Words cannot describe how elated I feel after the events of today.
Six months ago, I was watching Jools Holland with my sister when George the Poet graced the screen and my sister and I stopped everything to watch this (note: my sister rarely stops talking, so I knew this was a special moment). I thought he would be an ideal role model for our students: young, intelligent and passionate, with incredible skill in writing and performing poetry.
Today, Oxford Spires hosted the inaugural Performance Poetry Day. We already have some confident and competent performers in school, from alumna Azfa Ali to current First Story students. But today, we targeted the kids who don't usually come into contact with our creative writing activities, offering them an opportunity to work with inspiring and talented young spoken word poets.
We set up two parallel workshops: one for a select group of twelve boys to work with George and another for twelve girls to work with Azfa. In Azfa's group, she got the students to think about rhythm using playground clapping games, whilst the boys who worked with George impressed us by turning up full of ideas about which they might want to talk and write.
George's enthusiasm for change and hope was infectious. The students instantly respected him and wanted to share with and impress him. He talked about the state of contemporary society and the problems he saw with the current political system and the struggles he anticipated his teenage audience are likely to soon face. The students engaged immediately, talking about misogyny, poverty and racism. In a short space of time, they worked together to create poems about these issues and more, drawing on their own experiences.
At the end of the day, we crammed as many students as possible into our new Theatre to show off the hard work of the selected workshop students. Those who wanted to perform had the opportunity to stand up in front of their peers and demonstrate their new-found talents. Azfa and George also performed some of their poems, and the students showed their appreciation through applause, sometimes interrupting the performances with clapping and cheering.
I am so proud of the students who were involved with the events today. Kate and I are buzzing, because we have managed to reach a large number of students who previously had little knowledge of the great creative writing activities that take place in our school. Across OSA, everyone is talking about poetry. At last! Our plan now is to create a performance poetry club to take these skills and talents even further!
With thanks to all my colleagues for their help in running Performance Poetry Day; and many, many thanks to the people at the John Betjeman Poetry Competition for Young People for their support and sponsorship for this event.