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.


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


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!


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, 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!


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 ( 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,


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…  

Scan 1

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

Scan 2

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

Scan 4

‘I liked that he spoke about reality.’


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:

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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Coinciding with the football World Cup, WORDCUP2014 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, culminating in a giant WORDCUP slam championship at Stratford Circus.Wordcup Slam Final-26

Over April-July, the WORDCUP teams were selected from 10 schools across East London. Each school was appointed their own professional poet, like Raymond Antrobus, Indigo Williams and Joelle Taylor, to come in as their team mentor and help the groups put pen to paper and create their own spoken word. Through weekly workshops with their mentors and shadow mentors, the teams began to polish and sharpen their poetic skills in the build-up to the big WORDCUP2014 poetry slam. 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.Wordcup Slam Final-28

The slam was hosted by renowned slam facilitator and performance poet Jacob Sam-La Rose and judged by Khadijah Ibrahiim, Mr Gee and the Young Poet Laureate for London, Warsan Shire. The panel were blown away by the standard and quality of the young people’s poetry, with memorable lines including “Hearts that beat like soldiers on the street” and “we have stairwell veins and window hearts” raising the bar of the event to the standard of a professional competition. The ‘Most Striking Line’ AwWordcup Slam Final-133ard was won by Clapton Girls School who worked with poet coach Keith Jarrett, for “we dream of love and we love our dream”.

The ‘Most Striking Performance’ went to St Gabriel’s School, who worked with Indigo Williams. The ‘Most Humorous performance’ was by Lammas School, whose poet coach was Cat Brogan. The highest-scoring team of WORDCUP2014 was from St Paul’s School in Greenwich, mentored by poet Joelle Taylor. Both the performances by St Paul’s School received unanimous (and deafening) support from the audience, who could barely keep in their seats!


Have a look at this promotional video, which shows Joelle Taylor’s team St Paul’s School during the workshopping process.

All in all WORDCUP2014 was an incredibly inspiring project, showcasing the truly awe-inspiring levels of talent and creativity that thrive in the young East London community.

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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.


From London Coordinator Russell

Ah, August: the month when we spend thousands of pounds travelling to Edinburgh to put on shows for audiences who all come from Islington anyway. Happy times. You can read about some of this Midlothian madness in our Recommended section, below.
Well now – can it really be a year since we kicked off our Spoke project at the Olympic Park? How things have changed: Prince Harry‘s been there, for a start. Not that I noticed him in the Poetry Potting-Shed. Anyway, things are now drawing to a close with our Reprezent Radio Residency (or should that be rezidency?) and the creation of our mega East London community poem.
Just to prove that it’s not all easterly, we’ll also be gravitating south for the Croydon Wordfest open mic. And we’re continuing another long-term project with our Architects Of Our Republic workshops, celebrating the fiftieth (or fifty-first, by now) anniversary of the March on Washington.
I was just putting this Snakebasket together when I heard about the untimely death of that ubiquitous open-miker The Wizard of Skill (James Angir). The loosest cannon on a scene that’s full of them, he could always be relied upon to add an edge of out-thereness to any poetry night: you never quite knew what you were going to get, but you knew you were going to be damn well entertained. He was entirely his own man, on stage as well as off, and things won’t be the same without him. Remember him this way.
Rest in poetry, brother.


From North East Coordinator Kirsten

August is a funny old month. Normal people have holidays. Poets don’t do this. They take solo shows to the Edinburgh Fringe and severely undermine their mental and physical health by bingeing on deep-fried haggis and drinking ‘til 2am at the Banshee Labyrinth. Fortunately for you, they’ve left a little bit of poetry here in the north-east, and we’d love to have your company for JibbaJabba on the 28th, featuring the Crap Time Lord himself, Richard Tyrone Jones, back to tickle you pink. Our Home Cooking podcast continues every Thursday, 5pm on, this month featuring poetry and a trip down memory lane for Sara HirschMichelle Madsen and Sam Berkson, who believe We Need To Talk About Stortford.


From South East Coordinator Pete



July saw poets with video cameras stalking the streets of Southampton during the Poetry Film Weekend Workshop with Batch and City Eye. There were some surprising and exciting results which will be going live online soon. Then Wordplay at GLive in Guildford where Guildford’s own Pop-Up Poets plus Anna Freeman and Adam Kammerling took the stage at the first spoken word gig ever at Guildford Fringe FestivalInua Ellams treated the Archimedes Screw Showcase audience to a masterclass in writing and performance and the Spoke ‘n’ Word project endured extremes of hot and wet weather at Create Festival to introduce all forms of performance poetry to an impressed and impressive crowd.


Bridging the Solent arrives in Southampton on the 8th for its residency at XwwX Gallery and Mettricks. Here the travelling exhibition will gather poetry and prints before sailing to Quay Arts on Isle of Wight in October. August also sees a special 451 at Nuffield Playing Field in Guildhall Square, Southampton on Monday 11th. This is part of the Art at the Heart Festival programme and will feature the poetic talents of John HegleyLaurie BolgerAaron Carpenter and that ever-popular guy who turns up at so many poetry events, Open Mike. 

See you there!


From South West Coordinator Gina

Start the new month with a bang at Spokes Amaze! This Sunday (3rd August) with The Mouthy Poetry skills of Deborah Stevenson, Birmingham poet and playwright Lorna Meehan, not one but two slam winners and the usual video and slam shenanigans!

Fancy Slamming your way to a paid set? Sign up to Slam this month and in advance for September, just e-mail me and I can give you all the info you need, new comers welcome!

Join our Facebook group to keep up to date with what’s going on between the baskets!


From West Midlands Coordinator Bohdan

Hello all! 

August is here. There’s no use denying it. In fact, it’s happened so many times after July that I think a pattern is emerging. 

This level of brilliance will doubtless come in handy as the majority of our project take a summer break, and I take the opportunity to plot and scheme for the next season. Hit the OdeLit FusePower PlantLevel UP, etc. will all return in autumn, and we will try to bring back the resounding success that was Smash the Song too – those of you who saw CR Avery put a spell on the crowd last month know how well the cocktail of poetry and music tasted. 

Of course, there is one constant which never goes away: Poets’ Place! The tireless Jasmine Gardosi has three dates (the 3rdthe 16th and the 30th Aug) when you can come meet other poets, share your work, and find out what’s going on in the region.

So, take a look after the jump if you’re after live poetry, and enjoy the beautiful weather! 

See you very soon,


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LMDzpH-IApples and Snakes’ poet Dan Simpson shares his five top tips on ‘Taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe’.

1. Do your research! Ideally, go to the Fringe as a punter first (and do a few open mics whilst you’re there!). The Fringe is HUGE: 3,000+ shows in 300 odd venues all happening in three and a bit weeks. It’s useful to know a bit about how it all works: what Festival do you want your show to be part of (PBH Free Fringe? Big Four? Laughing Horse? C-Venues? Do you know what these are?)? When is best for you to be on? How are you going to get people through the door?

2. Identify what you would see as successful from taking a show to Edinburgh. That might be: developing artistically, getting a tour, getting a good review in the press, meeting lots of other poets and seeing their work, breaking even financially, or even just having fun. Setting yourself some optimistic and realistic targets will help you focus on making your Fringe show successful.

3. Make the best show you can. The Fringe, even the free festivals within it, is not a place to do something badly. That said, sometimes doing a show is a way to develop creatively – but what you present should be good enough for someone to pay for, and choose over other shows. Write, rewrite, learn, get feedback, improve, repeat until it’s the best it can be. You don’t want to be getting 1 star reviews!

4. Have a strong, understandable, and easily communicable hook for your show that tells someone what it is in just a few words. Handing out a flyer and telling people about your show is a performance itself – if the person thinks you’re interesting, funny, charming and warm, they’ll have a reason to come and see you.

5. When out in Edinburgh, pack for all types of weather every day. It can go from hail to sunshine in less than 5 minutes (true story). Also, have good and comfortable walking shoes – you’ll be traipsing across town to flyer, see and do shows, get home and back constantly. Eat well and often, stay hydrated, and relax sometimes – burning out is bad and your show will suffer.

You can read Dan’s comprehensive guide on Taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe here.

Dan’s show Applied Mathematics: Spoken Word for Geeks is on 16-24 August, 2.45pm at Cortado Cafe (venue 428) as part of PBH’s Free Fringe.

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Our year began with a great second season here at SPOKE, a series of varied and engaging community events culminating in the opening of the south part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Saturday 5 April. As 2014 hurtles on and our third season comes to an end, we take a moment to reflect on how our year kicked off.


SPOKE: Earth brought together top UK poets to engage with enthusiastic, inspiring young people through four ambitious spoken word projects across East London in and around the Olympic Park.


At the Poetry Potting Shed Niall O’Sullivan was our poet in residence, helping primary and secondary school children to sow the seeds of their imaginations. Vicarage and Grangewood schools were amongst those visiting the shed. With workshops, live poetry readings, and a poetry installation from local young poets, the shed was a hub of thriving creativity.

‘An interesting new landscape for London’ - Michael Rosen

If that wasn’t enough to get the people of East London queuing at the gates, poet Michael Rosen also spent a day pottering about the shed. The children of Southwald Primary, Orchard Primary, and Eastbury Secondary were the lucky participants of Michael’s poetry workshops.

Carmina Masoliver shadowed Niall O’Sullivan and Michael Rosen for the duration of their time in the shed and took a hand at working with the children, writing new poetry, and leading workshops.

‘We forget that the environment is, itself, a classroom; we don’t have to learn about it from the classroom, we can get into it and discover it’ - Michael Rosen


With earthly tales, storyteller Helen East and the adorable animals of Mudchute City Farm and Newham City Farm captured the hearts of young families and story lovers alike. Helen brought her environment to life through her talent for storytelling and there were even opportunities for Helen’s guests to get acquainted with some of the furrier residents of Mudchute and Newham.



The park’s beautiful Timber Lodge was the perfect venue for SPIN, a fun and interactive children’s show. Our three featured poets created a safe space in which children could play with words and explore a love of poetry and storytelling. Children’s storyteller Jan Blake, children’s poet Paul Lyalls, and rapper Breis came together to make SPIN an exciting, engaging, and educational show for all who took part.

‘Ten-out-of-ten, ten-out-of-ten, ten-out-of-ten!’


SZC_1375 copyThrough an enriching poet in residence scheme, SPOKE unearthed a plethora of new spoken word talent amongst the young people in six East London schools. Working with top performance poets, schools took part in a series of stimulating spoken word workshops. The anticipation built as the workshops led towards a final live performance showcase, where our young people got the chance to make their voices heard.


A group of emerging writers, aged 18-25, were given the opportunity to enter The Writing Room and work with top spoken word artists, including Polar Bear, Joelle Taylor, Breis, and many more. Through a series of workshops the Writing Room participants developed their skills for performance poetry and built up to a final showcase.



SPOKE: Earth was a truly ambitious and exciting season of spoken word events. It created a real buzz of words and poetry that has engaged children and young people across the East of London with poetry today. The success of SPOKE: Earth propelled us here at SPOKE into our third season, which proved to be even bigger and bolder than its predecessor. A full write-up of SPOKE: AIR is soon to come, but you can have a look at our project page if you can’t wait to hear about it.

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During February and March 2014, leading Apples and Snakes artists worked with young people in secondary schools across Islington as part of a project called Unheard Voices. The graphic designer, comic creator and illustrator Richy K. Chandler wrote about his experience with Unheard Voices in his blog Tempolush. Here’s what he had to say.

Earlier in the year I got the chance to take part in Islington Council’s Unheard Voices project where children collaborated with poets and other creators, through the fantastic performance poetry organisation Apples and Snakes.

In a series of workshops, my task was to  help classes in two different schools create and visualise poems and stories, with the goal of putting those stories into a printed collection…


That’s a big challenge but fortunately I was working alongside the amazing performer, poet and writer Inua Ellams who had already laid down much of the groundwork with the classes by the time I joined in the fun.

Inua helped children from City of London Academy Islington develop story ideas.  As a group they eventually settled on the theme of a bird with no wings.

Here are some of their early designs of wingless birds.

While these were planned as just developmental drawings, they were so good, some ended up in the finished book as part of the complete story.



All the kids in the class threw their own ideas into the pot and voted for the best directions to take the story…




 …Here are some ideas for the climax of the story along with the votes that the class gave each idea!


Alongside the story development, we looked at different ways to visualise our main character who would come to be known as Pegano. Based on the kids’ agreement on what the key characters should look like, I created a reference sheet for them.

Pegano07Using the concepts that the children had developed in the workshops, Inua constructed an amazing story template.  Here’s an excerpt…

Pegano was always the odd bird out.  Some of the others laughed at her because she could not fly, some pitied her, but most of them simply ignored her.
Pegano pretended not to care.  When they turned to laugh at her, they would see her studying the forest floor, looking after the small things that crawled, but when they turned away, Pegano would look up at them, flying through the sky and wish they would speak to her.

Now I had the task of guiding the children through creating images that could be used to tell the story in comic form. This was an exciting new way for me to make comics!

First I divided Inua’s text into chunks so that different groups of children could focus on visualising each section.


The kids started developing ways to express each scene or moment.  At this point there was no need to make perfect drawings, just get their ideas down on paper, which they did brilliantly.
For the final workshop, the pupils chose which scene they would be depicting.  They drew exciting images to be used in the comic version of the story.

I made sure that all they needed to focus on was expressing what was happening in their scene.  They didn’t need to worry about page layout or text.

In the end I had a big stack of drawings which I took back to my studio to scan into my mac.

Pegano21Armed with Inua’s story template and some wonderful art from the children I went about creating a mini-graphic novel.

The plan was to lay out the images and add text and panel borders, so the story would read effectively and look great.  I added grey tones and manipulated the artwork a little.  Sometimes I took two or more images and collaged them together.  Other times I moved the position of certain elements of a picture or created a mirror image of a drawing if that seemed suitable in the context of a page.

Only very occasionally did I have to draw or redraw anything myself as the children’s artwork expressed what was going on clearly to begin with.

As when making any comic, as the pictures were laid out it became clear how to edit the text.  Often large amounts of words were removed as the pictures alone could express the action clearly.

So below you can read the final results of the collaboration between Inua, myself and most importantly the children of City of London Academy Islington.


Part 2 of Richy’s experiences with Unheard Voices is now live on his blog. You can find it here

If you’re interested in knowing more about Richy’s work and what he’s up to, visit his blog for updates and previews. 

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