Tuesday 19 June 2012

The dust is well and truly SHAKEN

After a long and action-packed day of rehearsals, workshops, rehearsals and more workshops at ARC in Stockton, our fabulous Shake the Dust team, the Slamming Saints, won the award for highest scoring team at their regional final on the 16th June.... and so will be travelling to London for the national finals in July! I'm so SO proud of them and their achievement and so had to post this picture of their glistening trophy.

Every team that performed at the final were good enough to win. It really was an honour to be a part of such an inspiring event. It may sound cheesy as hell, but you really do hear it all the time from the mouths of the young performers and poets themselves - they had no idea poetry could be like this, so fun, so engaging, so relevant to them and their world. I've lost count of the ways in which this project has positively impacted the poets we've been working with, and so it proves itself crucial time and again and with every smiling face. So yes, anyway, a massive congratulations to every individual young poet that was involved in this project. They were all absolutely bleedin' brilliant!

You should come along and see The Slamming Saints, and all the other regional high-scorers, in action in London at the Southbank on the 7th July. It's going to be a cracking event - in fact, that whole weekend is jam-packed with some great spoken word, so you should just hang out there the whole time. And come and say hello!

Friday 15 June 2012

Eric Craven Gregory

...was not only in possession of a rather wonderful name, but was also an extremely generous man who believed in encouraging young poets so much that he set up a Trust, in his name, for the annual support and recognition of their work. I am very grateful to him for this rare gift - not just because his Trust has awarded money to some of my favourite poets since 1969, but that it has also - marvellously, inexplicably, startlingly - awarded some to me.

My heartfelt thanks also go to The Society of Authors and this year's judges, Moniza Alvi, Polly Clark, John Greening, Sophie Hannah, Adam O'Riordan and Carol Rumens. And my warmest congratulations to my fellow winners: Joey Connelly, Holly Corfield Carr, Caleb Klaces, Rachael Nicholas, Phoebe Power and Jon Stone.

The other winners will be reading tonight, in London, at the Betsey Trotwood, though unfortunately I can't make it (it's Shake the Dust tomorrow so I had to be back in time!) We'll all be reading at the Ledbury Poetry Festival, so do come and see us if you get the chance.

It still hasn't quite sunk in, but it's getting there. Here's me with the certificate and a rainbow muppet face gurn on.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Shaking that Dust.

Well, it's the last session at Our Lady & St Bede's tomorrow, working with our young people who will be practising their performance pieces and fine-tuning their stage directions for the North East regional final taking place next weekend at the ARC in Stockton. (Are you coming along? Come along!)

It's very exciting to be reaching the end of this project and being able to see our Slammin' Saints onstage. It feels like Alfie and I have been resident poets at the school for aaages, and it's been really good fun working with the teachers and a fabulous bunch of young people who seem to have got a lot out of writing and performing their work. I can't say I'll miss the 5.30am starts all that much, but it will be weird not to be thinking about delivering workshops and playing Giants, Wizards and Elves.

I've really learnt a helluva lot when it comes to working in schools - not least that you can't underestimate how important it is to have teachers working with you who are as fired up about the work as you are - and I'll certainly be incorporating more of a performance aspect to my own work, both creatively and in an educational way. Getting people up and moving about is a great way to keep the imagination fired, and to get reluctant writers to realise that poetry is fun.

Because it is, you know. Really good fun.

Come and see for yourself!