Friday, 20 March 2015

Poetry at Leeds City Academy

Lemn Sissay                                              Photos:  Richard Wilcocks
Sally Bavage writes:
Friday 20 March was a day for stargazing – first at the glimpses of the eclipse that the cloudy Leeds skies allowed and then at a series of poets, amateur and professional, that brought the stars out.

Head of English Mike Nelson started us off with his inner poet, a journey from stammer to grammar as his shy lack of confidence growing up, when he spoke too slowly to order fast food. 

The first two ‘halves’ of the evening were a delightful procession of two dozen young poets, including three guests from Ralph Thoresby school and Kirann, a former pupil at what was City of Leeds who came back to sing his original lyrics.  Michelle Scally Clarke, our poet/coach, also sang her own words. The poets were introduced by student hosts Antonio, Hajar and Sarra.

Michelle Scally Clarke
We had poems, monologues and songs that ranged widely over journeys to a strange land (England), growing up, difference, bullying, dreams, confessions and advice.  We had a potent mix of talent and tears, attitude and nerves, vulnerability and confidence, perception and insight, wit and pathos, delivered in words, lyrics, duets and duos.  What more could a poetry slam offer?

Well, we had a star performance by Lemn Sissay, internationally-renowned poet, fresh from his masterclass at Lawnswood School, to give us the third ‘half’.  He gave us an insight into the “voice at the back of his mind”, a view of the value of observation in poetry. He mused on why those from Yorkshire and Kashmir, for example, feel themselves different – they see the same landscapes, they drink gallons of the same tea!  Poetry is all around us; in songs, religious books, advertisements.  We should use it to form “a bridge between the physical and the spiritual.”  

He read us some of his own poetry - some published, some new - with such panache and élan, that not only did his words echo afterwards in our minds (like the echo-location of a stranded whale on a Thames beach at Greenwich? – you’d have to have been there) but the uncompromising message behind the words.  Poetry is in all of us, it is for all of us, it is part of what makes us who we are. 

Thanks to Leeds City Academy for hosting the event, musicians Stella Litras and Carl Robinson who supported the young poets, Michelle Scally Clarke for her work with the young people and, of course, to Lemn Sissay himself for a fitting finale. Thanks of course to our young poets: Amber, Aamina, Aleema, Antonio, Areej,  Courtney, Donatella, Fayruze, Hajar, Jawara, Jeraldo, Kirann, Mama, Muzzy, Nida, Nikkayla, Sarra, Simon.

Audience comments:

Amazing innovative event! Inspiring youth! Congrats. ‘Cold room’. Would prefer a raised seating etc!!.go online for soundbytes should tweet the talent – ‘ yng p compaire’ – great youth inspiration.

I love it. The young people were very confident showed that really enjoyed what they were doing. Most importantly they were very supportive of each other. It was their time to ‘shine’. Lemn Sisssay was very interesting entertaining and engaging.

It was really good. I enjoyed all the poems.

A fantastic effort. City of Leeds students performed with conviction and passion. Lemn Sissay was amazing.

What an extraordinary evening – great to hear talented students and loved the wonderful exuberant Lemn Sissay

Great to hear young diverse voices of LS6 and absolutely fabulous performer and raconteur Lemn Sissay! X

Great to see so many young people inspired into creating and performing poems and songs.

Inspirational. A wealth of young talent, thoroughly thought provoking. Through the course of this evening I have felt the whole repertoire of emotions.

I really thought the youth poetry slam was amazing! Such potential and courage.

Brilliant young people. Amazing evening.

Great, really proud of the students!

Fab talent, very well put together. Enjoyed students’ poetry and singing.  Lemn Sissay was very giggleworthy

Very good!

First half – excellent, amazing kids. Shame Lemn Sissay didn’t hear all of them. Would have welcomed a cup of tea/coffee in the interval. Printed copies of the students’ work (£1 each for school funds?) would have been great. Loved Lemn’s poetry – could have had more structure to the presentation.

Pupils’ poems and performance were wonderful, it’s a shame the audience wasn’t bigger. Would have been nice to have some coffee in the break. Photocopied sheets of the poems for sale would have been an idea – I’d have bought one. 2nd half very good. However I think the event could have been more structured, sometimes it was difficult to hear the words – music overpowering.

Childrens’ readings: accompanying music was at too high a volume; hard to hear all the words over the music. Performances: very good, brilliant MC.  Lemn Sissay: excellent as usual and inspirational. Venue: no heating in the hall – it was cold, which doesn’t make it easy for the audience; told the organizers at 6pm but they didn’t put the heating on.  

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