Barbican Young Poets is an ongoing project headed by Poet and Educator Jacob Sam-La Rose. Open to poets between 14 and 25, it is a hothouse for writing and performance development for the young poets that are admitted onto the programme. Workshops, performance opportunities, critical thinking, play, challenge, a culminating anthology and a barnstorming final showcase are all pretty consistent factors on the programme. I was fortunate enough to work as assistant poet tutor to Jacob during the most recent round or Barbican Young Poets, co-leading sessions and generally pep-talking. This year’s anthology, What We Thought Was True, can be found here. The poets we worked with are varied in style but all very talented writers and stellar people too.
I have assisted on education projects before and run stand-alone workshops for schools, colleges and arts institution, but this was the first project for me where I was the lead poet, designing and delivering the sessions alone. Under the tireless wing of Bea Colley at the Southbank Centre, The Kabita Collective is a group of young women from two schools in East London: Mulberry School for Girls and Swanlea school. Joined at points by poet-stars Imtiaz Dharker and Joelle Taylor, myself and the group worked together over ten sessions, developing writing, devising performance, and creating group as well as individual poems. Kabita showcased their work at The Women of the World festival at the Southbank and at the Alchemy South Asian Arts Festival, also at the Southbank. They also shared their poems as part of Mulberry School’s International Women’s Day Festival. Their anthology is under construction, and will be available for the public to read at The Poetry Library, The Southbank Centre. The group did themselves proud, learning to write boldly about issues they value, and supporting each other through the course of the programme. I am very proud of them.
Burn After Reading
While Jacob Sam-La Rose manages to run the rest of his lives, he also is the collater of Burn After Reading, which I was co-leading while I was still in the Uk, and am currently cheering on from an 8 hour time difference. Applied Theatre practitioner Adelina Ong is also taking a wheel in guiding the collective. Burn After Reading is a collective of emerging poets, all at different stages in their development, many studying or at school, many seasoned performers, some published, etc. BAR meet regularly to discuss projects, engage in poetry exercises, wind each other up, and generally try and keep the ball rolling.
Poetry @ Mental Fight Club
Mental Fight Club is a mental health support organisation headed by the spirited Sarah Tobias. Mental Fight Club have funding to host a weekly pop-up cafe and activity space in The Crypt, Borough, called The Dragon Cafe. The space holds workshops, talk space, healing therapies, food, art, games and discussions, and has a vast regular following from the community. I was privileged to run four poetry workshops during their June Poetry month, with different themes and different challenges at each one. I was also shadowed at these workshops by young poets from the Burn After Reading collective, who took part, wrote, advised, played, and generally brought their good and talented selves into the space. I’ll be looking to work with Mental Fight Club again when I return to the UK next year.
Megaphones for the Unheard with Voice Trio
So writing is generally a solitary thing, even for someone like me who mostly writes about her relationships. I’m not as yet part of a poetry collective, so it is a pleasure to collaborate with other artists when the opportunity arises. I have been working with three- part acapella Voice Trio for a few years now on different projects, and this one had the wow factor with no exception. Voice’s project Megaphones for the Unheard was a collaboration between all of us and also four composers, looking at women in the history of music. My (terrifying but exciting) job was to create a poem that explored the theme of women in music, which would then be responded to by the four composers, Helen Chadwick, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Stevie Wishart, and Marcus Davidson. The resulting pieces and choreography were then learned by Voice and performed at several venues, including St Ethelburga’s centre for Reconciliation and Peace, The Wilding Festival, and The Bush Theatre, London. It was amazing to see what different artists did with my words, and humbling to work with accomplished musicians in this way. The poem I devised tries to bring in different female artist through history, no small job! You can find the poem at the ‘Read’ page of this blog, and some of the musical compositions can be seen on Voice’s music page here. They are amazing.