Kate Tempest, Harry Baker and 18 young hopefuls: How BBC 1Xtra’s Words First left me speechless

Spoken word. Sounds like a simple thing right? It’s literally, as you might have guessed, speaking words. But what I learned this week is that the power of performing the words of your life story is not only a difficult, but emotional and beautiful task to undertake.

The artists getting ready to take to the stage on Thursday night. Photo taken by me. 

Don’t worry I haven’t gone all quarter-life-crisis on you and started writing poetry about how there is no point in life and ‘woe is me’. No. I got to watch 18 extremely talented young people perform their poetry on stage at the Words First event at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. This is far from my typical scene but I was given the fantastic opportunity to be involved in making a documentary about the Words First event with BBC Radio 1Xtra and Roundhouse Radio. By the way you can check out the final piece by tuning in to Round @ Laurie’s on Roundhouse Radio at 7pm tonight and also to The Old Skool Cruising show at 4pm tomorrow on my beloved Ujima Radio (I say beloved because I was a presenter for 16 months and I still get to represent the station when taking part in events like Words First).

Not only did I get to watch those 18 contestants perform, but I also interviewed Harry Baker (a famous spoken word artist who has travelled the world with his career) and sit in on a private poetry performance of his. If all that wasn’t enough I even got to meet the infamous Kate Tempest and watch intently as she gave sacred words of advice to the contestants who were mesmerised; for most of them it was their dream come true to meet such a legendary player in the spoken word game. 

Okay so I’m not going to lie and say I knew who Kate Tempest was. When I heard she was coming I thought “I swear I know that name from somewhere, but god knows where”. Anyway, the point of this post is that I have completely fallen in love with spoken word after being involved in this three-day-long experience and I’m happy I now know the awesome Ms Tempest.

A great photo taken by Liz Counsell of my interview with Harry.

As you can probably tell by the fact that I am writing this, I love words. I love the many things you can do with words and how you can control them and make people feel all sorts of emotions. But I never thought about spoken word other than in the sense of rapping or singing. I have now learnt that spoken word artists have often been through some turmoil in life and use the medium as a way to express themselves and feel accepted by others. Whether it’s a broken heart or a broken home, being able to perform their stories on stage was not only clearly therapeutic for the performers but sent chills over my body, made me laugh and made me question this thing called life.

Yes, a bit of poetry performed in the right way really can make you feel all of these things and more. I for one will definitely be going to some spoken word events in Bristol (the city where Harry Baker went to uni by the way) and if you want to feel more enlightened I suggest you do too. Who knows, it might even inspire you to have your own way with words.

[Feature image credit: WENN.com]


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