Yeti. A solo poetry gig about the world’s most anti-social species. Gary got his gimmick on. With it, he got his punters, and he got on Radio 2.

Where was my gimmick?

Initially, I had an idea for a show called Having a Bath – Cockney rhyming slang for having a laugh. Believing Cockney rhyming slang too nuanced for my needs, I decided to make it literal. To actually have a bath. Clever, but not properly clever. Edinburgh Fringe clever.

Back in London, I holed up in Peckham Library. Thinking I was writing hack material designed for the hungover Edinburgh punter before he goes and gets pickpocketed by Russell Kane, I wrote a quite good short story.

The story was gently romantic, and gently cynical, with a bath-related twist. When I tried it on the mic, people liked it. They liked the romance; they loved the bath. The bath was the star.

A gimmick was born.

Encouraged, I wrote more. I wrote a lot more. Playfully dark stories, laced with pro-bath propaganda. Eventually, I realised that I didn’t have a lot of little stories. I had a show.

Trouble was, there were lots of characters saying stuff, stuff which I would have to say on stage. Being primarily a poet, with little acting experience, I knew that to bring my coming-of-bath story to life I needed help.

Annoyingly (for the bigot in me) that help came in the form of a supremely talented Aussie called Wil Greenway. I had seen his remarkable storytelling show, Vincent Goes Splat, and was captivated. It was full of little details you think about the next day and go, blimey. He put me in touch with his director, Kellie Tori, responsible in no small part for those details.

With inexhaustible patience, Kellie got me to do some relatively precise waving of the hands and pulling of faces – acting, the less pedantic among you might call it – and, about a year after deciding upon my gimmick, Bathtime has arrived.

Bathtime, supported by Apples and Snakes, is at the Free Word Centre, Thursday 9th October, at 7.30pm.
Tickets are £5 and available from EventBrite.com.

Richard Purnell is a poet and storyteller. He hosts The Bus Driver’s Prayer, an offbeat night of wordsmithery at Kahaila Café, Brick Lane.
WordPress /Facebook

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The ‘Poet of the Month’ position is a chance for Apples and Snakes to create a little extra attention for those talented poets and poetesses across the country whose work deserves to be circulated and celebrated.

This September our Poet of the Month is Raymond Antrobus, spoken word poet, photographer and educator, and co-curator of popular London poetry events Chill Pill and Keats House Poets. Here’s Ray’s Poet of the Month blogpost, in praise of Michael Rosen and the truth…

“Open the gate of your soul and get out and breathe.
With a sigh you can open the gate it took a hurricane to close.”Vicente Huidobro

MePSBefore I go on stage, I visualise how I think the gig is going to go, I see myself facing the audience, I don’t go through my poems, my mantra is “you know your lines, you know your lines”. I black out and lose myself in that meditative pre-show state.

This past summer I was booked to warm up for Scroobius Pip (you might have heard of him, he’s got a beard.) at Latitude Festival. Warming myself up for this was hard to visualise, I was due on stage at 10.45pm, it’s Sunday and The Black Keys are on the main stage at the same time. Isn’t everyone going to be drunk? Is anyone going to be there? Will the sound be too intense for my hearing aids? What is my exit strategy if they start booing?

Earlier in the day I’d watched Michael Rosen (you might have heard of him, he’s been on Bear Hunts and former UK’s Children’s Poet Laureate) perform a one-hour set to at least a thousand children and parents. His pantomime-esque crowd participation, his Yiddish family stories, his linguistic bi-lingual humor is an energetic embodiment of fun.

I was in awe watching Rosen; it was a masterclass in poetry performance. To say he’s just for children is to deny the part of us that is still a child, and for the sake of our souls we must listen to that little voice when it rises.

An hour before I was due on stage I went for a walk around the campsites where it was quieter. I saw Michael by his caravan and thought I’d let him know how much I enjoyed his set. The conversation went like this;

“Hey Michael, great set!”
“Thanks… you on later?”
“Yeah man, soon. Any pre-show tips?”
“Hmm.. yes, tell the truth, we’re poets, it’s our most powerful asset”

MichaelRosenWe went on to talk about working in schools (I’m a spoken word educator at a school in Hackney), “We think kids are hard to please” said Michael, “that poets can’t contend with all the technology and glossy stuff kids get from mainstream media, but so much of that is a distraction from truth. The poet walks in to the room and says something true, I’ve seen Lemn Sissay tell a hall of so-called disruptive teenagers that he’s adopted, that things have hurt him, that he thought he was harder to love because of his race… that’s truth, you don’t hear a pin drop… that’s our job, to find ways to give that”.

After this conversation I re-planned my entire set. I’ve recently lost my father and my grandmother, I’m grieving; I should speak from that.
When I got on stage, there were around one and a half thousand people; this was one of the biggest audiences I have ever had. All I was telling myself to do was breath, in fact, that’s the first thing I said into the microphone, “Hello, my name is Raymond Antrobus and I need to adjust my breath”. I took a few seconds to stare into the lights, making out only the people in the first few rows. I took my breath and put it in the air.

My set ended with a standing ovation. The feeling was incredible, and once I was speaking from that place, that hurt, that child, that joy, I knew my lines and they could only be true.

To here more about Raymond’s work and to see him in action, visit his poet’s bio page.

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Apples and Snakes’ Snakebaskets are monthly newsletters tailored for each region we work in. Here you will find lots of exciting spoken word stuff and more about what we are up to in your area. Sign up here to receive our monthly Snakebaskets! 

“just wanted to say thanks for one of the best poetry-info emails I’ve ever received. Hope to attend at least a couple of the events – brilliant!” London Snakebasket reader.

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From North East Coordinator Kirsten

Everyone have a good summer? Everyone ready for some spoken word?

ScratchTyne175x200Poets and performers from beginners to professionals are invited to test out new work at our Scratch Club on the 21st – this is open-to-all. Meanwhile, the slightly more secretive Tees Women Poets will be working with Precious Cargo Theatre to devise a performance of works inspired by Louise Bourgeois. Watch this space for news of the final event, happening at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art on the 11th October and featuring headliners Sophia Blackwell and Sheree Mack.

JibbaJabba on the 25th is for all you geeks – our special guest is Dan Simpson, fresh from a Fringe run of his new show Applied Mathematics, and with copies of his very first full collection of the same name, out now with Burning Eye Press.

Sally Crabtree, the ‘Poetry Postie’, joins us for this month’s Home Cooking podcast with a light-hearted look at delivering accessible poetry to everyone. Sing-O-Gram with Daljit Nagra, anyone?Every Thursday at 5pm on www.basic.fm.

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From South East Coordinator Pete

175x200Spoke-n-Word-logo-TextureAugust saw the final local heat of the Spoke ‘n’ Word bicycle-powered slam with young poets sharing their work in the hope of a slot in the Grand Final which takes place  21st September at Wise Words Festival.

Then in Southampton we welcomed the arrival of The C>RT as the IMPRESS leg of the Bridging the Solent project kicked off and young people from No Limits began their adventures in spoken word and print-making. The first drop-in day of IMPRESS at XwwX Gallery is on the 12th where you can view the work created so far as part of Bridging the Solent.

The penultimate showcase of 2014 Archimedes Screw Showcase is also on the 12th, where one lucky open miker will be voted Archimedes Screw Champion for September and bag themselves a paid slot at 451 – there’ll also be a headline set from Anthony Anaxagorou!

All this takes place before we sail gracefully into the mists and mellow fruitfulness of October – enjoy!

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From South West Coordinator Gina

It’s a joy to announce a Triple bill of spoken word this month!

Spoke Amaze final colour 175x200First up of course, it’s the Amazing Spokes: Amaze! on the 7th. Headlined by poetry star and Totnes resident Matt Harvey with Bath boy Toby Thompson, it’s a double whammy of regional talent! There’s the beautiful Ready Steady Slam to look forward to and a set from August slam winner Katie Moudry, plus some handpicked tasty morsels for the screen, what’s not to love? We have 2 spaces left on the slam, email me gina@applesandsnakes.org, to sign up and find out more.

Forked! Is back on the 18th with a fantastic line up including regional rising stars Saskia Tomlinson and Jason Butler plus the charming self-confessed geek Dan Simpson. The cherry on the cake? Why it’s burlesque comedy spoken word goddess, all the way from New Zealand- ‘Hot Pink’ Penny Ashton. Check out The Hoochie Poem here.

And thirdly, yep there’s more! Look out for the Poetry Postie Sally Crabtree on her rounds on the 17th and the 24th, stopping off at Plymouth railway Station and heading south the following week to Falmouth, as part of SPLASH, a quirky, inspiring festival sure to lift your spirits. You can’t miss her, she’s got a huge bike and a bag of poetic goodies just waiting for you to stamp!

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From West Midlands Coordinator Bohdan

Hello all!HTO-NEW-175x200-web

Hit the Ode is back! Sorry, I know I should ease you into this email, but I got really excited. After a long summer, full of longing and wistful sighs, Brum gets its night back on the 18th, and we’re returning in style: we have the rapidly rising star Stephen Morrison-Burke representing the Midlands, the inimitable Sally Jenkinson as the national poet, and Nilson Muniz, Portuguese national slam champion performing with gusto (and subtitles).

Also this month, on the 6th Ben Norris presents the show he developed based on his Lit Fuse piece from a few months back. Those of you who were there know that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family is not to be missed. The rest might be enticed by this trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkwZywNipgI). See you there for a premiere showing and Q&A with the team.

Finally, dependable as ever, Poets’ Place keeps going. They’ve recently beaten their attendance record, and I don’t believe they can be stopped now: Jasmine Gardosi has turned this informal meeting space into a biscuit-and-poetry fueled juggernaut. Come see what the fuss is about on the 13th and the 27th!

See you very soon,

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From London Coordinator Russell

Well, here we are again, post-Edinburgh, post-holidays, post-ironic – and ready to ride post-haste into the wilds of autumn.JAWDANCE175X200

Well, kind of. We’re just getting back up to speed, really. Things kicked off properly yesterday, when the Picture The Poet exhibition hit Sheffield. Watch out for the exciting outreach activities that’ll be accompanying that up in Steel City.

Down here in the Great Wen, we’ll be resuming Jawdance on the 24th. Exciting new guest acts, but same old pack-drill, i.e: get there early!
We’re also fielding a team at the Hammer & Tongue Slam Finals on the 27th at the Royal Albert Hall Loading Bay, which is all very fun and exciting! Come along and root for us!

On the 28th we have The Final SPOKE Show of the season, in fact, it will be the final event of the whole SPOKE project which started back in Autumn 2013 – how time flies.

Looking ahead to October, our third and final Queer’Say show is on the 2nd, featuring Aoife Mannix, Anna C Kahn and Jack Rooke. And we’re helping Richard Purnell scratch his new show, Bathtime Stories, at the Free Word Centre on the 9th.

Not a bad month, all told. Like going back to school, only nicer.

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2013 was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a dream speech. Architects of Our Republic marked this iconic moment in history with an explosion of poetry, music and film inspired by the message of the speech and its resonance today.

This summer Apples and Snakes revisited some of the community groups that took part in Architects of Our Republic and worked with the groups further through a series of Summer Workshops.

Kenny Baraka, spoken word artist, author, and lyricist, led workshops on lyric writing with young people at YOI Feltham. Read on to see some of the inspirational work produced during these sessions, and find out what the young people made of it all…  

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‘I learnt that Martin Luther Kind used very strong words to get his message across and end racism.’

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‘I enjoyed the whole thing but mostly that he helped us make our own poem and he was always positive.’

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‘I liked that he spoke about reality.’

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Find out more about the Architects of Our Republic project here

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As part of SPOKE: Air, the third season of SPOKE’s exciting spoken word events across East London, a group of young poets took to the airwaves, coached by acclaimed spoken word artist Mr Gee, to devise and record the freshest new poetry for broadcast on Reprezent fm. 

Anastasia Prempeh tells us about her experience as one of the Reprezent Radio Residency participants…

When I first received an email about poetry workshops with Mr Gee on Reprezent Radio, I was drawn to the idea of trying something new and challenging myself. Reading my poems on the radio was never something I had imagined myself doing, but now that the opportunity had presented itself I was excited to try it out.

When I arrived at the first session I could see that it was a very relaxed setting and immediately felt comfortable. The theme was ‘air’ and some brainstorming had already been done on the board. We started off sharing some of our previous work and talking about how and why we started writing poetry – all pretty standard for a workshop, I thought. Then we were left to write. This was the part that made me nervous as I had no idea where to start or what to write. Having grown accustomed to penning poems when they ‘came to me’, writing ‘on demand’ was something I struggled with and for a while I sat staring at a blank page. After finally coming up with something, I read it through with Mr Gee then went straight to recording. Once all the recordings had been done and the workshop was over I only had to wait until the next day to hear the poems on Reprezent fm.

Hearing my voice on the radio was a surreal experience. The quick turnaround also meant I could take the things I would have liked to have done better, and actually try to do them better in the next session. Although you can’t be seen on radio, the workshops helped me develop my performance skills through learning to use my voice effectively. By the last session I was a lot better at seeing where different techniques could be applied in various poems, from pauses to emphasis to changes in accent/dialect.

Recording in the booth was something so new to me and even hearing my voice through the headphones was a shock, so I’m grateful I had the opportunity to use all the equipment. We also got to know more about the restrictions that are placed on people in radio: our poems were to be less than 90 seconds long and anything likely to receive complaints wouldn’t be played. It was also not guaranteed that any of our content would be played even if everything was done by the book, so it was all a bit of a waiting game. That being said, it was all very exciting and everyone was so nice that by the end of the last session we were all very slow to leave! I got a lot more out of the sessions than I had expected and am definitely glad I didn’t overlook the opportunity.

You can read more about Anastasia’s journey with spoken word here: www.anastasiaprempeh.wordpress.com

SPOKE is a partnership project between A New Direction, Apples and Snakes, Spread the WordSWEP (Spoken Word Educators Programme), and Discover Children’s Story Centre. Commissioned by the London Legacy Development Corporation as part of their legacy activities in and around the newly reopened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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For the last six months, Matt Jones has been interning with the digital department at SPOKE, providing help and support to the team and gaining new experiences and skills along the way. Here are a few of his thoughts on the internship and his time at SPOKE.

Hi I’m Matt, the digital intern here at SPOKE, saying my final goodbyes and explaining my experience throughout the 6 month internship.

Summing up this internship is going to be difficult, simply for the sheer mass of knowledge, work experience, and life experience gained from working on SPOKE, in such a short space of time, that has flown by so quickly, words really won’t be able to portray it enough, nor my gratitude or thanks for such an amazing, positive, welcomingly challenging, all-round fulfilling job opportunity and a rare opportunity at that.

Immersing yourself within so many different working environments, with different work etiquettes, different types of people, different types of bosses, and learning from those people all the values and factors of the working world, whether it be a more corporate, freelance or creative type of work, from the way you present yourself in meetings, to the way you type up your e-mails, all the little things, being able to analyse, adapt & differentiate between them all, and figure out where I feel most comfortable, has been one of the greatest benefits that this internship in particular has offered me, a bulk of knowledge that I will definitely carry through when following into my next job.

My outlook on work life has unquestionably changed. All the frustrations and problems while finishing full time education, ‘battling’ through a series of surprisingly displeasing jobs, one after the other, re-evaluating what I wanted to pursue in life, and my career, admittedly having quite a defeated attitude, has been without a shadow of a doubt resolved. I’m mentally in a much better place on the subject of career. I feel so much more confident moving on into the next chapter of my career, and all the future endeavours I have in the pipeline.

The internship has opened my eyes and taught me a lot, although challenging at times, particularly on the communication front (making sure every partner is up to date with my workload, and juggling the workload from one partner to the other), I couldn’t have wished for a better opportunity, working alongside a great bunch of people, who made work feel more of a pleasure than a burden. Never once did I wake up for work with the feeling of not wanting to go in, which 6 months ago, I’d be telling you a different story.

This internship has rekindled my faith in the world of work. I know exactly what I want to do and where I want to go with my career and I’ve grown up as a person by sheer amounts, so if anything I just want to say thank you, to Spread the Word, Apple & Snakes, A New Direction & Claudia, I’m smiling from ear to ear. Its been a total success.

During his time with SPOKE Matt showed us his skills as a talented film editor. Here are some examples of the brilliant videos he edited.

SPOKE is a partnership project between A New Direction, Apples and Snakes, Spread the Word, SWEP (Spoken Word Educators Programme), and Discover Children’s Story Centre. Commissioned by the London Legacy Development Corporation as part of their legacy activities in and around the newly reopened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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