Spoken Word column: The Disarm Hate x Poetry project

The album artwork and featured poets

Nymphs & Thugs are immensely proud to present the ‘Disarm Hate x Poetry’ project. The project has seen us commission 16 of the world’s leading LGBTQ poets to write a poem in response to the ‘Disarm Hate’ documentary.

The poems will feature on an album called ‘We Will Keep On’, will be released digitally on 12 June. That date marks the five-year anniversary of the Orlando massacre. A 2LP gatefold vinyl release of the album will follow later in the summer, and both are available to pre-order here.

The ‘Disarm Hate’ documentary follows nine LGBTQ activists on a road trip from Los Angeles to a national ‘Disarm Hate’ rally in Washington DC. The group’s aim is to fight for equal LGBTQ rights, oppose the NRA, and explore the United States’ obsession with gun violence.

Andrés Nicolás Ordorica

This project came about when a musician and producer called Raph Stevens contacted me in the summer. He’d created an album which fused interview excerpts from the documentary with his original soundtrack. Ralph wanted to know whether, as a spoken word label, we’d be interested in releasing the album.

Obviously, I was interested. But it’s specifically spoken word poetry that’s at the heart of Nymphs & Thugs. So, I dreamt up the ‘Disarm Hate x Poetry’ project, started approaching artists in November, and submitted a funding bid to Arts Council England in December.

The first bid was unsuccessful, but after tweaking and resubmitting, I was given the green light back in March. The 16 poets that we’ve commissioned to write for this album are, in alphabetical order:

Afshan D’souza Lodhi, Andrés Nicolás Ordorica, Andrew McMillan, Antonia Jade King, Buddy Wakefield, Dean Atta, Ella Otomewo, Emanuel Xavier, Joelle Taylor, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Keith Jarrett, lisa luxx, Oli Spleen, Ollie O’Neill, Patrizia Longhitano, and Reece Lyons.

The commissioned poems will be interspersed with clips from Ralph’s original album, which has already been released on its own in the US.

The ‘Disarm Hate’ documentary trailer

The Orlando massacre sent shockwaves around the LGBTQ community. At the time, it was the single largest mass shooting by a single gunman in US history. Pulse nightclub in Florida was hosting a Latino night, and almost all 49 people that lost their lives were of Latinx heritage.

This album is by no means intended to be a definitive or complete representation of the LGBTQ community’s response. Clearly, it was vital that strong Latinx voices were present on the album. But I also wanted to commission responses from a cross-section of the wider LGBTQ community.

Watching the ‘Disarm Hate’ documentary was incredibly moving for me. As somebody who’s only ever been in heteronormative relationships, I can never fully understand the daily struggles that members of the LGBTQ community face. But this documentary was a powerful and visceral eye opener.

Addressing social and political issues has always been at the forefront of my own poetry. And when I formed Nymphs & Thugs in 2015, my main aim was to champion alternative voices. But as the label’s grown, it’s becoming increasingly about addressing those issues head on, and pushing for increased levels of diversity and representation.

In November, we released the Tongue Fu single ‘Birds’, with 100% of the profits being donated to Black Minds Matter UK. We followed this up with the ‘LIVEwire x Lockdown’ project, which commissioned four poets to work with under-represented communities.

And we’re continuing the trend with ‘Disarm Hate x Poetry’. 100% of the profits from digital and vinyl sales will be split between the Contigo Fund in Florida and Stonewall in the UK. We’re immensely grateful to Arts Council England for enabling us to do this and ensuring that as much of this project as possible goes back into the LGBTQ community.

Joelle Taylor

I can’t wait for you to hear the album. The poets’ responses are utterly phenomenal. Later this week, Nymphs & Thugs will be announcing some free virtual workshops for members of the LGBTQ community, as well as a public call-out for both audio and written submissions.

For now, it’s all about announcing the project to the world. In the meantime, the ‘Disarm Hate’ documentary is available on major streaming sites. And every one of the 16 poets involved in this project has stunning work for you to check out.

Ta for now!