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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High400x400Dear Artist,

Please click here for July’s list of opportunities that may be of interest to you in the wonderful world of spoken word.

Any queries about the opportunities themselves should be directed to the contact person listed in the body of the newsletter.

Hope you are enjoying the sunshine!

Best wishes
Maria Ferguson
Education and Training
Apples and Snakes
0845 521 3460

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It all started in Mr. Chater’s English class where we studied poets like Carol Anne Duffy and John Agard in the AQA Anthology. I loved the mix of voices and how the poems sounded when they were read aloud. Although, saying this, I was always pretty nervous when asked to do so. Mr. Chater encouraged creativity and made the poems accessible and fun. His enthusiasm for words has a lot to do with where I am today.

10368924_10152120269367217_6541419335448910073_oI now work as a full-time stand-up poet/presenter/facilitator and I hold creative writing workshops in schools and youth centres most weeks. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs to do well, needless to say I meet a lot of teachers. The Mr.Chater-types are worth their weight in gold.

So back to me being an emo teenager with my head stuck in the school anthology! I used to do a lot of free-writing at home especially if something annoyed me, I wrote songs (really rubbish ones) and even hosted my own radio show from my bedroom.

I spoke into a giant ghetto blaster covered in paint, that mum and dad used to listen to when decorating. I’d interview my mates and insist that we make adverts and read the travel report as part of my “drive time show.” I also recorded stories and poems aloud to myself for hours! I still have these tapes somewhere now, I best burn them!

These days I present my own radio show live from Camden’s iconic Roundhouse. When I pitched my show to Roundhouse Radio over a year ago now, I knew it had to be something different so I thought, why not combine stand-up poetry and music? Two things I love.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 23.07.39“Round @ Laurie’s” now goes live every Sunday at 7pm”bringing you an eclectic mix of music and a saucy spoonful of spoken word, to help you digest your Sunday roast or help nurse your hangover…so stick the kettle on and tune in.”

My highlight of last year was being asked to host the popular stand-up poetry night “BANG Said The Gun.”  This night is all about “poetry, not ponce,” and one of the best nights you’ll go to in London - it’s loud, in your face and a lot of fun. The audience is a total mix and each week I slap on my red lippie, do my hair and give my hosting role every bit of energy I have – I love it!

10401442_10152127739202217_3557390340847434562_nI am involved in a lot of cool projects at the moment, this year I worked as the Poet in Residence for the Olympic Park, in the gorgeous SPOKE London’s Poetry Potting Shed. I also do regular gigs with The Poetry Takeaway, writing bespoke poetry for the public, this is hugely rewarding.

When I’m not gigging I like to kick back with some Wordsworth and a herbal tea. NOT!! I was in the staff room in a school just the other day and a teacher said to me – “oh so you’re a poet, well I’d love to sit at home and write poetry all day…”

I felt like going “chance would be a fine thing mate!! I never stop chasing opportunities. I wake up and each day is entirely different. If it wasn’t for coffee I’m not sure what I’d do to be fair.”

Whether it’s workshops, gigs, festival performances, literary events, radio or hosting nights…I rarely have a day off, but if you’d asked me when I was 10 years old and chatting into a ghetto blaster, what I would want to be doing at 24…it would be exactly this.

DSC_0931[1] | @LaurieBolger |

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Poet Coach Laurie Bolger gives us the low down on their progress so far…

“Despite the pace picking up in the lead up to the final weekend, you could say this is perhaps the best part of the process. Our slam team are the most confident and focused I’ve seen them during the project and we are enjoying the creative process more than ever. Watching them work together and respect each other as a team is the most rewarding thing of all”
- Laurie Bolger, Poet Coach

WORDCUP2014 is in full swing and I am left buzzing with ideas after every workshop. Hive Mind are an enormously talented group of young people and watching their writing come to life has made my week, every week!

TProcessed with Moldivhe support from teachers at Eastlea school has been enormous, and as we come closer to the final performance we are all having to be super on it to get everything done and pieces learnt in time. Nerves are kicking about slightly but I think we know it will all come together any minute and our team will be stronger than they have ever been. It’s great to see everyone supporting each other, giving constructive feedback and enjoying each others company in workshops.

I think the main thing now is to keep enjoying the rehearsal process, let the teams find their own creative direction and bring on the final weekend!175x200

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

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

Join Hive Mind and the rest of the WORDCUP2014 teams at Stratford Circus on Saturday 12 July, 1-4pm, for the big Poetry Slam Final! More info here.

 WORDCUP2014 is part of SPOKE: Air, a wider programme of events to promote poetry and spoken word acrossEast London.

SPOKE is a partnership project between A New DirectionApples and SnakesSpread 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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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.


175x200From London Coordinator Russell

Summer is usually a peaceful season on the poetry scene. But not this time. Just look at the glorious gallimaufry of goodies we have in store this month…

The biggest and baddest (in the Michael Jackson sense) is the WORDCUP2014 Slam Final, our inter-schools slam tournament on Saturday 12 July at Stratford Circus. That’s part of our SPOKE project, as is our forthcoming Reprezent 107.3 FM residency, kicking off on the 13th and starring the masterful Mr Gee.

Speaking of masters, we have a couple of masterclasses towards the end of the month: Touring You & Others on the 22nd, and Hosting a Spoken Word Event on the 25th. Immediately before the former, there are some exclusive one-to-one surgeries for anyone interested in taking their poetry career to the next level.

After a month off, in which we’ve been paying our respects to the Great God Football, Jawdance returns to Rich Mix on the 23rd.

Down in Croydon, meanwhile, we not only have ninety minutes of stage-time at LeeFest on Sunday 13th, but also some exciting workshops at Croydon Wordfest throughout the month. Fest city, indeed.

Completing the round-up, look out for the Architects of Our Republic workshops. And, for the anklebiters, there’s another splendid Storycraft session on the 21st.

We’ll let up a bit next month, trust me.

Read the whole London Snakebasket here.


From North East Coordinator Kirsten
Now, what with it being summer and all that, you’ll be fancying a trip to the seaside, won’t you? To a beautiful Victoria resort town? Where you can hear splendid spoken word whilst sipping a cocktail under the awning of a delightful café on a balmy evening? I thought so.

Luckily for you, I have exactly such a thing planned – join us at The Sitting Room in Saltburn for The Splitting Of The Mermaid on the 18th, a new show by Edinburgh Free Fringe Best Newcomer 2013 Lucy Ayrton. She will bring us a re-telling of The Little Mermaid, and be ably supported by a new collective performance by the Tees Women Poets and music from Sara Dennis.

As ever, please tune in to Home Cooking every Thursday at 5pm on This month we hear from Carmina Masoliver and her celebrated cabaret of all things feminist, She Grrrrowls. Featured in discussion with Carmina Masoliver are Selina Nwulu, Katie Byford, Bisha Ali and Ruth Bertulis-Fernandes. ‘Open mic’ poets include Sophie Chei and Bunmi Huzzan.

Read the whole North East Snakebasket here.


175x200Spoke-n-Word-logo-TextureFrom South East Coordinator Pete

Hello all!

June, like an old-school tennis shoe has passed in a green flash, but it was not without incident. On the big red LV21 art-ship at Guildford Festival, there was the first of the Spoke ‘N’ Word youth slams.

The next Spoke ‘N’ Word slam will be served up at Create Festival on the 27th – make a note in your diary and while you’re at it mark in the 9th Wordplay; where top poets Adam Kammerling and Anna Freeman will be sharing the stage with The Pop-up Poets at GLive in Guildford.

Then to complete our July deuce(y) bill we have Archimedes Screw on the 11th at The Art House, where Inua Ellams, Aaron Carpenter, Alec Harkness, plus local poets will showcase their spoken word skills!

Ever considered creating films and videos of your own poems? Join in on the Poetry Film Workshop Weekend on the 5th and 6th led by Architects of Our Republic film-maker, Anthony ‘Batch’ Batchelor. This FREE workshop is designed to explore filmmaking skills with poets.

August sneak peek; SPOKE ‘N’ WORD at LOUNGE ON THE FARM is happening on the 2nd. Young people from the Canterbury District will perform alongside some of the UK’s most exciting spoken word artists.

Read the whole South East Snakebasket here.


From South West Coordinator GinaMay_175x200

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

First up of course, on the 6th it’s the amazing Spokes:Amaze! Headlined by none other than the powerful, slick words of Dean Atta with support from local legend, funny man Rob Barratt. With all the usual shenanigans of the Ready Steady Slam, including a set from May’s worthy winner James Turner and some splendid films! Sign up to one of the 6 places on the slam by emailing, it’s a first come first serve basis so get cracking! Oh and a quick reminder to y’ all to arrive on time, 7.30pm is kick off, cocktails served from 6.30pm!

Forked! is back on the 17th with a fantastic line up that showcases some wonderful regional poets and one of my personal inspirations, the highly gifted Sabrina Mahfouz. With an array of poetry projects under her belt, from sell out Fringe shows to numerous awards and residencies, Sabrina is sure to inspire you too. She will be joined by the gorgeous Lucy Lepchani, performing a selection of works including some pieces form new book Ladygardens – is that the best title ever or what! Not to mention Malaika Kegode and punk balladeer Julian Issacs. What a night it will be!

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

Read the whole South West Snakebasket here.


Smash the Song Square 175x200 copyFrom West Midlands Coordinator Bohdan

Hello all!

Summer is here, and you may have thought things would slow down a little. It’s understandable, hypothetical reader of this newsletter: you have a lot on. It’s also demonstrably wrong.

First and foremost, check out Smash the Song on the 14th – an event devoted to the union of poetry and music, and featuring Canada’s wildly talented CR Avery, Nottingham’s charismatic Deborah Stevenson, and Brum’s own all-powerful Beatfreeks. If the name of the event sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a Hit the Ode special – the regular flavour won’t return until September, so here’s your chance to get your fix.

July also marks the beginning of a new series of Power Plant masterclasses, designed to help poets make use of new media for creative and professional purposes. We start with a bang on the 25th and 26th July: the opportunity to work with veteran film-maker Pippa Riddick and create a slick video in just one day. This is free to attend, but places are strictly limited, so if you are a poet looking to build your online presence, run, don’t walk.

Poets’ Place sessions don’t stop for such trifling matters as holidays or high temperature – join us on the 5th and 19th for a supportive atmosphere, writing prompts, and, I’m told, more often than not, cake. What more do you need?

Don’t miss all the festival action in the region, either – all the details you need are after the jump.

Read the whole West Midlands Snakebasket here.


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I was lucky enough to spend a residency at The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with SPOKE London, facilitating poetry workshops in the stunning Poetry Potting Shed. Stunning? A shed? Yes mate!

Parked up next to the South Plaza Fountains this cosy little number was host to hundreds of members of the public from oldies, to parents to little’uns to teens. In sunshine or heavy rain the shed drew in the most amazing crowds of people who dug, planted and grew their own poetry with a little help from myself and my “miracle grow” shadow artist Becci Fearnley.

Highlights from the week included a little legend with big ideas named Holly. Holly came into the shed with her mum and wrote a poem titled, “The Edible Bedroom” it was epic! She then sat on the biggest chair in the shed and read her story-poem to a group of under five’s, who came in and sat on the floor. They laughed and listened and clapped and it was magic to watch.

Poetry Potting Shed Mixdown by Laurie Bolger

I think it’s pretty cool that one minute you find yourself walking through the huge space that is The Olympic Park and then the next minute you are chatting to a total stranger in a tiny shed, sharing memories and words with them. It didn’t matter what age or who you were, all our visitors opened their minds and got creative. Families wrote group pieces and left the shed giggling and reciting each others poems.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 20.20.22 copyEven a few bashful shoppers wandering to Westfield stopped in to see “what it was all about” and the next minute the whole shed was in tears as one of the ladies wrote a poem titled “A Letter to Myself”. She has written an emotional piece from the voice of her mum who had died this year and what she would say to her had she been shopping that day. It was really moving and they stayed writing with us for ages!

On the final day, we even had a little dog called “missy” join us with a family of eight who wrote poems and we held a mini poetry slam and competitions, although shy at first by the end of the workshop they were loving life in the shed!

Our workshops were framed by our gorgeous “Poetree” at the end of the sessions, we’d give people the opportunity to write their best lines on little green leaves and pin them to the branches.

Old folk sat out the front in the sun while little people chilled out on the cushions, the sense of community was amazing.

The Poetry Potting Shed is part of SPOKE: Air, a wider programme of events to promote poetry and spoken word across East London.

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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High400x400Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation for performance poetry and spoken word, has been awarded National Portfolio funding from the Arts Council for 2015-2018.

We are very pleased with the outcome of today’s funding announcement by Arts Council England, in which Apples and Snakes has been made a conditional offer of £455,000 a year for the next three years as a National Portfolio Organisation. Apples and Snakes is the leading organisation for performance poetry in England, and this funding will enable us to continue to stretch the boundaries of poetry in education and performance, by inspiring participation and giving voice to a diverse range of spoken word artists.

As the leading pioneer of the artform we have ambitious plans for the next three years, including cross artform and cross sector collaborations; the creation of groundbreaking work incorporating live performance, participation, artist development and digital content; and increased international working. We will nurture spoken word artists at all stages of their career, and will champion marginalised voices, continuing to work with vulnerable and disadvantaged people through our highly respected participation and outreach programme. We will also continue to develop our work across the country, with our national structure and collaborative approach ensuring a broad geographic reach.

As an Associate Bridge organisation from 2012 – 2015 Apples and Snakes will continue to work closely with A New Direction as an advisory partner, embedding our library strand and Arts Award into our wider participation offer from 2015. This will be supported by the creation of a new post in our Participation and Outreach team with a focus on development work with libraries and communities.

The staff and board of Apples and Snakes would like to express our thanks to Arts Council England for its support and funding. Over the next three years we will continue to work hard to produce exciting, innovative work that raises the profile of spoken word and pushes the boundaries of the artform for artists, audiences and participants.

New ArtsCouncil NPO logo

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Antosh Wojcik gives an inside view of the WORDCUP2014 workshops with Indigo Williams at Saint Gabriel’s College…

Session 1 at Saint Gabriel’s College

Nerves. Nerves kick. It’s the first time I’m meeting Indigo Williams AND an entire Spoken Word Club full of students. Waiting in reception, I’m greeted by a student who is a part of the club but can’t be at the session today. She tells me how being a part of Spoken Word Club and writing poetry has helped her with her anxiety, how Ms Williams has given her a place to be herself, where no judgements are passed on her. She tells me it’s like a family. All of my nerves disappear.

I meet Indigo and she seems happy that I’m here to help. She introduces me to the staff of the Communications Faculty, all of whom smile and welcome me. We collect the group of poets from the canteen, a weekly ritual I’m told. Loads of excuses flood in, detentions, without-notice doctors’ appointments. Indigo assures them it’s OK. We gather all those who can attend and head to our designated room.

I’m introduced to the group and we get started with a poetry café. We make a circle of chairs ready for each student to step into the centre and deliver their work. They do so to clicks, leaps in chairs, outbursts of support. The writing flies. I can’t wait to see where they take their piece next.

We get started on an exercise, a list poem starting with the phrase Five Things I Would Say To… I try encourage a boy to write about his family. Asking him what he cares about, he says basketball. I ask him to write about how he feels on the court. He says he feels big, even though he’s short. Everyone calls him Shorty. He starts ‘leaping like a monkey’ on his page and before we can share, time is up. It’ll have to wait for next session.

Indigo thanks me for my help. I can’t describe how fast an hour session goes. She tells me we’re preparing for a school showcase before WORDCUP, so it’s going to be a pretty mad dash to get them ready. I say, we’ll get there, it’s amazing to be a part of a project like this, they just need to see that.

_  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _ 

See Antosh in action, performing his poem ‘Catching Hand’


Session 2 at Saint Gabriel’s College

Week goes by like lightning. I’m thrown back into the room having had some time to discuss next steps with Indigo. It’s great to work with someone who is so focused on developing the students’ spoken word skills.

At the beginning of the session, we have a mix of people from the last meeting and some new faces. Indigo asks me to perform a poem, which makes me anxious. It’s hard for me, standing up, telling these poets what they could do with their work, to then bring my own poetry and share it… but I should embrace what I teach! As I perform, the students meet me with the same respect they show each other and Indigo, and clicks start happening. I’m not really used to that either…

This starts our sharing session for today. Again, the poems leap and dance out of the mouths of those who have brought work. Not everyone has something to share today, which is a shame.

We begin our activity; group haikus on the theme of ‘family. Indigo starts one on the board to prompt the poets to finish it. There are three teams. Those with the best line get crisps. Sure enough, Team 1, who finish first, win it and munch as the other two teams begin their group haikus. The exercise works great to get everyone focused on tiny pieces together, to pay attention to every word as close as possible. I do my best to join each group for a moment, help prompt them further. We then have a mass sharing of the group haikus. Some have really struggled but overcome their inner urges to rhyme. Rhyming is a no go here; it obstructs the truth.

We break for this week. We instruct the students to bring more poems for the next session, especially those who didn’t write new pieces for this week. I hope they bring them along, I want to hear everything they have to say to get a better understanding of who they are.

_  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _ 

Follow the progress of all our teams of Twitter by following #WORDCUP2014

WORDCUP2014 is part of SPOKE: Air, a wider programme of events to promote poetry and spoken word across East London.

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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Shadow Poet Sophie Hickson gives us her thoughts on WORDCUP2014 so far…



A few months ago I approached Apples and Snakes about potential poetry opportunities coming up. As a new poet (one year this May), I was keen to get as much, varied experience working in the poetry world as possible. Finally, a community of people, who at first and even a second glance seem completely different, are bought together through a passion of words and performance. There was now somewhere I could share my voice and it would be listened to, accepted and given constructive feedback, helping me grow not only as an artist, but as a person. So, Apples and Snakes pointed me in the direction of WORDCUP a 10 school wide, poetry slam project for year 8s and 9s, to improve literacy levels, confidence, team building and countless other soft transferable skills, as well of course, an accessible route into poetry and all it’s wonder. 10 established poets teamed with 10 emerging poets, placed in 10 schools to work with 8 students a piece to create two group slam poems; one free topic and one themed in the air.

6 weeks into my placement, I have learnt a great deal. Not only do I have the honour of working alongside Catherine Brogan, a fantastic poet, but I’ve had the opportunity to work with some talented, albeit scattered young people. Placed in an East London school, where getting students out of lessons or staying after school seems as though you’re asking them to trek Mount Everest. This in itself is a definite learning curve in patience and determination, along with the ability to inspire these 12 and 13 year olds to not only write, but to edit, learn, practice and perform group poems. This has been a challenge! But it’s also been a brilliant and eye opening journey, opening up potential and possibilities within poetry and youth work I never even knew existed. I will definitely be taking this learning further, developing my skill set and experience and sharing this with anyone who has an interest in poetry!

Right now I think I may be more excited than the young people I’m working with. The next few weeks are really going to test everyone’s drive and focus, preparing for the final slam. Maybe it’s my love for all things poetry, or maybe it’s because I can see the growth in ever single one of my eight students, who knows? Either way, I can’t wait to meet all the other teams and have some fun with words in July!


@sophchei | |

Follow the progress of all our teams of Twitter by following #WORDCUP2014

WORDCUP2014 is part of SPOKE: Air, a wider programme of events to promote poetry and spoken word across East London.

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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2012 shadowy promo


What an honour to be named Poet of the Month by Apples and Snakes. I have seen some incredible people’s names in the little box at the top right of the home page and I am delighted and humbled to be lumped in with the crew.

“This is a Southeastern service to Faversham.” 

I am writing this from a high speed train to Chatham. That’s the kind of life I’m living now-International poetry superstar steez. It’s a hectic and bleary life and I like it. Apples And Snakes played a massive part in me getting here, giving me my first gigs outside of the relative safety of Brighton, coaxing me out of my comfort zone and pushing me as a writer and a performer.

“We are now approaching Stratford International.”

The most valuable lesson that those experiences, and the many that have followed since, have taught me, is that the comfort zone is rubbish. As an artist, I’m not sure if anything could be more important to know. I have languished in said zone many a time and found only disillusionment and boredom. I have learnt when to switch it up and I think this might be the most integral part of my practice. Without that I would not have quit a jobthat was grinding me up, I wouldn’t have entered slams, I wouldn’t have put out music, made videos, written poems about subjects as far from my usual interests as barn owls, tower blocks in Glasgow, spies, American desserts. I wouldn’t be working on an album or a show or working as an educator with young people from all different backgrounds. Failure is an essential part of development and without stepping out of the comfort zone, one cannot experience it. Embracing it is painful, but converting it to fuel is a process that l practice most weeks. Like a tree, photosynthesising mistakes. But less good for the environment. Or the view.

“We will shortly be arriving at Ebbsfleet International.”

I’m working on two projects for Apples at the moment. The first is the WORDCUP in which I’m working with a group of young people who don’t necessarily vibe that hard with writing. At least that’s what I was told. Come into a session and you’d probably think different. They’re amazing and I can’t wait to see what happens over the next six weeks. The other is Wordfest at Croydon Libraries. This is a project close to my heart. I love libraries. I love what they stand for and what they contain. Getting young producers and performers to use the libraries in new ways is a cause I am most happy to champion.

“The next station is Chatham.”

That’s me. I don’t know what this school holds, other than a gang of Year 6’s and the workshop I’ve planned. What I do know is that if it goes well, I will float home on a joy bubble. And if it doesn’t, I will be doing some serious re-evaluation (or photosynthesising) and the next session I do will be wild-fire.

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