Saturday, 31 March 2012

City of Leeds Poetry Slam

Vivian Lister writes:
WOW!- the Wonder Of Words!
 -Wham–Bam- City of Leeds SLAM

City of Leeds School students hit the ground dancing with this their first ever Litfest slam. Supported by the excellent Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows, these talented young people dazzled us with an evening pulsating with drive, energy and full-on pizazz.

Strong political poems confronted world issues - of women’s oppression, of the futility and pain of war -  in language that was both reflective and heartfelt. There were flamboyant assertions of identity, of the pride of race and gender and the determination to be, to live and to grow.

The great comedy duo, Pinky and Za ("Don’t call me babe!" "Yeh babe!") delighted their fellow students with an energetic, fast moving dispute about language use and dignity - at least we older audience members think that’s what it was about as we were swept along in the slip-steam of this fast flowing dialogue. There were also plenty of poignant moments, personal experiences described in accurate, truthful language and performed simply and conversationally.

Faced with this wealth of exuberant talent, the judges retired to make their decisions whilst we were entertained by Michelle Scally Clarke, the event’s brilliant facilitator and Stella Petris, her wonderful collaborator who gave us their tribute to Nina Simone. There  was also  spirited playing by the Silver Steel Sparrows.

The judges - Amanda Stevenson, Head of English at Lawnswood School, poet Becky Cherriman and song writer Bob Green, expressed their delight at the flair, skill and also courage of all the performers. They were also impressed by how well the young people had worked together and looked after each other.

The judges awarded the prize for best poem to Farzad Ahmadi for the poem, ‘Shattered Dreams’, praising both its wonderful imagery and Farzad’s strong performance.

They gave special mention to Maryam Dodo’s poem, ‘Happy Day’, to Pinky Sibande for the beautiful, ‘Silence in the Room’,  to Antonio Bessa’s poems which dealt with serious world issues with power and clarity and to Natasha Gogwe’s ‘Climbing’ in which the energy of the rhythm emphasised high aspiration. 

The winner of the best personal achievement award was Neelam Chohan who impressed the judges by the  direct , conversational tone  of her poetry describing the trials of her life and also her reflections upon what writing has meant to her.

The judges also praised Luke Edgar for the courage and honesty of his writing.

The award for best overall performance was given to Za Nyamande who combined lyrical word play with commanding stage presence and style. Special mention went to Elijah Phillip for the beautifully performed, ‘Getting Older’.

Bob Green addressed the slammers: ‘Each of you has written your own truth- and that is poetry!’

City of Leeds Slammers! You are poets. We salute you!

The Slammers – Winners all!
All these young people attended the slam workshops and/or performed at the slam:

Farzad Ahmadi; Ikra Ahmed; Jeffrey Antwi; Antonio Bessa;Neelam Chohan; Maryam Dodo; Luke Edgar; Natasha Gogwe; Shirquilla Grant; Za Nyamande; Elijah Phillip; Unique Ruddock; Pinky Sibande 

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