Friday, 24 March 2017

Poetry at Lawnswood School - with Khadijah Ibrahim

Gail Alvarez writes:
We Are Poets – They Are Poets
Khadijah Ibrahim    Photos Richard Wilcocks
A jazz cafe somewhere in north Leeds.  Background music, a medley of Steph's mood music, greets the patrons who have come to have a serious word.  With dramatic intent.  Yes, it's the annual poetry event at Lawnswood School, held in the Drama Studio made over with low lighting and high ideals to form an intimate venue for poetry performance.

Lawnswood's Year 9 poets perform their own words, written in classroom workshops with Khadijah Ibrahim over the past two months.  Khadijah founded the Leeds Young Authors in 2003; you may have seen the film We Are Poets when it was screened in Leeds a couple of years ago – it was based on the work she initiated with local young poets who went to America to perform their work. Widely published, Khadijah both writes and coaches with amazing style and encouragement. 

Some well-know poetry by luminaries such as Langston Hughes and Sylvia Plath showed the sort of material that the youngsters had worked with to get them in creative mode.  And then they took it and ran with it.  Powerful, original, thought-provoking, building on observation, feeling and teenage dreams.

A monologue on Petit Pois by drama teacher Kate Mitchell dwelt on the petty life of a disappointed wife whose dreams of a firepit, eating quinoa and going on a road trip to Memphis had dwindled to a dull life with Derek. He likes the TV quiet; she turns its commentators' voices up loud as Derek's is stilled by inhaling peas. Macabre but compelling.

An interval challenged the audience to a haiku competition – 17 syllables arranged in 5,7,5 formation – and was spiced up by Basil and his card tricks.  Sleight of hand led to sleight of words as the youngsters performed more of their own work.  Envy, childhood, war, name games, carnival – it was all here and beautifully performed with barely a note needed as these poets knew their words, inhabited their poems, spoke with such confidence.

Khadijah performed some of her own original writing too: work commissioned for the Leeds Film Festival, ghosts in Jamaica and some reminiscing about school in the 1980s.  Games, lessons, music, sweets, friends – so evocative of a past these young poets were living in the present.

Thanks to Richard Wilcocks of the LitFest who worked with Khadijah and a whole class of budding young poets  for a couple of months to put the evening together.  Thanks to the staff who supported their hard work.  And thanks too to the young poets themselves: alphabetically, Adele, Agnieszka, Ahmed, Anna, Beata, Bryony, Charlie, Christopher, Edita, Jackie, Ibrahim, Ivana, Kate, Lewis, Luca, Matis, Noah, Okunola, Olivia, Omuya, Robert, Samantha, Stephen, Zak - with particular commendations for Amelia, Christabel, Isra, Lara, Martha, Nell and Raul.

Finally, last but not least, grateful thanks are due to the Inner North West Area Management Committee, especially the local councillors, who granted us the money to deliver this project.

Audience Comments
The evening was very good, the acts were very well thought out.  The setting was one of my favourites about the night.

The night was great.  We all had an opportunity to show off our talents.

How lovely to see young people performing their own work with such confidence and style.  Well done Khadijah.

What a lovely evening.  A real mix of styles and performers

The room setting was warm, welcoming, cosy – and a brilliant young person playing the keyboard as we came in.  The young people had worked with Khadijah Ibrahim and very confidently spoke about the inspiration for their poems which they then performed with a professional flair.   Audience participation was great and a monologue inspired by Alan Bennett was amazing.  Khadijah was brilliant, showed her creative talent and encouraged and inspired the young poets. An excellent event.

Beautifully hosted event.  Great to see the fruition of sessions building towards a performance.  Some beautiful poems.  Great event to build confidence with the children presenting their own poems.


Very good poems by the pupils and teachers at the school.  This was the first time I had been to the school to see the students perform and I was quite impressed.  I particularly thought it was nice that there was a magician going round at the interval.

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