Inua Ellams' R.A.P. Party at Totally Thames
Inua Ellams' R.A.P. Party ***** (Five Stars)
Totally Thames Festival, London. Onboard the Dixie Queen. 12th September 2018
Arguably the jewel in the crown of this September-long festival celebrating the River Thames in central London, the R.A.P. (Rhythm And Poetry) Party boat cast off for what was a 3 hour, water-borne feast of poetry, hip-hop and music in what was certainly one of the coolest poetry gigs I have ever attended.
Although this was the first time the Party had been hosted on a boat it followed their usual straightforward format: 10 poets, one poem each followed by a couple of their song selections for people to chat and dance to. The music choices varied enormously around a rap and hip-hop theme, and the selection of poets flowed like a roster from a Who’s Who of current, young, British, Spoken Word talent, with an amazing bill of prize-winning, short-listed and nationally-commissioned writers and performers with collective accolades too numerous to list here, all of whom delighted the packed crowd, but each of whom brought their own very distinctive voice.
Host Inua Ellams and his DJ and prankster Sid Mercution delivered the perfect pitch of up-beat and laid-back to keep the party vibe going all night, and we were treated to gems of genius from Laurie Bolger, Anthony Anaxagorou, Danielle Dash, Tyrone Lewis, Ella Frears, Al the Native, Michelle Tiwo, Ross Sutherland and Theresa Lola. Highlights of the night were Danielle Dash “I’m not a poet, I’m just going to read you something” who reduced the entire room to pin-drop status with her piece about Your Mother, and Tyrone Lewis who confessed his love for Little Mix then riffed with ice-cold irony about #blackmediocrity. Huge shout-outs to Al the Native (aka Jordan from Rizzle Kicks) for the evening’s best line in audience-engaging banter “Make some noise if you have existential dread!” and Ella Frears who reminisced that hip-hop always reminded her of having sex in Cornwall…
Everything about this event was excellent, from the organization and marketing, the location (Tower Bridge opened up just to allow our party boat through!), the brilliantly original format and the welcoming, safe and sizzling atmosphere of the room (well, boat). This was a truly superb evening of poetry.
The next R.A,P, Party is on National Poetry Day October 4th 2018 at the Canada Water Theatre in London, more details available here, but even if you can’t make this one I would strongly advise you to tag these guys into your life. #TheRapParty
Write Out Loud reviews: Five stars – Truly exceptional. Four stars – Brilliant. Three stars – Really good. Two stars – Some strong points. One star – Not recommended.
Photo: Thames Festival Trust