No holds barred as performance poet Joy France fights her corner in 'battle rap'
She started out by making a nervous debut a number of years ago on the open-mic stage at Write Out Loud Wigan. After establishing a reputation as a warm and popular performance poet, she appeared in Nationwide TV adverts and on building society posters as well. Now Joy France has shown she doesn’t give a stuff about stereotypes by throwing herself into the in-your-face performance genre of ‘battle rap’. In doing so she has attracted a new wave of publicity, appearing both on BBC Breakfast and BBC North-West Tonight this week, and being featured in the Manchester Evening News.
On TV she told the story of how a former teacher of children with special needs got involved in battle rap. She said she was “always really shy, really quiet” for ”almost all my life”. But in her mid-50s something happened – and she became a performance poet, winning slams and awards, and treading the boards as a stand-up comic as well as a poet. In recent years she has run a creative space at Affleck’s in Manchester, an emporium of independent traders, where she encourages people to explore their own creativity. She is also known to don a panda mask at the drop of a hat, when staging impromptu performances.
She is just back from taking part in a big battle rap in Ireland. On screen, it appears to be very rough and tough – and Joy acknowledges that “it’s really brutal … a lot of it’s done with aggression”. But she adds: “A lot of it’s also done with comedy and wordplay”. Inevitably she attracts labels such as the “rapping Granny”. But Joy shrugs off such tags with a smile - and often with a below-the-belt insult.
Right: Joy being intervewed on the BBC