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. These are extracts – sign up here to receive the whole message! 

“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.


From London coordinator Russell


Happy New Year!

Admittedly premature, as we’re sending this out before Christmas, but that’s the way we roll: always forging ahead into brave new futures. A dizzying concept to those of us who don’t even know what we’re doing this afternoon.

Yet we cannot countenance the future without shouldering the trappings of our past, and so we continue to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s ’I Have a Dream’ speech with showcase events at Woolwich Library on the 21st and theStephen Lawrence Centre on the 27thZena Edwards! Charlie Dark! Kenny Baraka! Three tremendous ways to start the year!

Jawdance returns on the 22nd, and it gets more popular with each passing month. A reminder, therefore, to arrive early if you’d like to perform: the list opens at 6.15pm and fills up in about twenty minutes. As always, we will bend over backwards to accommodate as many of you as we possibly can. Watch us.

And – as our transatlantic geomorphs say – that’s all she wrote. (See what I did there – signed off with a writing–y kind of phrase?) (Signed off – there’s another one.)


From West Midlands coordinator Bohdan


So, while you wind down and prepare for the holidays, Apples and Snakes is sending out the January Snakebasket a wee bit ahead to give you enough time to digest it along with all of the festive frivolities.

We’ll be raring to go on Thursday 16th January with a new year edition of Hit The Ode at The Victoria, Birmingham, line-up is currently a closely guarded secret, keep an eye on the Hit The Ode Facebook page for further announcements!

The new year will bring you bright new projects, the return of old favourites including Level UP, Lit Fuse and Wordsmiths & Coand the Midlands poetry scene continues to thrive with great work and top artists.

Happy holidays folks! 


From North East Coordinator Kirsten

175x200 Scratch Club Tyne Performance_A3_poster_commercial2014!! Let me at it!!!!

We’re sending our January Snakebasket early as we have stacks of superb spoken word coming up – starting with the dazzlingHannah Silva, visiting from Birmingham to lead two workshops. Everyone can enjoy an evening of her poetry alongside stunning musician Beccy Owen on Friday 10 January at Live Theatre.

Workshops continue with a day of playfulness on Sunday 19 January – writing for kids with the talented Dominic Berry, poet in residence at Newcastle Libraries. Then stick around to have fun with physical performance, led by Gabriele Heller ofTheatre-between also on the 19th

It’s a field-day for audiences on Thursday 23 January as Apples puts up the prize for SLAMalgamate, the union of no less than three local spoken word nights all sending in their champions!

And all through January, every Thursday at 5pm, you can hearHenry Raby’s Home Cooking broadcast on -Studs, Safety Pins and Spoken Words – Punk Poetry’s Not Dead!

HEADS UP! After his standing ovation at JibbaJabba last November, Rob Auton returns on Saturday 1 February with hisSky Show – get there early, it’ll be standing room only!


From South East Coordinator Pete

Season’s Greetings! BigTalk-Logo-175x200

At the end of November at Big Talk, Hastings-based Steve Tasane read and performed from his first novel for teens, Blood Donors, a gore-fest of inner-city creepiness,

supported by Lucy Lepchani, performing from her new collection Ladygardens. December’s 451 saw Rob Gee perform his touching and funny one-man show Forget Me Not to an enthralled audience. It was a tour de force performance and was ably supported byArchimedes Screw Showcase winner from November, Kaleigh O’Reilly, plus an open mic as multifarious as ever.

In Brighton, Hammer & Tongue held their annual champion of champions slam and the winner, for the second year on the trot, was Tommy Sissons, who recently appeared in Apples and Snakes’ Public Address II national tour and is rapidly earning a name for himself.

It’s been a full year for Apples and Snakes South East with plenty to be proud and excited about and there’s no letup in 2014 as plans for Spoke ‘N’ Word, the bicycle-powered Kent-touring young person slam, develop and the performance poetry pipeline is filling with further opportunities and events. Keep your ears peeled for what’s coming up including Big Talk on the 31st and Archimedes Screw on the 10th and have a restive festive season.


From South West coordinator Gina



I do hope you are all enjoying the Christmas sparkle! We’re sending out our January Snakebasket a wee bit ahead this month to give you enough time to digest it along with all of the other seasonal festivities.

Coming up on Sunday 5th January and to start the new year with a bang, we bring you a special edition of Spokes Amaze!featuring Luke Wright‘s new one-man show, Essex Lion.

Then on Thursday 23rd January Forked in Plymouth returns featuring amongst many others, international performance poet and true spoken word star, Hollie McNish.

Well that’s certainly enough to warm your cockles!

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas and New Year.



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Rosie Harris talks ships, scripts and staging for the One Way Ticket tour.


Although we don’t start touring until March, the One Way Ticket team has recently been on a mini-tour, visiting the two superb ships (did I mention the ships?) that make up half of our tour venues – the magnificent SS Shieldhall in Southampton, and the equally lovely LV21 in Gillingham. The pictures here are of Chris Elwell from Half Moon and me finding our sea legs with some of our lovely venue hosts, along with Apples SE Pete Hunter and Sharon Lawless from Nuffield, who rugged up and braved it with us. And yes, that is a picture of a Christmas tree up a ship’s mast – a charming tradition (even if they appear to have left the angel off the top!).

In among our nautical adventures we’ve also been finishing off the script and staging. Here’s what Apples and Snakes’ own Nicky Crabb has to say about a recent rehearsal:

I saw a scratch performance of One Way Ticket earlier this year with my 10 year old son and his two friends and we were all blown away with the power of the performances and the writing, it was clear that the theme of displacement, lost family and immigration struck a chord with many.  So it was a real delight to have the opportunity to visit the cast in rehearsal at Half Moon last week and see how those nuggets of gold had been woven into a script that is full of gems, some of them very hard-hitting.

It was the first time the cast had read through a nearly completed script and started to move with their words.  Rosie’s script, enriched with Sophie and Justin’s contributions, has vivid characters who express their raw and difficult emotions through a mixture of poetry, song and dialogue that is incredibly effective.  Both Chris Elwell (Half Moon director) and I found it a really moving experience, especially the scene with the cottage mothers (you’ll have to see the show to find out who they are).  I can’t wait to see it when the scripts are down and we are all onboard ship!”


Our most recent challenge has been to get the piece onto its feet, and to ensure that even though it is text-based, that we don’t feel tied down by that, that the performers can open it out and bring it to life. Live literature, poetry theatre, performance poetry – whatever you choose to call it – has some unique performance challenges that make it quite different from ‘acting’. Discussion last time included the fact that there isn’t really any subtext – it’s all text! – so it’s crucial that the text is brought to life in a way that is physical and engaging.

We also of course need to keep the staging flexible enough to move between very different venues. On both the ships there are fantastic opportunities to use different deck spaces – possibly even real lifeboats – and move the audience around, following the characters’ journeys. Then in the Tom Thumb Theatre in Margate we will have the opposite challenge, adapting the piece to the most characterful, petit and bijou space that is one of the world’s smallest theatres!

So lots of challenges, and all of them exciting. Can’t wait to go sailing into 2014.


Rosie Harris

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Daniela Paolucci,  Apples and Snakes’ Programme Coordinator looks back at her final week in Brazil at the vibrant Literary Festival – FLUPP! 

Brazil- week three

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I am back in London at my desk writing this last article about FLUPP and my residency in Brazil and I am struggling….Ireally miss the hot weather and the sticky rain, as well as the FLUPP team.  Plus working at my computer is difficult at the moment as I managed to leave my reading glasses behind in Rio!

Having spent two weeks in meetings and helping out behind the scene before the festival, I was very intrigued to see how the actual festival would unfold and how the puzzle pieces I was forming inmy head would finally join together, not only in terms of partners and programme, but in terms of the actual space as well.

When I visited Vigário Geral, the favela where FLUPP is taking place this year, the week before on the Friday, the installation in honour of Waly Salomão was not yet up and the main stage was full of people working on putting together a huge drum that would be used later as a screen as well as creating shelves and pieces for the installation ….

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By the Monday, with only two days to go before the opening of FLUPP, the installation started to take shape and workmen wearing havaianas (flip flops) were balancing on top of very precarious scaffolding mounting air conditioner units and the tent to close the stage area…. Also the graffiti artists had finished the first mural and started on a few others…

But when I arrive on Wednesday for the opening, the festival atmosphere is definitely on! People are chatting in the cafe area set up for the guest “artists” and everyone is peeking sneakily at each other trying to recognise who is who by looking at the pictures printed in the programme. After a few failed attempts, (not everyone is in) I resolve to introduce myself and ask directly how each person is contributing to the festival.

The opening of the festival is dedicated to Waly Salomão, poet, writer, actor and director; an eclectic character that has influenced Brazilian literature and a larger than life figure in Vigário Geral. One of his main aims in life was to increase reading throughout Brazil and to make it more readily available to all Brazilians. In his legacy is embedded what FLUPP wants to achieve: the exchange between popular and high culture, the foreign and the Brazilian, the dialogue between the street and the establishment.

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The Centro Cultural Waly Salomão in Vigário Geral is dedicated to him, which features an auditorium, a high-tech library, studios and workshop spaces where AfroReggae is based and the festival is taking place.

FLUPP 2013 is also the celebration of 20 years of work by AfroReggae which was founded in Vigário Geral in 1993 after a massacre that claimed the lives of 21 innocent people.  They are now an established organisation offering classes in percussion, capoeira, theatre and African dance for the local community. AfroReggae believes in the transformative power of the arts, involving young people from the favelas in arts related activities and helping them gain self-esteem and avoid gang life.

FLUPP’s programme unfolds over five days and is packed with events, round table discussions, children’s activities and little explosions of party moments. There is always something happening everywhere and I try to take in the whole spectrum of events.

The discussions around the different literature panels are engaging and very diverse. There are many international guests from France, the UK, Afghanistan, Egypt and Iraq so I am grateful for the headphones provided to listen to simultaneous translation. I am transfixed listening to Roberta Estrela D’Alva talking about the power of spoken word in Brazil and completely absorbed by her performance on stage (she would be fantastic to bring to the UK to perform for Apples and Snakes).

SAM_0656 copy 2I join the tense silence of the audience when Ana Maria Gonçalves reads an extract of her novel “Um Defeicto de Cor” since her writing is so vivid when describing a particularly violent scene, as well the engaging dialogue she has with Bernadine Evaristo regarding being a woman, a writer and black and their encouragement to keep writing for the younger Brazilian generations.

I listen to the story of Paradise & Diverse, two young rappers from Afghanistan, fearing for their lives because of the political content of their songs, which advocate for freedom of expression and criticise violence against women. It is really emotional to see on the last day of the Festival when they perform, the favela’s children joining them dancing on stage while they sing.

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I join Ed Vere’s (UK) workshop with the children, while he reads two of his books and the children join in when Ed involves them in describing the feeling of a monkey wanting desperately a banana! Then they draw…MONSTERS! And I have to say, looking at the adults sitting next to me, they are enjoying the drawing session as much as the children!!!

It’s great to see how many children are joining in both with the children’s activities, as well as listening to the adult debates happening in the main space. They are just delighted when the FLUPP team helps them to put on the headphones so they can understand the different languages spoken on stage. And their parents just pop in and out, happy to see that the children are in a safe space, and some of them end up staying to listen as well, sitting with the rest of the audience.

And if part of the community did not join in so much in the main space, they were outside, where more events were going on. Ed Vere and Boulet were making portraits of children with their mothers, siblings and friends. Some children were drawing instead with their friends next to the two artists.

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Others were queuing to have a stylish haircut since the Batalha do Barbeiros (Barber’s Battle) was taking place outside the main space for 3 days. Your hairstyle is very important for the young people in Brazil, especially for the black community, it’s a sign of status and recognition. Even Julio, one of the two FLUPP directors, has his hair cut, how great!

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The Batalha do Real took place one of the evenings of the festival and it was fantastic to see that some of the children decided to show off and join in as well with improvised rhymes. We “guests” keep chatting and exchanging stories while we wonder from one event to the other or wait our turn to go to eat in one of the most famous restaurants in Vigário Chupetinha. The name comes from the habit of the main chef, a woman who sucks a dummy while she cooks! Not surprisingly she is a real character and the food, when we get there, is delicious! It feels exhilarating to be part of this event and I feel like an excited child on a school trip with her friends.


It’s really hard to leave FLUPP and to look into the eyes of children that are upset because we are leaving and the festival is finished, I am sure that this festival has changed something in their lives as well as mine. This residency and FLUPP itself has been like a storm, it has been such an injection of energy and positive vibes that have left me longing for more and keen to find different ways to keep the collaboration with FLUPP and Brazil alive in the future.

In England, when we evaluate a project, we look at the aims and objectives and we start placing an imaginary tick next to our achievements…so I’ll do the same for FLUPP:

“We want to create a party atmosphere, where people want to join in”
“ I want to invade their space (the favela)”
“The meeting between the academy and informal education”
“Arte na praça” (Art in the square)”
“Literature as a means to change the lives of people” 
“Non-writers publishing their life experience and turning Life into Literature” 
……and I add “An unforgettable experience”

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DSC04984Sophie Rose, one of the two artists assisting Rosie Harris with preparing the script for One Way Ticket, talks to Apples and Snakes about Week 3 of rehearsals!

Blimey, that sea shanty that Justin has written is catchy!

It’s been tornado-ing in my head all week. I reckon we’ll have a number 1 hit on our hands before this tour is over.

We are on week 3 now: it’s funny how the words spin in your head as you are writing a new piece of material.
I have found myself thinking about Ronnie and Jean – our central characters – a lot recently; on the bus, in the bath, even in my sleep. It’s partly the process that you go through when you create a script,

but I also think that these characters are hard to forget.
After all, One Way Ticket is based on real events that were experienced by real people so it’s important that we get the story right.


And this is when we start to work on detail.We have been tightening up our rhymes and storylines to make sure that every word counts. We are fortunate to have a wonderfully open working relationship, allowing us to interrogate our text together.

I think it is shaping up rather well!

And in today’s session we were joined by Chris Elwell who is helping direct the piece, and is fantastic. After sitting round the table with cups of tea, apples and biros, I was very excited to get up on my feet!DSC04547 We were zooming through the script – that’s one of the great things about spoken word, it has such momentum to it; you can’t believe all the places you’ve visited and people you’ve met in only 3 pages.


Rosie Harris was working hard on the other side of the wall, trying to fix a particularly tricky part of our story.
We need her to play 2 characters at the same time, talking to both Justin Coe and I, so it is quite a task!

We have had some great conversations about how we use theatrical conventions in OWT; how older Jean is re-playing her memories which allows her to slip in and out of the action.

This also makes the final scene more satisfying for our audiences.
I won’t give too much away but there will be Stannah Stairlifts, rapping and Hawaiian shirts.

Until then, how about a song to keep you going –

‘I can’t spot no kangaroos

All I see is sea

I can’t hear no didgeridoos

All I see is …’

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Apples and Snakes’ Programme Coordinator DanielaPaolucci travels to Brazil to take part in the incredible Literary Festival – FLUPP! Here is her account of week two in Rio.

Behind the scenes of FLUPP Festival

My second week in Rio de Janeiro has been very enriching and eye opening regarding the project itself and the people involved in it, directly or indirectly. It has shown me the shared passion and determination FLUPP has to make their dream come true.


We meet with British Council representative in Rio, Lucimara Letelier, director Adjunta de Artes (deputy director of arts), who explains that FLUPP strategically supports the British Council‘s aims to make Brazilian literature recognised worldwide. This recognition creating mutual benefits in the increased exchange between British and Brazilian authors and publishers, socially bridging the gap between favela (see picture below) residents and the city, by focusing on the writing talents of the favela itself.

And then we hear from Toni Marques, curator for FLUPP, explaining how he has helped the two directors to shape and develop the curatorial thinking of the festival from the original idea as well as selecting the international authors participating in the festival.


What is fascinating and at the same time extraordinary, is the fact that FLUPP doesn’t have a proper structure yet, it is not a legal entity.
However thanks to the non stop work of the two directors who are constantly building new partnerships, the support network of organisations
and the people that share its mission and values (which are written down only in the mind and the heart of the people involved), FLUPP exists and is also recognised as a brand in itself.

Well known people such as Luiz Edoardo Soares, an anthropologist and public security expert, and Heloisa Buarque de Hollanda, Professor and coordinator of the “Programa Avançado de Cutura Contemporanea” at the Universidade das Quebradas, readily offer their support to the directors and work with them in developing the festival programme. I am impressed by the thinking behind this University’s course since it  is free, only offered to artists and cultural producers in the communities of Rio de Janeiro who have had no access to formal education, but who develop important work in the cultural arena.

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It is about giving a voice to people that do not usually have one and to stimulate encounters and dialogue with the academic community, as the two worlds, though complementary, still unknown to each other. FLUPP is almost a consequence of this course, since it uses the arts to change society.

I have continued to meet amazing people and amazing programmes of activities, such us the Mar’s (Museum de Arte do Rio) director cultural (cultural director), Paulo Herkenhoff.  He explains that the museum only opened a few months ago.It recognises art and education as the two pillars that support the formation of a critical and reflective community in Rio de Janeiro. It is a museum created to serve the entire community, and offers training and exhibitions that are related to the community in terms of their history or artefacts. The Director compared the museum to a sponge, ready to absorb everything that is related to the community it lives in.

I cannot cease to be amazed when I meet Walter Marcedo, Coordinador Artistico (artistic director), Arena Carioca Dicro‘ (cultural space in Rio’s favelas) as part of the work of the Observatorio de Favelas. This is an organisation that work directly with the public to observe, research and help the government to enhance the life in the favelas through creating the basis for a new social policy. Again I can see parallels with FLUPP, since their projects aim to end the divide between the city and the favelas, to show that the favelas are not a dangerous space and attract people to visit the favelas as much as any other place.

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It is clear how all these different realities become part of a unique project. But my last big surprise of the week, is the meeting with the entire FLUPP team to discuss the practicalities of the festival and then the visit to Vigario Geral, where the festival is going to be held this year.There are at least 20 people in this meeting, everyone with a different task allocated. No one has got a schedule with the exact time of when things are happening, except for the schedule of the festival activities.  There is no list of who is doing what and when, but everyone knows exactly what is happening and seems to have the situation completely under control. Everything is in their heads and everyone has got a “can do” and problem solving attitude. There is a real team spirit behind this festival and you can see how hard everyone is working towards its success. The FLUPP machine is just incredible.


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After the meeting,  we went with Julio and Toni to Vigário Geral. I was very curious to see the place before it gets transformed for the event , at the moment there is no stage or installations. Julio assures me that what I am going to witness will be pretty different from what I will see during the festival.  This favela has not got UPP in it, is not pacified yet, so the dealers are still there but thanks to the Afroreggae‘s work over 20 years in this site, their presence has facilitated the negotiation in order to run the festival here.


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When we arrive we are asked where we are going and allowed to pass. I am too busy looking around and greeting people that I fail to notice the guy with a rifle and the man with a gun, which instead I will notice on my way out. The local community welcome us very warmly and we spend a couple of hours chatting with them, being “escorted” to a local supermarket to buy something to drink and eat, and to meet the Graffiti artist who is starting to paint the walls of one of the local residents at their request. I had a great time together with the children: playing ( I was offered one of the boy’s bicycles to ride and managed not to fall off), talking about football (and being teased because I support Roma, a team no one has heard of so I must be a loser), taking their photos and them taking photos with me (soon there will be an exchange by email since they want to put them on their Facebook page) and being asked if I was a soap opera actress that they did not know of, and since I wasn’t, being offered to be in one when they grow up!


Holding a festival in a not yet pacified favela, is a huge challenge for FLUPP this year, (which has become the ‘Festa Literaria das Periferias’ –  ’The Literature Festival of the Peripheries’, and not of UPP) as well as emphasising that the festival is about literature in general, with a special focus of the one produced in the outskirts of the city and how they link together. I feel extremely privileged to be here and to have been shown such openness behind the scenes of the preparation of this festival and I just cannot wait to see this magical event take shape in front of my eyes.

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 For more information about FLUPP Festival please visit the British Council website here

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Justin Coe, one of the two artists assisting Rosie Harris with preparing the script for One Way Ticket describes the fun and excitement of the creative process.    

We’ve just finished our second (post-scratch) writing session at the Half Moon Theatre and we are all buzzing.

We’ve spent the day analysing the original One Way Ticket script and hearing the new material we’ve written since last week. The builders are busy banging outside the window, but that doesn’t put us off, we’ll need to harden up to the elements ourselves before we tour this show on ships docked in Gillingham and Southampton in March and April.

The script produced for the scratch show back in May was written quickly in four sessions by three performance poets with varying styles. The story and characters have stood up well to closer inspection but today Rosie Harris has brought us a completely new beginning. As we read through and begin to experiment with our different voices, it already feels that the piece has greater energy, playfulness and power.

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Last week Sophie Rose asked the important question “why are we using spoken word to tell to this story?” This week Rosie’s new writing contained the answer:

“…And we’re telling you this story, cause words were all we had/when things got bad….words help us remember where we came from/that we had another life before we got put on board/stories are where memories are stored”.

There’s even time for me to dust down my guitar and add a few chords to a poem and suddenly it’s a song. It’s a lively enough piece about the sea and in a show about the emotionally intense subject of child migration aimed at a young audience, we are looking for some lighter moments. It gets a seal of approval and we all have a go at writing a few more verses – but would my 11 year old character really suddenly whip out his guitar and sing a folk song? It doesn’t seem likely:  and yet in a spoken word show where adults play children and break down the fourth wall at will, how much does that matter?  The discussion extends into the use of musical instruments in general during the show. It’s something that we will explore more when director Chris Elwell from the Half Moon is in with us next week. But in the meantime, I have got permission to nose around music shops and research ukuleles. Surely there’s room on board the poetry ship for one more uke-plucking performance poet! (Alright, Mr Hegley?)

It’s so much fun to be working with two other writers and we are already enjoying the increased potential to experiment with our different writing styles, poetic forms and poly-vocal performance. As lead writer, Rosie has the most to do now in ensuring that the story keeps apace with the poetry and enough weight is given to each of the characters.

I might also need to learn the ukulele. But we’re getting there!

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Apples and Snakes’ Programme Coordinator Daniela Paolucci travels to Brazil to take part in the Literary Festival – FLUPP!

I have been in Brazil for a week and it has gone really fast. When I was told by the British Council that I was invited to participate in their cultural programme, Transform and take part in FLUPP (Literary Festival of the UPP), I could not quite believe that I would be in Rio de Janeiro for 3 weeks.

On my flight to Rio I was reading The Guardian where I found a two page article about the favelas in Rio and I was quite disappointed not to find any mention of FLUPP. It was all about the favelas as a tourist attraction, which I find quite strange in a way, but if this means that the favelas start to became visible and less invisible or off limits, maybe it’s a good thing and with time, it will be good for FLUPP as well.


At the airport I am greeted by Julio Ludemir, one of the two Directors of FLUPP. The day was gloriously sunny, and I quickly forgot my 13 hour flight and as we drive to the hotel, Julio’s enthusiasm is contagious. We started talking straight away and when I ask him about FLUPP, his response lingers in my mind : “I wake up every morning, I put a big smile on my face and Igo to war. Everyday there is a problem to resolve!”.

I certainly like his spirit and this gives me some idea of the difficulties that he and his team must encounter everyday to make this festival a success and, make it accessible to everyone. This is the first literature festival to take place in the favelas, trying to bring together the periphery and the establishment. From the conversation with Julio, it is clear that the main challenge of this festival is to bringpeople that are not from the favelas to take part – there are still prejudices which are due to their history of poverty, drug related crime and gang rivalry.

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Julio truly believes that “the favelas are Rio” and it is his personal mission and battle to make the establishment see this as well. When I go with Julio to the Complexo do Alemão, together with Henderson Mullin, from Writing East Midlands, part of the same British council residency I am in, it seems pretty clear to both of us, what Julio means when he says that “the favelas are Rio”. We took the Teleférico do Alemão, a six station cable car that enables you to watch from above, one favela after another – you can’t see where each ends and the next begin. The city centre, the downtown, compared to the favelas, is so small, almost non-existent. All of this is just breathtaking, its hard to describe.

FLUPP has curated a photographic exhibition in the cable car station about the history of the favelas and another to celebrate two well known Brazilian writers, Aloísio de Azevedo, who wrote “O Cortiço” which is about the houses for poor people and workers before the favelas and Raul Pompeia, who wrote “O Atheneu“, about education before and after the Republic years. It is fascinating seeing the local people taking pictures or looking at the exhibition, fascinated by their own history. The exhibition is strategically placed: just outside the cable car exit, people need to go through it to get out. Julio explains that he  wanted to “invade their space” in order to get their attention and I see that he has succeeded.

It strikes me that FLUPP is the literally the “cable car” for literature: it brings literature to the community and into the favelas and bri

ngs the favelas’ literature to the establishment.

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We find out about FLUPP Pensa, a programme of creative writing workshops held once a month in different favelas. It involves a group of 50 writers from the favelas who have been put in contact with different authors from the establishment, specialising in poetry, short stories and novel writing.

During the workshop, they are introduced to different styles of writing, given tips on their work and challenged with exercises to work on during the period of time between one workshop and another. Last Saturday I went to the Biblioteca Parque da Rocinha, where a lunch was being held for the participants of this year’s FLUPP Pensa programme. The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement, since in the afternoon the “winners” of this year would be announced. A selection of 20 authors were chosen for the poetry section, another 20 for short stories and 1 for a novel. Their work will be printed in an anthology that will be presented later in December. What really surprised me was not only the diversity of the participants and  mix of genders, but mostly the difference in age. This is something rarely seen in England.

We create specific inter- generational projects, but here the different age groups come together and melt organically. I have noticed this in other contexts as well: if you go out in the evening in a bar to have a drink, you see all different ages mixing together…how refreshing!

It was a very moving celebration, you could see the support shown by the participants for each others work and even those who were not selected were winners as well because they took part in FLUPP and they have now become part of a new community, a literary community that will continue after FLUPP Pensa.

It was incredible the support and the gratitude shown towards Julio Ludemir and Ecio Salles, the FLUPP directors, as well as their entire team, for the work done within the community and for having created such an amazing opportunity for them all. The room was full of participants, the writing mentors and children from another community project brought to sing in honour of the two directors.

It is moments like these which make you forget all the difficulties encountered and make your job worth while. I believe the FLUPP team can be truly proud of what they have achieved.

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Rocinha was the first favela that I visited and I was overwhelmed by its sheer size, how narrow the streets are and how packed it is with people, motorcycles, cabs, buses going up and down in a continuous flow. It’s another world, but at the same time, some part of it resembles houses I have seen in North Africa (Egypt, Lybia or Algeria), but it could be Italy as well, like some part of Naples, or council estates in London.

But then, guided by Rodrigo Walker, a Rio de Janeiro Producer (and for me guardian angel, translator and the most well known man in Rio, since everywhere we go he meets someone that he knows!), we goto Vidigal, another favela, which has a spectacular view over Leblon beach and it has a very calming atmosphere as it is surrounded by an urban forest. Here we are invited to take part in a birthday party at one of Rodrigo’s friends houses.  So as soon the gate is open, I discover a group of houses all linked together, all the family live here, one next to another. Here in Brazil, every time you think something and make an assumption, you soon realise that it is the opposite of what you were expecting.

You need to be constantly ready to be surprised!

Everyone is so welcoming at the party and even if not everyone speaks English and I don’t speak Portuguese, there is always a way to communicate and my Italian comes in handy! Everyone loves beer here, I don’t drink much myself, but I have become quite fond of Guaraná, I’ve no idea what it is, but the children drink it!

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I have noticed that there are no posters, flyers or programmes for FLUPP. It’s clear to me that the marketing here is all done by the internet, word of mouth and above all face to face with the people, organisations, schools and so on that the directors are aiming to attract to this years festival. As Julio put it “I go and talk directly in the streets“.

I can see how this works having participated in a few of these face to face talks. On my second day in Rio, I was invited to visit 3 schools, two classes of 14+ and one for 8+ years olds, in the favela of Cidade de Deus (City of God). Here two actresses read from three different books that will be presented at the Festival. For the older ones the books were of poetry, while the younger kids heard stories, both very engaging and funny. It was quite interesting to notice that at the beginning the majority of the older children all showed little interest and kept their distance. Probably in their minds this was “another school activity they needed to take part in“, but then, they became more engaged and curious about the poems. And when at the end they were asked if they wanted to try and write their own poems with some magnetic words on a little board, they all jumped at the idea with enthusiasm and started working in groups. After ten minutes they were all queuing up to have their poem read aloud by the two actresses. Those classes will read and work on one of the three books read in class and then they will come to FLUPP in order to meet the author and be able to ask questions.

This is very similar to the work we do at Apples and Snakes, with PIES (Poetry In Education Scheme), we send a poet into a school to perform in their morning assembly and then run one or two workshop with selected classes to give a different flavour of what is poetry and how it can be used in the classroom. It is all about changing the perception of young people towards poetry and literature and engaging with them.

I am really impressed with how much active festival promotion is happening only two weeks before the festival starts. One evening I am with Julio at FACHA (Faculdades Integradas Helio Alonso – the University for journalism, advertising, audiovisual, law and tourism), where he has been invited as part of the communication week to talk about the ideas behind the festival and the programme. Julio is extremely charismatic and passionate when he talks about the Festival and it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off him. A lot of students ask him questions and at the end of his presentation, they all gather around him to ask more questions and to show their support and affection for him. He is like hero to them, a role model.  Julio is worried that because of the prejudices towards the favelas, many students would not participate in the festival. Both directors wants to increase the student’s participation from last year.

So two days later I am with Ecio Sellas, at UERJ (Univesidade do Estado do Rio De  Janeiro) and he tells me that he has a long list of other universities to visit during the next few days. We are in the literature department, and we visit two classes. Ecio very quickly captures the students attention with eye contact and his warm and friendly approach. He shares the same passion of Julio when he talks about FLUPP. Once he’s explained the context, he explains that there is a competition for students to sign up to if they want to participate – if they take part in the festival, or bring a friend to attend, as well as write an article about their experience of FLUPP in general or any event they have found particularly interesting, they will gain points. Whoever gains the most points, will win a week in Paris!

Ecio explains the whole process with jokes, involving the students in the presentation, asking their names and what they are studying and I’m certain their attention span has increased as soon as the prize has been mentioned to them.

I asked myself how many of those students will participate because of the trip to Paris, but if this means that they will discover a world different from their own, a new interest in literature and the literature from the favelas, I believe it is worthwhile.

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I have also attended a meeting of the FIA (Fundação para Infância e Adolescência), which looks after the young people in the region trying to make a bridge between them and a potential employers or offering them training. Julio and Raphael, one of the young writers of the FLUPP Pensa programme, are there to talk about the festival and try to involve the young people that FIA are in contact with.

It is unfortunate that none of the young people are present at this conference, to express their point of view and what they would be interested in doing. It is always the “top” that thinks what is good for them, without asking them. Julio tells me that the majority of the young people are offered jobs where they are treated as “office boys“, they are just given simple tasks to do, that no one else in a office wants to do, for example making coffee or going to the post office, but no real training is offered. I wonder if some of them could be trained by FLUPP in the future?

And last, but not certainly not least, I meet some representatives of the spoken word scene in Rio.  How great to be in a small flat, surrounded by young people that have just finished running a workshop in downtown Rio about the use of a microphone, creating a presence on stage, the importance of the rhythm during the performance  …all this would be at home in one of Apples and Snakes Masterclasses! What a pity that I was not able to attend their workshop, but what a privilege to speak with them while they tell me about their project and what they do.

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I also meet one of the two founders of the Batalha do Real, the first duel of rhymes created in Brazil, ten years ago. The Batalha do Real or the Battle of Real, refers to their currency, the Real, since in order to participate, everyone needs to give one Real to the organisers and the winner will gain all the collected Real fro

m the evening. This a great opportunity for new talent to emerge and gain visibility. The audience is the main measure of their success, since the winners are chosen by popular vote. Usually the Batalha do Real take places near the Arcos do Lapa, attracting a vast audience, but the next Batalha will happen in the FLUPP festival, I just can’t wait!

To find out more about Transform and FLUPP click here here or you can visit the festival website here

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AJ McKenna talks to Apples and Snakes about the subject behind her filmpoem: ‘Letter to a Minnesota Prison’ - a commission for Architects of Our Republic.

Can you give us an insight as to what Letter to a Minnesota Prison is about?

It’s about CeCe Mcdonald, a young black trans-woman who was sent to prison for defending herself and her friends against a racist, transphobic attack. She went to prison as a result of a plea bargain deal she had to make when she realised she had no chance of a fair trial – and she realised that when the judge ruled that a cheque CeCe had written, which bounced, would be used as evidence of her bad character. Not as material evidence, just proof that because she’d bounced a cheque once, she must be a cold-bloodeAJ McKenna photo (newest)d killer.

I had wanted to write a poem about CeCe’s case for a long time, but had never found a way in. Then l read the full text of the MLK speech (rather than just the peroration) and saw the passage near the beginning where he compares the US Declaration of Independence to a bad cheque and that was it.

Can you talk us through the process for the film?

l wrote most of the poem, (the first half) in one burst after having the initial idea, then most of the second half in a similar burst. I worked with Degna Stone, my mentor on the project, to refine it, edit it, and take out some bits which, while good, will probably turn into other poems because they don’t fit this one. Initially we were concerned to try and find a way of tying the poem together at the end – I initially envisaged it as a three-’movement’ poem with what is currently the end as merely a volta leading into the final movement, but after trying to come up with one ending after another which, for all their merits didn’t work, we decided the poem works better with the ending it currently has.

In terms of turning it into a film, my main concern was not to have it turn into a pop video. I wanted to honour the very different challenges faced by CeCe as a black trans-woman compared to my relatively privileged position as a white trans-woman, so I felt being filmed performing in the video myself would be appropriative and egotistical. Fortunately Laura Degnan, the director, was able to come up with some great images that accompany the poem. It isn’t a literal recreation of the events around CeCe’s imprisonment, nor is it a film of a performance. The film in its own way is as much a poem as the poem it accompanies – they complement each other.

Why should people come and see Letter to a Minnesota prison? 

Because I think it’s the best poem I’ve ever written, because it’s about something important, and because people need to learn about cases like CeCe’s so we can ensure miscarriages of justice like hers don’t happen again.

How has your experience with this project impacted upon you?

I’ve learned a lot about working on poems as part of something other than performance, about working in other media and developing longer pieces which incorporate elements other than just spoken word. I’m currently working on developing a long piece with music that’s going to be aired on Home Cooking on Basic FM sometime in the New Year. Also, I got to meet loads of really talented poets from other parts of the country, which is great, because I think you can get a bit stale if you stick to your own scene. As a result of working on this project I’ve got gigs much further afield, in London at Jawdance and in Plymouth at Forked later this November. In a way it’s made me feel more like a national, UK poet than just a North East poet. Which is a nice feeling.

What is your dream for 2014?

I think if I have a dream for 2014 it’s to be able to keep producing work that’s worthy of peoples’ time, that says something important, and which changes peoples’ minds and alerts them to experiences outside of their own, and to get that work out to a wider number of people. I’d like for my work to have some kind of real world impact: sometimes you get a bit tired of being satisfied with the thought that you’ve ‘raised awareness‘ in some kind of nebulous way and when I look at how trans people get treated, at how CeCe is still in prison, at how Chelsea Manning is still in prison and fighting just for the right to be referred to by the right name and pronouns by people supposedly on her own side, at the fact that Pink News can give their Politician of the Year award to Baroness Stowell, who supported the transphobic spousal veto tacked onto the Equal Marriage Bill which means that the spouses of trans people who get divorced can legally delay our access to a Gender Recognition Certificate, and the fact that Fox News, the Pacific Justice Institute and a woman who calls herself a ‘radical feminist‘ but makes her money working as a lawyer for a payday loan company are persecuting a trans child so badly right now that said child is on suicide watch even as I write this, things feel bleak and it feels as if words aren’t enough but they’re all I have. But I believe in magic: I believe that the right words, in the right arrangement, said in the right way, can have an effect on the real world, and in 2014 I want that to happen. I want 2014 to be the year when my words start to make a real difference to the lives of trans people.

Watch ‘Letter to a Minnesota Prison’

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Rosie Harris talks to Apples and Snakes about the preparation behind her spring 2014 tour: One Way Ticket.


This big red ship is the beautiful LV21 in Gillingham. It’s very big and very red and we get to do our spoken word show in it! Rehearsals for the One Way Ticket Spring 2014 Tour are up and running (or should that be up and sailing?), thanks to Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts and input from many extremely helpful people, especially Apples and Snakes (many thanks Lisa Mead and Pete Hunter) and Half Moon Young People’s Theatre (many thanks Chris Elwell).

Our four week tour next year includes two great theatres – Half Moon, and Tom Thumb Theatre Margate – and two ships. The LV21, plus the equally magnificent SS Shieldhall in Southampton, thanks to the introduction and liaison with the Nuffield Theatre (thanks Sharon Lawless). As this is now starting to sound like an Oscars thank you speech, here is a little bit about day one of rehearsals last week…

Sophie Rose and Justin Coe are still on board, after their superb contributions to the original scratch script and performance in May this year. I’m so happy that they are still involved to move forward with the piece. We were remembering on day one of rehearsals that we actually put together a one hour performance for 60 school kids in three half days of writing and rehearsal. A staggering feat, and good to know that we can move quickly because although we have a slightly longer rehearsal period this time there’s loads to be done, not least of which is to work out how we best use the different spaces on offer (none of us having ever performed on an actual ship before, although perhaps a career as cruise entertainers awaits us if we really take to it…).

What has come out of the rehearsals so far:

  • How much of the script needs re-working, now we’ve had time to step back and look at it more forensically.
  • Addressing the question of why choose a spoken word show for this subject (the British child migrants scandal)? Which has raised issues about making the show cohesive in its vision; the links between oral traditions and secret, unwritten histories is a very clear and helpful one to frame the show with (thanks Sophie for digging deeper with that one).
  • Returning to how to deal with more challenging material for younger audiences, making adjustments to how much we want to present, and how.

All of that great creative material to get our teeth into plus real ships! What more could we want?

Rosie Harris

Nov 13, 2013

To find out more about the orgins of the project click here

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In April 2013, five emerging spoken word artists were commissioned to write three minute pieces, responding to the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic ‘I have a dream’ speech for Architects of our Republic. These were then transformed into films by some very special film-makers.

This is a Q & A from Antony ‘Batch’ Batchelor, who produced this captivating Rik Sykes commission The Trouble with Dreams.

Can you talk us through the process for The Trouble with Dreams?
The Trouble With Dreams came about through experimenting with the poet Rik Sykes’ idea that dreams and hopes become fragmented with time (like Martin Luther King’s dream of equality) and often leave just a glimmer of the original thought.

So from this starting point, the idea of using super 8 footage, because of its nostalgic beauty and dreamlike quality, became a viable style for the film; the fragmented and broken ideals of our past as seen through the beautifully flawed medium of Super 8 film. What more could we want?

I am lucky enough to have collected together a large selection of super 8 footage – some from family, from previous projects and even some from my own wedding – so I started cutting pieces of this together with the poem to see what came out. Rather than go for a direct narrative I was interested in seeing what happened when you put random images with random words and whether some other kind of third meaning could come from this. Also, what struck me and was something I was aiming for in the film, was the idea that when we see a hate crime on TV or in the newspaper, we can easily forget that the people involved, victims and perpetrators, were all once children who had at sometime played so innocently. How did their journey take them to the point of the crime?

Once I had worked through a few edits, and experimented with as much as i could, it became apparent that the film would need a hint of narrative, so I got out the old super 8 camera and shot elements that I thought could suggest the waking day of a character, the time spent trying to grasp at memories from the nights dreams.

Finally to finish, I wrote a simple soundtrack that I thought would encourage the viewer back into the initial words that Rik had written (not music that was overpowering or too emotional) and so bring the process back to the beginning, full circle.

How has your experience with this project impacted upon you?
The Architects of our Republic project has had a very positive effect on me – due to the pleasure of working on a project with so few restrictions on how I work; to have the freedom and time to take an idea and experiment with it, has been a truly liberating experience.

Why should people come and see The Trouble with Dreams?
Watch The Trouble With Dreams as it might take you somewhere into your past that you had forgotten about.

What is your dream for 2014?
At the end of this year and into 2014 I will be starting life with my wife as a Foster Carer and so I hope and dream that i will be able to offer the young people who come and stay with me a little of what they may have not got before.


Watch the above film, plus the other four commissions, in all their glory at ARCHITECTS OF OUR REPUBLIC: THE POETRY FILMS: A FORKED SPECIAL (presented by Apples and Snakes and Plymouth International Book Festival), on Monday 04 November, 8pm, The Barbican Theatre. Performances from Mama Tokus, Vanessa Kisuule and Zena Edwards.

Or in London: New Architects of our Republic, on Tuesday 19 November, 7.30pm at Free Word Centre.
Performances from Zena Edwards, Sureshot and Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze MBE; the Architects Young Writers group and young writers.

Watch this space for further screenings near you. Alternatively, stay in touch with @applesandsnakes and @rageandradiate for first information!

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