About three hundred people – students, parents, friends, visitors – were in the main hall of Lawnswood School this evening (Thursday 13 March) for the school’s first Poetry Slam.
It was also the first one in the short history of the Headingley LitFest, which promoted the event.
A Slam is a sort of competition, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a loud, musical, happy and infectiously fervent happening, where individuals and groups – in this case young students – can display their talents and build up their confidence.
The Slammers, 12 and 13 year-olds from Lawnswood’s Year 8, had been encouraged, stimulated and nurtured by performance poet Michelle Scally-Clarke in a series of rehearsals. She performed herself, all too briefly, in the second half of the show.
At the beginning, she was introduced by the main organising teacher, Amanda Stevenson, along with the school's Senior Dancers, who set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Performances were mostly well-rehearsed and fluent, and were all characterised by driving energy and enthusiasm. Based on personal experience, they were about identity, self-pride, hopes for the future, belief in social diversity and opposition to racism.
The judges were teachers Donna Cartwright and Richard Raftery (himself a performance poet), and Richard Wilcocks, representing the LitFest, who commented, “What’s a festival without terrific young people like this? We must do more of this sort of thing next year.”
The winning group (from Class 8AGH) consisted of Lyndon Leonard and David Shutt, who scored highly in the three categories of Confidence, Content and Performance.
The winning individual was Prya Lota.
“These children can fly!” was Michelle Scally-Clarke’s comment.