THE NEED FOR SLAMFRESH IN NEWCASTLE: BY ROWAN MCCABE

Myself and fellow poet Don MacDonald started SlamFresh because we both feel that there are very few opportunities for under 18s to perform at poetry events. Often poetry slams and open mics happen in a pub or a bar, so the only chance young people get to perform their work is in a school setting, which can leave it all feeling a little academic. 

What me and Don both love about poetry, and slam poetry in particular, is that it can be enjoyed outside of an academic setting- it can be exciting and relevant and a good night out. 

Our idea was to work with a group of year 8 and year 9 students in Walker Riverside Academy to write slam poetry and get it ready for performance. We worked with a diverse group of fifteen young people; some had written lots of poetry already, many had never engaged with it willingly before.

We began by talking about the similarities between lyrics and poetry, and wrote our own boast raps, which really helped to unlock the students’ potential. We kept things playful for those who didn’t want to boast about themselves too seriously! Over the course of seven weeks, we experimented with a variety of writing styles and techniques, encouraging the young people to find their own voice and reinforcing the idea that slam poetry is a place where all approaches are welcome. We talked about everything from our passions in life, to our childhood memories, to our perfect worlds – the results have been really impressive.

At the end of the seven weeks, we hosted the final slam in Space 2, a youth project right in the heart of Newcastle’s city centre.

From the beginning, the young people played an active role in running the event, from helping us to decide on a venue, to giving it the name – ‘Frankly My Dear, I Don’t Give a Slam’, which I believe is possibly the best title for a poetry night I’ve ever heard.

We had seven brave slammers take part and the group were really excited by the time we got there. For me, this was what it was all about: making poetry feel like fun. Seeing how much extra work they had put into editing their poems and polishing their performance was also really rewarding. In the end, none of us were really concerned with who won or lost.

The important thing was that we got to showcase a range of exciting new voices.

As for SlamFresh, we believe this is just the beginning. Our ultimate goal is to run a series of these projects and to create a regular showcase of the region’s young talent, where groups from different schools and community projects can come together and share their work with each other. Who knows, some of them may even start their own poetry night!

For now, we leave you with some pictures and the fantastic poems produced on the project.

 


Da Gangta Geek

The name’s G.F.H.
Comically man is great.
You are a state, full of hate, you like to dictate.
I’m a kind king with a high IMDB rate.
Forget those other fools because I am the greatest actor.
Comedic genius, make you laugh then collect my Oscar after.
Popping out songs like maternity wards pop out babies,
getting platinum and getting them ladies.
I’m on fire like a quasar, front man of a band.
You’re like Star Wars sequels, sand.
Think you know stand up, sit down.
Watched them all, the G never frowns.
Carlin, Murphy, even Bo Burnham.
Like A.I I’m forever learning.
The king on Simpson’s trivia,
goodbye Apu real homies live forever.
I’m a god sacrilegious,
grab the drink and do the dishes.
The best at cards against humanity,
offend you so hard you’ll lose your sanity.
Pull up in the hood like bang bang bang,
then maybe a clang clang clang,
and then you’ll be like: ‘Stop playing the drums’.
Then I’ll be like: ‘Sorry.’
My name’s G.F.H
You’ve been great.

– by George


An Ode to Punk

I like punk and new wave,
I’m not one for a rave. Punk teaches you to misbehave
to rebel; anarchy’s uprising
with what happened back then it isn’t surprising,
with evil Maggie Thatcher and the oppressive miner’s strike.
Punk rock is dead but it’s had an eventful life.
Because there’s no more heroes anymore,
electric guitars washing upshore.
The 70’s needed it, the 80’s had it, we want it.
Sure I love Neil Young and the Gorillaz sick beats
but punk rock simply reached higher feats
and although post punk’s banging
Joy Division and Talking Heads
Punk still is dead.
But punk still lives amongst the rare few
wearing strait jackets and Dr Martin shoes.

– by George


New York City

New York City has a pungent smell
of fast food grease and grimy sewage.
The sad, depressed homeless people
roam the cold claustrophobic
streets with empty coffee cups
in hand.

Large stadiums hold thousands
of basketball fans.
Frantic workers running into
colossal buildings on the main streets.
Babies and children were screeching
in the packed toy shops.
The rank taste of sick and tobacco
filled everyone’s mouths.
Engines roared and boisterous
citizens were rushing.
The city is vast and dirty.
Dark dressed goths sat on
benches smoking in Central Park.
The neon lights shone bright,
while everyone stood in awe.

This is New York City.

– by Teale


I Remember 

I remember the chimes in the wind.
The candy floss clouds.
The squeaking of the swings and
the periwinkle sky.
I can still vision the terror on my
face when I realised I was falling.
The shock on my friend’s expression,
I remember my eyes closing.
The loud crunch of tyres on the gravel
and the rushed car journey to
the hospital.
Running to the E.R with weak limbs
on the operation table and falling
to sleep.
I remember seeing my bright pink
cast getting physio.
Having my pins and wires removed
and looking at both painful scars
on either side of my right arm.
I remember finding out I was
double jointed.

 

– by Teale


I Remember

I remember when I was on my grandad’s horse Picky all by myself. I remember when I had some money.

I remember when I went through MacDonald’s drive-through and got a burger on my horse.

I remember when I went to Asda to get some chocolate on my horse.

I remember when I thought it was cool and I made the horse go very fast in the car park.

I remember when the horse slipped on the tarmac.

I remember a man running over and seeing if we were OK.

I remember when I did not go back to the stable after falling off.

I remember when I went back out on the poor horse.

I remember when I got back to the stable and the horse lay next to me.

– by Charlie


In my world I would like to just have everything so if I said I wanted a bike it would appear for me. If I said I wanted a rollercoaster it would appear for me. Everyone who has passed away would come back and they would look the same. I would like a big massive dirt track that is so epic. You will never get fat so I could eat all the food I wanted, like the pizza would be the size of one whole school. You would be able to grow a money tree in the autumn. All the money would fall off.

– by Charlie


My First Bike

My mum and dad bought me my first ever bike! At 7 years old it was a great surprise. It was in my hallway at my old flat. It was a Hello Kitty Bike and I liked Hello Kitty. I really wanted to have a go at riding it. So, because I wanted to have a try, we went to the park that’s right next to my block of flats and had a go. My Mum, sister and Dad came with me. When I got on, I was a bit wobbly and I fell off quite a lot. I could smell the fresh grass and I could see all of the kids playing in the play area. I could feel the hard concrete that I fell on. I could hear the screaming and shouting of the kids having fun. I could taste the bits of blood on my hand. I may have had some cuts and bruises but I was alright. I got there in the end.

– by Lilian


I am better at guitar than James Hetfield and Myles Kennedy put together,
If you see me battle with them, you would never see me lose, ever!
You could see my fabulous drawing techniques in seconds,
I can beat all of you cretins.
I have the best creativity skills,
I could pay all of your bills in a flash.

– by Lilian


My Poem of My Day

First I remember meeting my Aunty.
First dogs, their names were
Pepsi and Dave. They’re both Staffies.
The dogs made me instantly love them by
licking me and cuddling with me. I then went
to Essex. Then the water park I could smell
chlorine and taste chlorine. All
I could see was children laughing, crying,
I could hear water and splashes as well.
I met my cousin for the first time her name is
Robyn. I was about 4 years old when we
met and I really liked meeting her. So when
I was only 2 and I was climbing on the sofa
and I fell and broke my arm.

– by Libby


My day was great yesterday. My alarm woke me up from my slumber so I got up and went to my dining room to watch TV then I went back to sleep. I felt ill that morning so then I ate four bags of crisps. I don’t know why I just did. I love to make my friends only my hand hates me it’s asleep. I hate it when my hands go to sleep.

– by Libby


Anxiety: a raging ball of stresses and unnecessary overthinking, rough and hot, melting the skin from my hands. It bounces and gets bigger, trying to escape the grip of me, its victim. Yet when it realises how lonely it’ll be, it runs straight back attacking me like a violent dog. It tries to be soft and comforting yet there isn’t a bigger contrast as its horrific outside feels like a life-threatening sting from a black widow.

– by Sydney


A Manifesto

1. Wake up to just fall back onto your soft pillow for another ‘5 minutes’.

2. Never think that you’re higher than anyone else in your life for, little do you know. the boy in the back could grow up to look upon you from a plane, smiling wildly in his heaven.

3. Go to schools, have a laugh with your friends. Soon enough, you’ll fall apart.

4. Make mistakes. Start over and redraft until you’ve found one right sentence or eyelash of a painting.

5. Always be kind. Even if you’re kicked or punched each day. Everyone is fighting a battle you have no idea about.

6. Wake up to your mind in the same pit and drown deeper into the sea of quilts. Close your eyes tight and open them into a black lonely dead silent room where a numbing sword is stabbing at your chest and brain. Scream and nothing comes out. Grab your head and squeeze your knees against your forehead and… Be kind to yourself too, take a day to breathe.

7. Be humble. Consider the hardships of life and never forget the suffocating saddening, sea of struggles that press harshly on chests of the weak.

– by Sydney


I Remember

I remember skipping home, my worn out black shoes slapping the ground violently as my 5-year-old brain got more and more excited for tiny chewy, golden gummy bears that would fill the pit of emptiness within me. Sighing, the cashier sighed but smiled sweetly as I threw my one and two pennies on the counter and hurriedly swallowed my rainbow goodness.

I remember my cousin and I in our own world, playing the secret agents in our dreams, laughing carelessly as we basked in our imaginary bliss. The huge banana slide was our base and we used the sticky chocolate covered mud to send messages.

I remember the blinding, flashing blue lights outside my window when my neighbour… The street was a fair and I was on the baby caterpillar ride.

I remember making weird food creations with my only friend. We mixed banana with chocolate ice cream. Licking it cautiously, we scrunched our noses in disgust.

I remember my old school and how
cracks invaded each wall. The smell
of sterile spray stinging my eyes
and attacking my nose like
soldiers in battle.

I remember the soft
morning ‘hello’ from the
pastel sky in my hair as
I sat in my vast garden.

I remember the towering
giant with teeth like
shards of glass, a wooden face
pouting at me from my window that
threatened to fall.

I remember the ancient metal gate’s
familiar screams like laughing hyenas
once again flooding my brain,
deafening my emotions.

I remember strumming the strings of
my favourite instruments, an off tune
melody flooding my ears and making
the world violently cringe.

– by Sydney


What do I like?
Well, I like,
I like to hike.
I’m not a quitter,
but I’ve never finished one.
I’m simply a beginner.

What do I… like?
I don’t know,
You tell me.
I do like to take my canoe for a row
in the chilly river.
The slow waves hit my body
and I suddenly quiver.

What do I actually like?
Questions running through my head.
What do I like?
I do not know what to like.
I do not know what to hate.

Now I’m wondering,
what do I like?

I like music.
(Really, do you?) <- Inner voice in my head
I like singing.
(You sound like a chicken)
I love ballet.
(No you don’t)

– by Catia


My perfect world (#complicated)

Nobody has a perfect world. Beauty,
lushness, greatness success and amusement, why
would you want that for free if you could just
work for it instead? My perfect world already exists.
Things are already meant to be and we can’t
change them because if I got everything I wanted
I would just be a horrible, spoilt, obnoxious little girl
and that would make this world so much more chaotic
and I would be dead by the time I was 6 because of
a sugar addiction.

In conclusion the world should be left how it is currently.

– by Catia


I Remember

I remember running into my brand new rooms,
wondering what my wallpaper was going to do.

I remember counting sheep on entry
that were filled with the cries of my little devilish sister.

I remember when life was so easy,
everything was done for me.
Clothes ironed, lunch made and packed,
help with homework, dropped off at school.

I remember all the nights when my dad was mad at me
for purchasing too many clothes.

I remember when my brothers would bring out the horses
making me run away with fear of
massive beaming eyes,
and their enormous bodies chasing after me.

I remember the horrible day when I was locked
in my dad’s stable storage room
and I cried till I had no energy.
It was a 2 minute eternity!

– by Catia


So on a cold Christmas eve me and my mam also my stepdad, went for some bits and bobs. We parked right outside and all of a sudden I stepped out of the car and then I jammed my finger in the car door. I screamed and I really couldn’t be bothered because it was freezing and I was terrified I didn’t even want to look at it. It was all black and blue it was literally throbbing everyone was just looking at me because I screamed so loud even the pigeons got a fright. I was really looking forward to Christmas but I had to go to the hospital on “Christmas eve”. And I was so scared because I saw a big needle and the nurse said don’t look and she stuck the needle all the way through my nail and bone I felt sick but I felt glad because I could go home for Christmas. It was quite funny on Christmas morning because my brother and sister had to help me open my Christmas presents and we were all laughing.

– by Paris


I am the queen of girly fashion I like sparkly things and girly stuff like jewellery the colour of pink and I love learning new things about make-up and hair like a beauticianist. I like to design clothes like dresses, skirts and also accessories earrings, hats, bracelets, necklaces and thinking outside of the box.

– by Paris


Rain is like a Treasure Chest

walked.
The purpose for why I did so was unknown.
The previous rainfall left treasures behind.
However, only some appreciate them.
The dews, the freshly fallen dews,
the dews that hang on the now crystal-like webs,
spun with both precision and care.
The long overdue sunlight reflecting the small drops
of liquid.
Making them glint,
like jewels on a necklace.
Rain is like a treasure chest.
The newly made puddles that now reside on the
floor, their glory disappearing soon enough.
The kids scattering about in their raincoats,
all rushing at once.
Their boots smashing the glass surface.
The images that hide in the puddles
scattering the fractals of light that reflected,
reflected the images of the surroundings that looked
down at the puddles, as if they were inferior to them,
like their excellence is too much just to be copied,
copied to be put in a mere, fragile structure.
Rain is like a treasure chest.

– by Jody


Writing has a power. I have a passion. Combine the two and BAM! You have me, a book crazy girl with a love for horror movies and novels, manga, and mostly anime. All which I spent way too much money on. But it’s worth it! If you buy a book, you’re essentially buying another world. A side story to reality. Though not everyone likes that. People say reading and watching anime is for nerds. You know, the silly stereotypical people who get judged for liking to learn? I mean, what’s wrong with that? Learning is great, apart from maths. Maths is like, insanely burnt bacon compared to English. English is a full English Breakfast! Eh? Eh? Get it? Because it’s English? Oh nevermind I’ll stop.

– by Jody


Walking Down the Streets

I’d light you up like a light,
like a light.

The motion I feel is robot-like,
robot-like.

The future for me is too bright,
too bright.

I’ll hit you with a left and a right,
and a right.
Sort your position out, it’s too tight,
too tight.

When I get in the ring it’s such a sight,
such a sight.

Boxing’s what I do overnight,
overnight.

(Chorus)

Boxing is my chore.
Wanna do it more and more
After you spar with me you will be sore. I’d win in a fight against the earth’s core.
Don’t answer me with a no.
Don’t ever dare call me bro.
If you do you’ll be a servant like a crow.

– by Charlie


What a plumb. What a bum. I’ll beat you like a drum. What is your name, chum? Ha what a name this isn’t how you play this game. That’s just lame. You are lame, that’s what I said. I think you need to back to bed. After this line you will be dead. Is it true you live in a shed?

– by Charlie


I am like a walking anime encyclopaedia.
I am mosuto of blood and death of Japanese media.
I know about Dragon ball super and I know Beerus can be defeated by Goku.
If you don’t believe me I will show you.

– by Artjoms


My perfect world would be amazing. There would be no teachers and there would be everything you ever wanted. All you would have to do is think about it and it would appear. Buildings would be made of anything you want and you could have anything inside of them. Any furniture, any food and any leisure of whatever size. There would be anyone you wanted to see and all illnesses wouldn’t be a thing. There would be no work or school. There would be phones and outdoor activities like biking.

– by Artjoms


Mince and dumplings are as dark as the moon.

Mince and dumplings are as horrible as the gristle sometimes.

Mince and dumplings taste bad a lot when they’re under cooked.

Mince and dumplings are nice like pancakes.

– by David


Urg this place makes me wanna cry,
they moan about my shoes, my hair, even my tie.
I don’t know why we’re treated like fleas,
black and yellow ties!? I’m not a bumble bee! They don’t care about us they just want to teach,
I think I’d learn more if I was taught by a leech. These people do my nut in every single day,
they’re never satisfied until they get their own way.
I feel like I’m being lectured over and over,
can I swap with someone who’s in a coma? They shout and rant when I’m on the bleachers.
Urgh can’t the government fire these teachers?
In this place there’s nothing to achieve.
Thank goodness the bells’ gone- I can leave

– by Georgia


I like to act comedic especially on stage.
If I was in a book people would skip to find my special page.
Acting is my passion and all those parts I’ve took.
Judge me? Expect a sarcastic look.
I’ve aced literally all my tests,
don’t challenge me ‘cause everyone knows I’m the best.
You could say I’m amazing, that’s pretty clear,
everyone knows I’M the one to fear.
I like music, that’s why I dance.
Fail once? Don’t expect a second chance.
I like art cause I’m good at that too,
Don’t challenge me cause I could draw rings around you.

– by Georgia


I Remember

My childhood was absolutely glorious,
I honestly had the best times being a
mischievous little diva.

I remember when me and my dad
were in Paris and we went to a
toyshop just to look around.
Little did he know a perfect Barbie
doll was standing there, looking back at
me with shimmering plastic hair.
I HAD TO HAVE IT!!!
She was smiling at me like we were
best friends.

Next thing you know, I’m rolling on the
floor, begging my dad to let me claim
her.
I wasn’t going to take no for an
answer.
I could see my dad standing there with
trepidation.
Finally, he came to his senses.

I guess Karma caught me.
I remember falling off a red vintage
chair and was so dramatic about it
that I laid on the floor for 1 minute
waiting for my dad to pick me
up. He wanted to laugh but my
very serious face told him, ‘don’t push it’.

Even though most of time I was being
a little drama queen, I was pretty hilarious.
I actually accidental re-created a
scene in Bambi.
Basically, it was pyjamas day at school
and my bestie Adrienne and I
came to class wearing bunny onesies.
At break, I was going to re-unite with
her to play…
Then CRASH!!!
I was laying there on the concrete
floor just like thumper on ice.
Iconic, eh?

– by Shana


I’ve Been Wondering…

I’ve been wondering…
Imagine in another world, in another universe…
People could smell videos…

How mind blowing is that???
Imagine just freezing someone’s snap on snap-
chat and they let out gas?
How hilarious would that be?
It’ll almost kind of make you sorry for them.

I wonder what it would be like if
people acted like animals.
Like as if we were all feral
children.
TBH we all kinda are. We have really
bad mood swings that make us all
look like hot-headed pigs.
Our teeth are sharp and just weird. Ew.
We bark at little kids and scare them away.
I don’t know about you but this is pure
proof that we have scary animal syndrome.

(It’s not an actual thing but it sounds
cool so I’ll let it be. )

– by Shana


Rowan McCabe is a spoken word poet and workshop facilitator who regularly performs his work around the UK. He has appeared at Glastonbury Festival and the Royal Albert Hall, was the winner of the 2015 Great Northern Slam, was longlisted for a 2018 Saboteur Award and his work has been featured in the Guardian, on BBC Breakfast and was commissioned by Radio 3’s The Verb. He has ran poetry and performance workshops for New Writing North, The Forge and in 2018 was invited to run a week’s worth of sessions in The British School in the Netherlands.

Don MacDonald has performed at Glastonbury, was a Great Northern Slam 2017 semi-finalist and won the 2018 Great Gateshead Slam. He runs the region’s most successful spoken word event – Born Lippy, which showcases slam poets and international performers with support from national spoken word organisation Apples and Snakes. He was a Senior English Lecturer at Newcastle College, a youth worker for 13 years and has delivered poetry projects on behalf of Scotswood Area Strategy and Excelsior Academy. He has just completed an MA in creative writing at Northumbria University.

SlamFresh was funded by the Community Foundation and ran in conjunction with Apples and Snakes.

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