Towards the end of the Summer term a number of Kingsbury High School students were offered the opportunity to participate in the Slambassadors spoken word poetry program run by The Poetry Society.
Students participated in 2 days of workshops run by London-based spoken word poet and playwright Deanna Rodger. Students were led through a number of dynamic writing exercises before composing their own poems on the topic of ‘Identity’. After writing and editing their work, participants were given time to rehearse and learn their poems before performing them to camera. The resulting video clips show their accomplishments and are available to view on the Poetry Society YouTube channel alongside work from a large number of schools, both local and national.
The energy, dedication and creativity shown by our students was inspiring. Deanna reported that the work produced at Kingsbury high was some of the most interesting and diverse work she has seen on this program.
Photographer Hayley Madden (Poetry Society photographer) recorded the event and the joy and confidence of our students is reflected in her beautiful images captured during the rehearsal and performance phase that took place in the garden space outside room 52.
Following the workshops three of our students were selected to represent Kingsbury High at a showcase of poetry that took place at The Arts Theatre in the West End. The response of our students to this challenge was inspiring. Zahra Shaikh, La-Shay Green and Basmah Mohamed performed with great confidence and were well received by an audience of their peers, mentors and teachers, that included students from Wembley High, Haverstock School and number of other London schools.
The energy and enthusiasm displayed by our students (both as performers and audience members) was a credit to Kingsbury High and the participants requested further opportunities to develop their writing and performance including a request to set up a Spoken Word club at the school. The feelings of the group are best summed up by the comment of La Shay who insisted that, “it can’t just stop here; it is just too good.”
All the participants are now entered into the National Youth Poetry Slam where they will be offered the opportunity to develop their work further as well the chance to perform their work at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the UK’s largest and longest running youth poetry competition.
An additional benefit to participating in the Slambassadors program was that a number of staff were invited to attend 2 CPD opportunities run by the Poetry Society. One of these run in school by Slambassadors founder and celebrated poet Joelle Taylor looked at the Poetry Societies brand new poetry education resource Page Fright that features work by ex-Slambassadors as well as Benjamin Zephaniah, performing both their own poetry as well as performing classical poems with a modern twist. Page Fright is an interactive web-based resource that allows teachers and students to upload and build upon the existing material to develop a collaborative teaching resource that presents poetry in a dynamic and engaging manner. The second opportunity was a practical workshop in creative writing and performance for teachers and support staff. Both of these were well crafted, well delivered and extremely enjoyable for the staff that engaged with them.
Slambassadors celebrates its 15th anniversary this year making it the longest running and most successful poetry program in the UK. Our students have been invited to celebrate this landmark at a showcase event of Slambassadors from the last 15 years of the program at the House of Vans skate park and gallery in Waterloo on the 30th September. Past participants have gone on to enjoy careers in the performing arts. Some of these performers, such as MC Dizraeli (Rowan Sawday) and Anthony Anaxagorou (currently working at Eton to curate their poetry anthology) are now some of the best known poets on the Spoken Word scene. Perhaps this will be the case for some of our students also. Let’s hope so.
Thank you to all the students and staff who participated in and supported this program. The joy and confidence it brought to our students is evident in the stunning images that were captured during the workshops.
Thanks also to Chris Beschi for the words and to Hayley Madden for the photography.