Waltham Forest teenagers claim SLAM poetry crown: Dash.com
Waltham Forest teenagers claim SLAM poetry crown » Communities » 24dash.com.
The final of the sixth annual London Teenage Poetry SLAM gave the talented young participants a chance to show off the writing performance skills they have developed through the course of the six-month long project.
Taking place at Stratford Circus, students from seven schools across London (Lilian Baylis, Kingsford Community School, Lister Community School, Kidbrooke School, Holy Family Technology College, Hendon School and Lammas School), representing five London boroughs (Lambeth, Greenwich, Waltham Forest, Newham, Barnet), showcased their talents, alongside a special guest performer from Chicago — 2007 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic champ Christina Santana — as well as the dance group Unity, who have recently been named World Hip Hop Champions.
The Lammas School in Waltham Forest was named this year’s Highest Scoring Team and will go on to represent the project in Chicago, performing and teaching in schools and a variety of other venues, including being the opening act for a sold-out performance of over 350 people.
Whilst one student exclaimed that there was ‘not a word in the dictionary’ to describe how he felt about being named Highest Scoring Team, another commented that he was ‘ecstatic’ about the prospect of the week-long trip, adding ‘we can use big words, we’re poets now.’
Their Poet Coach, Nick Makoha, commented ‘This is an amazing day, but what really made it happen was the writing’, whilst other students on the team stated that ‘the experience of being onstage gave me so much more adrenalin than being in a fight’ and emphasized that their success was due to teamwork and the ability to ‘glue ourselves back together’ to their success and that the project had ‘broadened our horizons’. The team’s motto was ‘Get the room ready, get yourselves ready and you’re ready for the world’.
Kidbrooke School in Greenwich were awarded the trophy for ‘Most Striking Performance’. Their offerings involved an array of exciting movement and voice techniques and imaginative use of space, including a section where they invited the entire audience to ‘stand up if [they] still dream’. The judges commented that Kidbrooke ‘came onto and exited the stage as if they owned it’, that the audience could ‘still feel the reverberations once they had come off’ and that the students ‘clearly loved what they were doing’, whilst students from other teams commented on their ability to ‘think outside the box.’
The ‘Most Striking Line’ trophy was given to Hendon School, Barnet, with the judges singling out two lines: ‘Decomposing our love’ and ‘I steal your advice, remix it and sell it others as your own’. One of the judges commented that the latter was something he did everyday, citing his parents as those whose advice he ‘stole.’
Poet Coaches for each team also gave out two individual awards each, for categories such as ‘Most Improved Student’, ‘Most Responsible Student’ and ‘Best Team Player’, whilst all students received certificates of participation. All awards were presented by Andi Smith from Newham Education Department, who commented on the fact that it had been Nelson Mandela’s birthday the day before, remarking that each of the SLAM participants had a ‘little bit of Nelson Mandela inside’ in relation to the potential to change the world through words. Also in attendance was Plaistow North Councillor Johnathan Knott, who expressed the desire for people to ‘stop doing our kids down in this country’ and stated that he could sum up the day’s proceedings in three words: ‘fantastic, awe-inspiring and amazing’. Judging by the frequency of standing ovations for the performances, this seemed to be the general audience reaction.
This year, the theme for poems was “My World, Our World”, encouraging students to tackle subjects such as citizenship, different people sharing the same space, the environment, and similarities and differences between cultures. In addition, they had to perform a second poem on a topic of their choice. In this category, entries dealt with issues such as war, domestic violence, the trials of adolescence, family relationships, abortion and euthanasia.
For the first time ever, the event also featured ex-SLAM alumni in the shape of the three Highest Scoring Students from the inaugural Senior SLAM: Andre Francis-Angol, Jennifer Perry and Charles Yeboah. The Senior SLAM is the first time alumni have been overtly recognised in this way, helping to extend the legacy of the annual London Teenage Poetry SLAM project. Other such legacy projects include Holy Family’s Spoken Word Club and Kingsford’s ‘Poets Gone Wild’, both run by ex SLAM participants. The SLAM legacy was clearly visible on the day through the multitude of ex-participants who were in attendance as audience members or Shadow Poet Coaches.
The London Teenage Poetry SLAM, now in its 6th year, is an original spoken word and poetry competition, designed to bring poetry to life for hundreds of young people, breaking down traditional stereotypes and presenting poetry as a valid form of expression. The dynamic SLAM format is the hook that draws young people in, creating a thriving creative atmosphere within schools and a collaborative community of young writers. This community spirit was evident in students helping each other out in the events of cases of laryngitis and two students on one team not being able to attend at very late notice, meaning other students had to learn their poems on the train on the way to the event.
When asked if they will be continuing writing and performing poetry, the answer from students was a resounding ‘yes’.