The Slam! 2015 Review 04/10
It is impossible to sum up this years poetry slam generally as the poets were all so diverse, the fact that each poem had a time limit of three minutes meant that there wouldn’t be much time waiting for a poem you liked. The event was a complete sell out with 53 audience members, 14 poets, 3 judges and 2 mediators.
I think a good place to start is by stating that the event was held at the Bike Shed Theatre. Now, if you haven’t been there before it’s an underground theatre and bar with old, unique arm chairs as decor. To continue the unique and interesting setting for the Slam! even the tickets were old Trivia question cards – mine mentioned the Soviet Union. This was the perfect setting to watch poets perform and a great introduction to poetry slams.
The mediators were Morwenna Griffiths and Tim King who read some of their own poetry to put the competitors at ease. Alasdair Paterson (host of The Uncut Poets), Mantie Lister (Bard of Exeter) and Robert Garnham (previous Slam! winner) were judging the contest, as well as showcasing their own work.
Between them the poets covered a wide range of topics, starting off very political, to tattoo removal, to love and to cancer. Each poem was high in quality, and this was reflected in the scoring. There really was not much to tell between the poets, I’m just glad I didn’t have to pick a winner!
Round 1 saw a host of interesting and well crafted poems, starting with MC/MC (Megan Chapman) who managed to outshine her brightly patterned jacket with her unstoppable flow of politically motivated poetry. Julian Isaacs followed her with three short poems which were just as political. His first poem centred around a tax avoiding character named Boom Boom Bloomfield. Nick Kitto spoke about identity and not fitting in with various ‘tribes’. Graham Chilcott then performed a moving piece about being in love, his performance came across as very honest. Mike the Greek ended the round with a piece that was driven by the sights, sounds and smells he experienced. Graham Chillcott scored highest in this round so had an automatic place in the next round.
The second heat of Round 1 was just as captivating as the previous one. Charlie Barnes opened notably with ‘Death…It’s inevitable’ which ensured he stood out, his poem was based on medieval literature. The next comic poem told the story of when AP Staunton ignored a sign about workmen using ‘the downstairs toilet’, and decided to use the sink in the ‘toffs’ main bathroom. This poem sent the audience into fits of laughter which saw him through to round 2. Amani Saeed then changed the tone completely with a hard hitting poem about her experiences of racism. The power behind her words was noted by the audience and the applause after reflected this. Robert Redford then closed heat 2 with a comic retelling of going to the doctors about his rhymers stammer where he would repeat the last word in every line of a poem.
The 3rd and final heat started with a hard-hitting and moving poem from Nick Lovell about death on the battlefield. Solomon Doornails then criticised ‘brainwashed minions’ and people using their ‘xenophones’ to preach hate. Ian Royce Chamberlain then turned a rant into a poem entitled HD. Apparently HD stood for Harley Davidson, a motorbike which his neighbour had, but Ian mentioned a range of other possible meanings. The next poem saw Jez Prins explain the lessons he had learnt from his previous life as a vulture which saw him through to the next round. The final poem was a moving work by Tim Ledwitch. He spoke about losing his friend to cancer in a emotional and powerful way.
Through to round 2 were AP Staunton, Tim Ledwitch, Amani Saeed, Jez Prins and Graham Chillcott. After a short break Staunton performed a piece about his dad which highlighted the difficult conditions under Thatcher. Staunton wasn’t concerned when he overran his three minutes which shows how close to his heart this topic was. Tim Ledwitch then surprised the audience with a complete change of style by characterising himself as a ‘Rhymeosaurus Rex’, the comic topic and good performance had the audience laughing again. Amani Saeed performed just as intently as her first round, with the same fiery language and moving performance. The next poem was about a recent advert Jez Prins had placed in the local paper. Finally Graham Chillcott produced another simple, but honest performance that ended the round on a positive note.
There were only supposed to be two in the final, Saeed was through as she had the highest Round 2 score, but as Prins and Chillcott were tied in second, they were both in the final.
With little time to prepare Graham Chillcott was up first. He spoke openly about drugs and ‘the darker bits that most keep hidden’. This honesty was well received by the audience and he scored 170/180. Jez Prins likened himself to the lead singer of a new band that we were assured were very good. Amani ended with her trademark, hard hitting and captivating poem about abuse which ended on an empowering and strong note. Her honesty was well received by the audience who gave her an extended round of applause, and a staggering 175/180!
Her performance ensured Amani won the event with Chillcott second and Prins third. All three poets were well deserving of their places in the final, and indeed, all the poets at the Slam showed real potential with their performances.
After her performance Saeed explained how opening herself up in front of 60 strangers, whilst being judged, was both scary and empowering. She said that her last poem in particular ‘is really hard to perform’, but every time she does perform it she feels more in control and the poem becomes ‘more empowering’.
The Slam! was a truly moving and inspiring night that set the festival off to a fantastic start. I think the most inspiring part of the evening was the fact that many of the performers treated poetry as a hobby, but produced work of a very high quality. Make sure you put the Slam! in your diary for next year!