Cheltenham Spa: Anyone for Slamaggedon?
Are you a slammer? Is there a place in your poetry world for high-octane events, or do you shrink and shudder at the very thought of a baying crowd? Well, whatever your perspective on the Poetry Slam, last weekend’s Slamaggedon at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival pitched for and delivered a perfectly crafted balance between the thrills and adrenalin of competitive performance, and the warmth, fun and intelligence that fills our creative landscape with words and feelings.
The evening was hosted in suitably upbeat style by the hilarious Tina Sederholm and slightly bonkers Neil Spokes. There was loud music between the acts, an excitable, energised crowd of over 150 people who revelled in the party-like atmosphere, but most importantly there was lots of brilliant poetry.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the way these things work, our host introduced the rules as being the “Mornington Crescent Format, with the Montpelier Variation”, which might rather seem to suggest that they were making it up as they went along. Luckily though, they weren’t, as what we saw was 13 poets perform their work, each with a strictly enforced three minute maximum time slot, which after some shuffling of paperwork by various judges was whittled down to a selected five poets who had to deliver a second piece of work, which then after more judgely murmuring became a final two performers delivering a third piece in the exciting head-to-head. And it was indeed exciting. Perhaps not in the way one might think when taking on board elements like “Slamaggedon” and “Head-to-head”, but rather more in the way champagne is made more exciting with the addition of Crème de Cassis, or how a cheese sarnie is transformed with the use of a hot new spicy relish. It was fun, irresistable and something outside the norm, even for seasoned live performers.
The competing poets delivered a fantastic array of inspiring and entertaining work. Enormous congratulations are due to the wonderful Saili Katebe (pictured) who delivered three hauntingly powerful cultural reflections with calm poise to be crowned Slam Champion. Also well done to runner-up Alexander Rhodes whose personal and uplifting poetry delivered with such charm and confidence gave the winner a very close run in. Across the board the audience was treated to a diverse and engaging range of material which truly encapsulated the spirit of performance poetry. It was heartfelt, it was funny, and above all, it was real.