Matt Abbott’s Spoken World

By August 16, 2016


Cecilia Knapp

Cecilia Knapp

As one spoken word night concludes, another is set to launch. Freedom Festival’s Word On The Street project – in partnership with A Firm Of Poets and Word Life – came to a sensational close in Hull on Thursday night, with sets earth-shatteringly good sets from Hollie McNish and Zena Edwards. Previous headliners include Kate Fox, Luke Wright and Helen Mort.

Hollie McNish

Hollie McNish

The new night comes in the form of Word Wise, hosted by Jamie Thrasivoulou at The Maypole café/ bar in Derby on the last Friday of every month. It launches with Andrew “Mulletproof” Graves, Joolz Denby, Matt Clegg, Sophie Sparham and Benjamin Knight on 30 September, and includes open mic.

A large number of poets and spoken word artists will be anxiously pacing the packed streets of Edinburgh with stacks of flyers this month, as the Fringe takes control of the city for three weeks. Highlights include Attila The Stockbroker, Sara Hirsch and Ben Fagan, Loud Poets, Fat Roland, and three events from Cecilia Knapp and Jack Rooke in aid of CALM.

Last but not least on the events front, Suli Breaks’ ‘Not A Role Model’ show in Tufnell Park on 25 August is one of the hottest tickets in the UK right now. Act sharpish if you’ve yet to book one! (And read TSOTA’s Dee Jas talk to Suli Breaks back in February here.)

Omar Musa

Omar Musa

Coming to new releases, Omar Musa’s ‘Dead Centre’ EP is receiving a lot of attention (and praise), as he blends spoken word with hip hop. For fans of beat poetry, there’s a posthumous release from Allen Ginsberg, and for fans of Dr John Cooper Clarke, and intriguing new project with The Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell.

Noname is receiving rave reviews for ‘Telefone’, Agnes Török is all set to release ‘The Art of Happiness’ on Burning Eye Books, and Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) has teamed up with producer Ferrari Sheppard to recite spoken word on this new track ‘Hymn’. Oh and speaking of Burning Eye, I interviewed Laurie Bolger for TSOTA myself a few weeks back, following the release of ‘Box Rooms’.

Now we all know that there’s a lot of violence and upset in the world right now. And unsurprisingly, spoken word is often providing the antidote, the catalyst for change, and in some cases simply the immediate response to many of these events. There’s been an incredible amount of spoken word in the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, and Muslim women have been using it to speak out against the wave of xenophobia generated by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

A group of artists used spoken word and poetry as part of an installation that attempted to recreate the Calais Jungle refugee camp and London’s Southbank, and Huffington Post suggested that spoken word and poetry is the best way for young people to try and change the world. Not bad going, I guess.

The Source ran a great feature on hugely influential but largely unsung hip hop innovator and spoken word artist James Baldwin. There’s a fantastic video of Hollie McNish’s poem about breastfeeding. A piece in The Guardian linked “the romance of Brexit” with Philip Larkin’s poetry, Rashad Tha poet discusses the relationships between poetry, spoken word and rap, and there was a brilliant article on Basil Bunting in The New Yorker.

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