June Diamond writes:
The sixth year of the Lawnswood Slam gave us not just a brilliant event, but an event with history. One by one, mature and confident young people returned to compere , perform, and testify to the transformative power of the Slam and the mentoring relationship. They were role models for the younger performers and an inspiration to us all.
|The winners with Michelle|
Ms Amanda Stevenson, now head of English, and still spearheading the enterprise, opened the event, stressing that all participants were winners. She passed on the task of introducing the event to Jack and Priya as our presenters. This confident and charming pair were our guides. They testified to the work that had gone into all the performances behind the scenes in workshops and rehearsals , organised and supported once again by Michelle Scally Clarke, with her team of mentors, Johnie and Stella. Michelle is not just a hugely skilled actress, poet and teacher, she also maintains lasting and supportive relationships with the young people she works with.
Prya Lota gave a resounding start to the performances with a poem by Catherine Hawthorne, a Lawnswood sixth former, “Stars”, in which we imagined the stars looking down on us, and what they might think.
We moved on to Round One.
Azeel Abdulaziz performed “Giggle, Tickle” with verve and energy, and then moved on to a dialogue with her sister, Nada, “If Love was a Person,” which contrasted the twins, love and hate.
Ingi Hughes, a three-year veteran of the Slam, accompanied herself on the guitar and sang beautifully and touchingly of her “Substitute Family”, who might “quietly hold my hand”.
Kieran Gately gave a deeply-felt performance of “This is Me”, in which he clearly asserted his right to be his own person, “no matter what you say”. Adam Barber gave a lively and affectionate tribute to his brother in spite of his title , “My little Brother is a Pain”. This was followed by the winning performance (for two poems) by Nada Abdulaziz, “The Innocent One “.
The judges later commented on her effective delivery and eye contact, the compelling structure of the poem, with its haunting refrain, and the romanticism of the imagery. Ingi played for us again, this time setting a poem of Michelle’s to music. “I miss you” addressed both the personal and political with anger, energy and emotion. Will she be ‘the next Tracey Chapman’? Esther Moran gave us a beautifully-delivered account of “Love to Hate”, “I wish people could see the world with clear eyes”.
The next performer has been involved with the Slam since it began, working with Michelle since Year 7. She is now a member of the Leeds University Performance Poetry Group. She opened the Litfest last year. Fatima el Jack spoke of “Motherland” with deep feeling and eloquence. Kizzy Jones then performed “Love and Life”. Michelle talked about the power of poetry to release emotion and performer after performer opened their souls.
Michael Quain chose a traditional rhyming format in “Life mine, or just a line “ , which swung with energy from title to conclusion, “I’ll never live it alone”, while Jasmine Williams, who received a special commendation from the judges, gave us her assertive position on life in “Opinion”. Sarah Hamaway led us into the horror of nightmare in “Where am I?” , a powerful account of being “lost in my lonely imagination.”, in the first of two effectively-delivered pieces.
The first half ended with an unusual performance. Charlie Nullmyers used lights, special effects and a cast of two in “The Doll”, to chill our spines with the story of a doll that came to life. Awesome!
Michelle, Johnny and Stella swung the second half into life, and Tanaka Guzuwe, Michael Quain and Victor took on the baton with a powerful, rhythmic piece of rap, “Life”.
India Claybourne in “Hate”, performed the winning song under the category of Best Poem. She sang beautifully of frustrated visions and dreams. Aidan Foster Green, another commendation, had us on the edge of our seats with the brilliant “Life”, a horror story of corpses and mirrors.
Ayah Almarsi performed the first of two pieces, the second with Azeel Abdulaziz, in which they explored “Slavery” and “Friendship”. Why do people bully each other?
Rosa Weiner and Toni Busby performed a cover of a Kate Nash song, and made it their own. These Slam veterans return to show where there is to go.
Adam Barber, whose delivery of “Hold onto your Dreams” brought him a judges’ commendation, spoke clearly and beautifully of the way forward. “Follow your soul, to be whole". Nada gave us the second of her prize-winning poems with “Love is whatever you want it to be” in this brilliant second half. Fatima el Jack mesmerised us with a powerful, angry polemic, exposing the hypocrisy and inequality in society, and showing us yet again that poetry has the power to electrify and persuade, as well as to delight.
Yasmin Mehudin performed on her own, and then with Annie Moran, in two strongly contrasting pieces: “Everything” explored dreams, while “His Life” told of a life gone wrong, in dialogue. Dylan Fallon delighted us with the best personal performance, in the judges’ view. He didn’t just tell us about a vampire, he was the vampire, concluding the second half with a bang. Rosa and Michelle entertained us while the judges did their thing.
Thank you to all the performers, presenters and supporting staff for a brilliant evening. Thank you to the judges: Toni Busby, Slam veteran; Raftery the Poet, and Richard Wilcocks of the Litfest.
This event is always the climax of the Litfest for me, and a brilliant conclusion, this year.