Young people from nine regions across the UK came together in a friendly battle for supremacy in sentences and words in Shake the Dust, a nationwide youth poetry slam which has been taking place across England from March to July 2012. It has been run by England’s leading performance poetry organisation, Apples and Snakes.
And even though three teams were singled out for success, organisers were adamant that all the poets who took part in Shake The Dust were winners.
“We are not just celebrating these teams here on stage – we’re celebrating all the teams in the regions that these teams represent,” said Shake The Dust’s Artistic Director, Jacob Sam-La Rose. “There’s been some amazing work done in this project and every young poet here, and those represented here, are winners.”
Jacob hosted an evening packed with electric performances from nine schools and youth groups from across England. Each group performed two poems: one on the Olympic theme of Truce, and another of their own choice.
Judges drawn from the world of professional performance poetry awarded the following prizes:
Highest scoring team: Ralph Thoresby High School, Leeds, representing the Yorkshire and Humberside region.
Poem with the most striking line: Sheringham High School, Norfolk, representing the East England region.
Shake The Stage award for best performance: The Roundhouse, Camden, representing London.
The Highest Scoring Team
Ralph Thoresby High School in Leeds were voted the Highest Scoring Team in the final.
They worked with Poet Coach Simon Murray, AKA SaiMurai, and Poet Shadow Coach Rheima Robinson, who said of the team: “I’m so proud. 12 weeks ago, they were all strangers, now they’re all best friends – they’ve blossomed totally!”
Rheima’s own story helped to inspire the participants at the Shake the Dust weekend. She featured in an award-winning documentary called ‘We Are Poets’ screened on the event’s opening night, which documented her own journey as a young Leeds poet participating in a transatlantic performance poetry competition in Washington DC. “I definitely see myself in them,” she said. “There’s nothing like being in a room with 100 other young poets where everybody’s got a common factor and a collective reason to be here.”
Ralph Thoresby High School English teacher Stuart Smith said of the participants: “As a group of young people, they are really inspiring. I’m really proud of them. Performance poetry is one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in schools. It gives young people a voice that’s lacking in lots of areas of education. It’s life-changing.”
Mercury Award-winning spoken word artist shared the stage
Speech Debelle – previous winner of music’s prestigious Mercury Award – joined the line-up at the final, dropping inspiring rhymes to the soundtrack of her live band and paying tribute to participants.
“This is a big-up for everybody that took part,” she said. “It takes a lot of courage to perform, especially for you people at such a young age, but you are setting yourselves up for a lifetime of this.”
Amazing confidence of the young poets
“Shake the Dust has been an amazing celebration of spoken word,” said Lucy Crompton-Reid, director of Apples and Snakes, the national poetry organisation that organised the project. “It was phenomenal to see the styles, the experiences and perspectives of the young people participating today – they were so confident in the truth of the stories they were telling. I was moved to tears, I was laughing – there was a real range of emotions on stage today, and it’s a real testament to the work of the Poet Coaches and the teachers who got them to this place.”
Find out more about Shake the Dust go to: www.shakethedust.co.uk