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Two shots from my recent trip to the North East to visit Degna Stone and Nikki Hawkins’ WORDCUP teams at Newcastle’s Live Theatre and in Ashington…

Degna’s team were brainstorming on the project’s theme ‘I am free to write’. All poems in the first round of the SLAM must address this theme. It’s been interesting to see all the different interpretations…

Brainstorm by Degna's team at Live Theatre

Nikki’s team are already published poets. They recently wrote and illustrated a book with the help of their teachers, another poet and an illustrator. This is a photocopy of the cover of the book – which had just gone to print at the time of my visit. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a finished copy.

Open Your Mind by Mainstream Misfits

One of the poems in the book was written during WORDCUP2010 on the subjects of mothers. I’m hoping they’ll share some of their poems on the blog. They’re a talented group of young women writing openly about the challenges they face in everyday life.



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WORDCUP2006 film part one

WORDCUP2010 follows on from the great success of WORDCUP2006. Here’s part one of  a short film about it.

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Workshop Visit: Leeds Young Authors

Last week, I hopped on a train up to Leeds to visit a session with the WORDCUP team from Leeds Young Authors (LYA). Khadijah Ibrahim, who founded LYA in 2003, met me at the Leeds Media Centre. Over the usual pre-workshop bustle of moving chairs and tables, she told me about the group, their annual visits to Brave New Voices in the States and the range of projects she’s currently working on. The amount of opportunities she creates for her students is incredible and I was excited to meet the WORDCUP team.

The team is part of the wider LYA group. In this session, they were working on personification as a way to bring life into their writing and make it stronger:


They read and compared poems by Sylvia Plath, hip-hop artist Common and Langston Hughes. They then put their heads down and applied the techniques these poets use to their own writing. I was impressed by the way they worked together as a team, sharing ideas and feeding back to the group. They clearly take the editing process seriously and are working towards some seriously strong poems…

At the end of the workshop, two of the team performed a poem about the experience of being a twin which had me sitting right up in my seat.


Watch out for Leeds!

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Notes from the North East

WORDCUP2010 kicked off in the North East, where an extended project is taking place, coordinated by Radikal Words. Ten teams of young people in the region are working with poet coaches towards their own regional final, which will take place at the Arc in Stockon-on-Tees on Saturday 3 July.

At the end of March, the North East poets met at the Arc for two days of workshops, led by Radikal Words and Jacob Sam-La Rose, Artistic Director of the London Teenage Poetry SLAM and WORDCUP’s creative consultant. The workshops focussed on sharing and developing tools for working with young people.

I went up for the first day and it was wonderful to be in a room with so many talented poets and performers who all care about bringing poetry into education. As with all good meetings, it involved lots of games, led by different members of the group. Here’s one led by Jeff Price of Radikal Words – a game he often plays with students to get them writing and thinking about themselves…

This Hand…

  • Ask each member of the group to draw around their writing hand. They must then write their name in the middle
  • Outside the hand, ask them to write down three things their hand has done: two true things, and one lie
  • Ask each member to feed back what they have written and ask the group to guess which one is the lie

"This hand has milked a cow, this hand has caught a pigeon, this hand has been broken...."

One of the best things about working on a project like this is seeing how willing poet coaches are to share ideas, techniques and teaching material. Jacob led an exercise on poetic principles – asking the poets what, for them, creates strong writing. Here are some of the things they said:

  • Have a strong message
  • Convey the familiar in an original way
  • Tell personal stories  – make them interesting
  • Write it all down in the first draft – edit later. Kill the inner censor!
  • Draw on the senses
  • Be specific – use concrete images
  • Avoid clichés
  • Don’t rely on rhyme – use a range of poetic devices
  • Connect to your audience
  • Have fun

Young poets, take note!

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