The joy of slam: sign up to be a superhero in Commonword contest

entry picture

Roll up, roll up! Poets are being invited to sign up for Manchester-based Commonword’s Superheroes of Slam contest, with heats in Wigan, Huddersfield, Liverpool, Leicester, and Sheffield, before a grand final in Manchester at the end of October. Write Out Loud is organising two of the heats – at Bar 1:22, Huddersfield on 7 October, with Huddersfield University’s creative writing programme,  and at The Old Courts, Wigan on 8 October.

Write Out Loud’s founder, Julian Jordon, said: “It’s a competition where people read poems to a live audience and receive scores on their performance. The poet has a maximum three minutes at the mic, losing points for overrunning. Points mean a cash prize and a place in the October 23 grand final in Manchester, the winner of which gets a £250 cash prize and a residential writing week of their choice at the prestigious Arvon Foundation, whose courses have changed many a writer’s life.”

Slam poetry began in Chicago in 1984, and soon spread to other cities. It’s now a sort of US national ‘sport’ with a huge following, bringing people into poetry who might otherwise not have done so. See a timeline of its development. Slams are not for the faint-hearted, being lively, often raucous affairs. The competitive element adds to the entertainment value and helps poets to focus on the effect of their words on their public.

Julian said: “Some describe that as ‘dumbing down’. After all, isn’t art about pleasing yourself rather than trying to please others? It is an intriguing question. Scriptwriters won’t get far if they don’t create something that people want to watch. You don’t just need to please the audience, but to ensure the judges consider your work, and your performance, better than others’. In any case, it’s just another form of poetry, that can add to budding writers’ repertoire and breadth of poetry knowledge.”

He added: “Page poetry can also succeed. One of the most intriguing slams Write Out Loud has run at Wigan was won by a Kuwaiti woman, studying at the time in Coventry, who read a lyrical love poem that had the audience spellbound.”

Several poets with established reputations started by winning slams, rather than the traditional route of being published in magazines. Past slam winners have gone on to fame and acclaim, such as Louise Fazackerley, who has appeared on Radio 3’s The Verb, and this year is taking her Love is a Battlefield show to the Edinburgh Fringe.  In an interview with Write Out Loud, she said: “Write Out Loud Wigan was the first regular place I performed and hosted the first slams I took part in.  The slams were a big part of my development because I heard new poets from different areas with new voices and it was so inspirational.”

Joy France, pictured, another performer who started out at the open mic at Write Out Loud Wigan, won the Commonword slam final in Manchester two years ago, and has been an established spoken word performer for several years.

You can sign up for the Huddersfield slam here and for the Wigan slam here. For sign-up details for other Superheroes of Slam heats, see the Commonword website


◄ New comperes at Write Out Middleton as Norman bows out

Heading for Edinburgh? Here are some spoken word shows to look out for ►


<Deleted User> (14241)

Fri 31st Jul 2015 23:50

If only I wasn't thousands of miles away.......

Profile image

Cynthia Buell Thomas

Tue 28th Jul 2015 11:12

Wigan is close. I might even get a stay-over with a fellow poet so I'm not travelling late-ish at night by train and tram, by myself. I'd sure love to try a slam. Any offers ?

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message