Spoke’n’Word was an innovative, pedal-powered participation and performance project that nurtured and celebrated the talent and diversity of young people across Kent and Medway.
Young people in schools, youth settings and from open call workshops were mentored by professional poets Joelle Taylor, Michael Parker & Dan Simpson, together with three locally based shadow poets, Sven Stears, Emrys Plant & Lucy Fennell. The workshops culminated in the young people taking part in poetry Slams at local festivals, Fuse, Create & Lounge on the Farm with the ‘winners’ going on to perform in the Grand Slam Final at Wise Words.
‘Poetry and writing helps people to speak their silences. Young people teach us about ourselves. They are the future in action’, Joelle Taylor, Lead Poet
Aims of the project:
This project was a collaboration between six arts organisations working together to build strong and sustained relationships between venues, young people and artists with the ambition of engaging and developing new audiences for poetry. The organisations leading this project were: Workers of Art, LV21, Lounge on the Farm, Revelations St. Mary’s, Wheely Groovy and Apples and Snakes.
What the Young People gained from the experience:
The poets worked with the young people to identify experiences, themes, issues about which they were felt strongly and through developing writing and performance skills, helped each young person articulate their passions.
Through exploring and debating controversial topics the participants developed a number of skills such as critical thinking; inquiry and analytical skills as well as learning to make reasoned judgments; respect the opinions of others; weigh up different viewpoints; participate actively in arguments and debates; and resolve conflict.
Spoke’n’Word dispelled the perception within many of the young people with whom we worked, that poetry is an outmoded form of literary and artistic expression and ‘not for people like us’. The project gave the young people a voice and an opportunity to express and explore their own personal cultural experiences and values including emotional wellbeing and mental illness.
‘I surprised myself. I didn’t realise I could write poetry…. Once I performed the poem, I experienced a huge sense of release. I managed to feel really proud… It was an emotional journey. I can actually write and people are interested in what I have to say…It’s been very moving’ Jemma Burgess, Participant
Learning and Legacy:
Due to the fact that there was very little previous experience of performance poetry amongst young people in Kent & Medway, spoken word was not the hook we had initially hoped it would be. Engaging young people and even educational settings proved incredibly difficult. Each of the 6 organisations involved created Audience Development Plans that captured the learning that took place as a result of the challenges around engagement that we faced.
As a direct result of this work, we established a group of young people who remain connected to our Wise Words Festival throughout the year and support us in our aim to build a strong poetry scene within the region. For more information about this Word Out! group please go to