Uni Slam 2019
A few years ago I got asked to be the coach to the first ever Durham University slam poetry team. I’m always one for a challenge, so of course I said yes, and got on a train.
I picked the first team out from audition videos, over an awful burger, in a dodgy cafe, with the two poets who’d invited me watching over my shoulder. It was a good team. Lots of promise.
I was always adamant that they shouldn’t focus on winning slams. From the first rehearsal, in a dark basement, wrapped in fairy lights, because the bulbs in the ceiling had blown, I told them they should write poetry in their own voices, that they should never care what people said, or what was popular, or what did well. For some reason, they listened.
I left Durham soon after, and my coaching was just endless facebook messages, and phone calls that lasted hours at a time. They grew, as poets, and as people. They lost a lot of slams. They won other things instead. They worked out what their own voices were, and stuck to them.
This year’s team got to the finals of Uni Slam, the UK’s biggest team poetry slam. They stayed true to their own voices. It was remarked on, by many, how non-slammy their work was. They’re honest to themselves, and they always work to write better. They’ve built a network, up there, full of hard work, and friendship, and sharing, and it’s leading to some truly incredible work.
Prerana, who was one of the two founding members in that cafe, who phoned me up in the first place, because I’d headlined an open mic where she performed, and I’d told her she was incredible, lived up to the promise I first saw, years ago, and won Poet of the Slam.
I’m so proud. Look out for these names, they’re going places.