Looking Back – Public Address: The Soapbox Tour

This autumn, Apples and Snakes invited a group of exciting and innovative spoken word artists from across the UK to be part of a uniquely theatrical spoken word show – Public Address: The Soapbox Tour.

‘I always forget how inspiring and moving spoken word can be!’ – Audience member


Photo credit: Suzi Corker | www.suzicorker.com

Working alongside renowned writer and director Hannah Silva, whose innovative work incorporates elements of live art and soundscape, the four-strong Public Address ensemble set about exploring the theme of ‘soapbox’ within their writing, and challenged preconceived ideas of what a spoken word performance might entail. Producing individual pieces commissioned by Apples and Snakes, Justin Coe (Essex) delivered an entertaining coming-of-age tale exploring sexuality, whilst AJ McKenna (Newcastle) looked at love in its many guises through an interactive fierce but fun poetry-live-art crossover, Shagufta K (Bristol) presented a web woven from the mythological past to the urgent present, and Jasmine Gardosi (Birmingham) showed searing intensity in a powerful snapshot study of mental health.

‘Brilliant – amazing, diverse talent’ – Audience member


Photo credit: Suzi Corker | www.suzicorker.com

No matter the individual story chosen, each artist brought a unique perspective to the theme, pushing boundaries along the way, both as writers and as performers. As the show began to develop, Hannah took to the Apples and Snakes blog to talk about ‘Writing As Performance’ and also staged a Twitter takeover of the @applesandsnakes account, where our followers were given the chance to #AskHannah anything about her craft. It was great to have the opportunity to gain such an insight into how Hannah develops her own work, and how she set about working with each member of the ensemble to bring out different performance elements in each of their work and showcase their writing in new, engaging ways. Catch up with the conversation on our Storify.

‘The main thing I have been doing as Artistic Director of the Public Address tour is ensuring that the poet realises what they are saying and means it – not in a theoretical way, but in the moment of performance’ – Hannah Silva

On Tuesday 14 September and Wednesday 15 September the artists all came together for the first time for two intensive production days at Free Word Centre in Farringdon. Across the two days, the group worked to develop the show as a whole, bringing their individual pieces into the broader picture. Visit the Apples and Snakes Flickr page to see a selection of photographs from the Public Address Production Days.

‘We forget how much more we can do in performance’ – Jasmine Gardosi, ensemble artist

Uniting spoken word with more traditionally theatrical elements, the Public Address show moved from moments of raw emotion, to frantic energy, quiet poignancy, to light-hearted humour. From Wednesday 14 October – Friday 13 November 2015, the tour visited  Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle, The House at Plymouth University as part of Plymouth International Book Festival, Bloomsbury Theatre Studio, part of London’s Bloomsbury Festival, Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre, part of SO: ToSpeak Festival, and concluded the journey at mac birmingham in The Hexagon. See the tour’s development by visiting our Storify.

‘It’s been brilliant to develop the commission under the skilful eye of director Hannah Silva. And If the work of the seven other (younger than me) writers in the show is anything to judge by, the future of spoken word is stronger, and more diverse in style, than ever’ – Justin Coe, ensemble artist

Each date on the tour added a unique edge to the work of the core ensemble, with performances from emerging guest artists. Henry Raby (York), Keisha Thompson (Manchester), Ingrid McLaren (Nottingham), and Helen Seymour (Canterbury) joined the tour throughout, along with Plymouth Young Writers Squad in the South West. The four guest artists and four ensemble artists all came together for the London performance, marking the halfway point of the tour. This was a truly celebratory moment for all involved in the development of Public Address. See a selection of photographs from the event here.

‘Amazing poetry. So well rehearsed and stages. Every poet owned the room’ – Audience member


Photo credit: Suzi Corker Photography | www.suzicorker.com

From start to finish Public Address: The Soapbox Tour has been an enriching and invigorating process, pushing the boundaries of spoken word and inviting new approaches to performance. A huge thank you goes out to all of the artists involved, in particular the four ensemble artists: Shagufta K, AJ McKenna, Justin Coe, and Jasmine Gardosi, the four guest artists: Helen Seymour, Henry Raby, Keisha Thompson, and Ingrid McLaren. And we extend a massive thank you to Hannah Silva, for her vision and investment in the project and each of the artists. We can’t wait to see where the exciting and daring work of these individual voices journeys to next!

If you missed Public Address: The Soapbox Tour, or want to relive the experience, look out for our podcasts of the four commissioned ensemble pieces, recorded live at Bloomsbury Festival, coming soon…