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See the country’s coolest spoken word artists spit their stuff at Camden’s The Last Word festival

By Things To Do Editors

Despite what you might have been told, there’s a lot more to spoken word than sub-par student union slam poetry. It’s an art form, and those who are good at it are really, really good. Lucky for us Londoners, The Last Word festival in Camden will be showcasing the best snappy stanza-spitting wordsmiths around.

Starting on Saturday, the 19-day extravaganza will be giving a stage to the most exciting names the spoken word scene has to offer. That doesn’t just mean speeches and poetry, but performances incorporating music, circus and burlesque too, plus podcast recordings, film screenings and supper clubs from the likes of Syrian Supper Club and The Clink.

There’ll be performances from big-name artists whose work tackles topics spanning race, class, gender, politics and mental health. Get your gladrags on to watch influential LGBT+ poet and drag queen Dean Atta perform ‘The Black Flamingo Cabaret’ – a mixture of wordplay and gender-defying drag with black and queer performers. Catch a talk from Sudanese-Australian social campaigner and mechanical engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied, whose TED talk ‘What Does My Headscarf Mean to You?’ has been viewed millions of times. Another highlight is the Roundhouse’s Resident Artist (and self-proclaimed ‘young underclass lesbian’) Chloë Florence’s solo show, ‘Smoke Weed Eat Pussy Everyday’, which will explore London’s thriving party and rave culture.

Whatever you do, don’t miss the Poetry Slam Final where the country’s most innovative rhymers will compete for the coveted title. And, for the first time ever, the audience will get to join judges Caleb Femi, the former Young People’s Laureate for London, journalist, poet and essayist Bridget Minamore, and performance poet and children’s novelist Laura Dockrill to cast a  vote for who wins. Forget stanzas and strophes, this poetry’s breaking all the rules. Bobby Palmer

Poetry Corner

We ask London’s spoken word artists about their influences and where to see live poetry in the city

Joelle Taylor
Poet, playwright and author

If you could only read one poem for the rest of your life what would it be?
‘“How The Sky Finds Us” - Anthony Anaxagorou. It’s a perfect piece of writing: cinematic, global, intimate - and works really well in the mouth as well as on the page.’

Where’s the best place in London for spoken word?
‘Out-Spoken at Southbank Centre. It’s the only UK night that fuses both page and performative poetry to electrifying effect, and always has incredible music acts alongside.’
See Joelle host the Poetry Slam 2019 final on Jun 6. Out-spoken. Southbank Centre. Waterloo. Jun 20. £10. 

Yassmin Abdel-Magied
Mechanical engineer, mass media presenter and writer

Which poet or spoken word artist has inspired you most?
‘I have a real soft spot for Nayyirah Waheed - she's a contemporary poet who have put words to emotions I didn't even know I was feeling. Other contemporaries include Safia Elhillo - a Sudanese woman who spoke about my nation and the diaspora experience so accurately I wondered when she'd gone for a walk through my thoughts, and how she did so without me noticing.’

What is your favourite poetry/spoken word event in London? 
‘BoxediN Shoreditch was one of my first poetry events, and it's one that I keep going back to. It always has an interesting mix of poets - some new, and some established - and the mix means you get some of your old favourites, but get the chance to discover new talent as well. It always feels like a community, too - there's a welcome chant for first time performers, people are always hanging around afterwards chatting. It definitely has a community vibe that keeps me coming back.’
See Yassmin in conversation on Jun 13. 


Yomi Sode
Spoken word artist, poet, MC and host of BoxediN

If you could only read one poem for the rest of your life what would it be?
‘I’d probably read something of mine. I’d feel bad and imagine the amount of side eyes I’d get from the poems that didn’t make the pick. Jokes aside though, reading my poem for the rest of my life, why not?’

Where’s the best place in London for spoken word?
‘BoxediN is a great place to get inspired by meeting new poets or hearing their work. It’s great to meet someone I’ve not heard about.’
Yomi hosts ‘BoxediN: Clash’ on Jun 14. Boxpark Shoreditch. Shoreditch High St Overground. Tue May 28. Free entry.


Chloë Florence
Roundhouse Resident Artist

Which poet has inspired you most?
‘Joelle Taylor. I wouldn’t have gotten into poetry without her. Her slam style, passion, activism and owning her space as a queer woman really opened up poetry to me. I’m also high-key inspired by rappers like Little Simz – people who redefine a genre.’

Where’s the best place in London for spoken word?
‘My own event “Home for All” – as it also acts as a social activism and charity event, advocates change and is also pure vibessss. ’
See Chloe’s show ‘Smoke Weed Eat Pussy Everyday’ on Jun 8. ‘Home for All’. Dalston Roof Park. Dalston Junction Overground. Jun 12. £10.


Manor the Latekid
Poet, writer, musician and sound artist

If you could only read one poem for the rest of your life what would it be?
‘If you don’t know Zia Ahmed, you should probably get to know him. Then you should find his Twitter. It’s basically a poem. There’s some legendary tweets that guy has done that lend themselves to shorthand poetry.’

Where’s the best place in London for spoken word?
‘BoxediN and Jawdance. The allure of both events? Energy. There’s an abundance of energy, freshness and always a chance to catch new voices.’
See Manor the Latekid perform ‘The Lounge’ on Jun 14. 
Jawdance. Richmix. Shoreditch High St Overground. Jun 19.


Jasmin Kent Rodgman

If you could only read one poem for the rest of your life what would it be?
‘“Orpheus Alone” by Mark Strand. As a composer, I set this poem for chamber choir and orchestra a few years ago. His shaping of loss, the retelling of the Orpheus myth and the vivid imagery never fail to pull me in.’

Where’s the best place in London for spoken word?
‘Hammer & Tongue. My digs are in Hackney so I have to say this long-running night, but I really wanna get down to Pen-Ting soon.’
See Jasmine in ‘Huh’on Jun 22.


Rakaya Esime Fetuga
2018 Roundhouse Slam winner

Which poet or spoken word artist has inspired you most?
‘Maya Angelou has been a big inspiration to me. The emotional pull of her work has marked some of my earliest memories with poetry. Other favourite poems are Jalaluddin Rumi’s “The Guest House”and  “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas.’

Where’s the best place in London for spoken word?
‘Poetry and Shaah at Brixton Pound Café – they’re a young, vibrant poet-family who welcomed me as I was starting out and who always make time for a cup of tea!’
See Rakaya perform ‘Unbraided’ on Jun 6.

The Last Word runs at the Roundhouse from Saturday Jun 2 to Jun 22. Prices for each event vary. 

Like poetry, but love books even more? Check out our guide to London for literature lovers

Find more great things to do in London with our June guide



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