Christian Foley – Spoken Word: An Education

With time over the summer holidays for retrospection, Christian Foley tells us how his involvement with the Spoken Word Educators programme has challenged his poetic practice and changed his ideas about community. 

Christian Spoken Word ShotIn an educational climate characterised by the league table, the exam and the inspector’s clipboard, spoken word education has never been more necessary. Wider society is perhaps unaware of this, as are policy makers and government officials, and in fact, at one point, so was I.

I had been (haphazardly) running poetry workshops in schools for a few years before I began the programme. Working in the Channel Islands, South America, South Africa and the UK. As a poet, of course I understood the importance of what we do in education, but until this year, I never truly realised how important it was.

In a sense, I had been working in the dark, having no sense of a wider community of poets, blinkered to the larger context of poetry in education. Meeting Jacob Sam-La Rose was an illumination. His vision, and the vision of Peter Kahn before him, was instilled into us as trainees: we were given mission statements from the onset. To develop the emotional literacy of our students.

The programme takes the form of weekly three hour seminars, which are still never long enough to process the enormity of change that is happening on a weekly basis. During these seminars, some of the greatest minds in contemporary poetry are invited in to share their wisdom: Roger Robinson, Malika Booker, Jon Sands, Ron Villanueva the list goes on.

Trainee poets are also placed in a school with a lead educator, this year it was the acclaimed Raymond Antrobus. Under Raymond’s tutelage, our poets were embedded within the English Department of Cardinal Pole School, a school that teems with young poets and creative writers. Our recent anthology: A Complicated Answer is testament to this.9780993182600

The growth of a Spoken Word Educator over the course of just one year can be astounding. Being exposed to the multitudes of stories, experiences and challenges of education is more than character building: it is character defining. I feel that I have been shaped by my students, and the shared journey we have taken this year.

Each educator is encouraged to teach with their own personal over-arching pedagogical metaphor; mine is free diving, the practice of exploring the unexplored with nothing more than one’s bravery and breath. My young poets are free divers on their first forays, they have been plunged into a vast and limitless world, beginning to look around them and take it all in.

As have I.

As the year comes to a close, we have all realised our roles, we are Spoken Word Educators, part of a wider movement, and although just a portion of thread in the fabric of society, we are a portion determined to make our mark.

If you would like more information on the Spoken Word Educators Programme, how to apply for the academic year 2015/2016, please contact Twitter: @SpokenWordEd

Christian Foley is a spoken word poet and MC. He has been shortlisted as BBC Introducing Artist of 2013 in the Urban Category, and was named by Sky Arts & Ideas Tap in the top 20 promising young artists in the UK (with partner Raymond Antrobus). Christian has taught and performed in South America, South Africa, the UK and Channel Islands, and his work often focuses on Education, Relationships and Childhood. This summer, with Raymond Antrobus, Christian is on a major festival tour across the UK. Bandcamp | Youtube | Twitter