Hello from Apples and Snakes, and goodbye 2022!

A momentous year for us as we turned 40 on 2nd October 2022.  Wahoooo!!!

It’s amazing! What was started by a small collective of poets Mandy WilliamsPete Murry and Jane Addison in a room at the Adam’s Arms, on Saturday 2nd October 1982 is still here, going strong, 40 years later – still producing events, supporting poets and engaging people with poetry. We feel proud that we’ve helped poetry and spoken word grow into the thriving scene it is today. 

At our core, from the beginning has been poets. A belief and practice which still rings true today and which is at the heart of our programming and activity.

We only exist because of the poets we have the privilege to support and nurture. And over the past year, we have worked with fantastic artists.

Given how 2022 started, we are delighted that live events have made a comeback! After a two-year Covid hiatus, we started the year with the ever popular Jawdance returning to Rich Mix in February for its regular monthly slot. March saw the annual Hit the Ode x UniSlam special and subsequently, we went on to deliver events in partnership with Canongate Publishers in London and Birmingham, and with Bloomsbury Poetry at The Last Word Festival. It was great to be back at Roundhouse! Summer was festival season, with gigs at Wilderness and Shambala (including the temptations of a gong bath!).

Our Libraries Out Loud programme blossomed. We delivered SPINE LITE festival across 16 London Library Services, Telling Tales, a Saturday morning club for 7 – 11 year olds, was delivered in more libraries than ever before, and gave children the opportunity to really develop their creative writing. In the summer Library Takeover, with Brent Libraries, led by Kat Francois was a great success with young people learning skills in creative producing as they staged their own event.

We took PLOT17, our hip-hop eco-block party (which tours in a converted horsebox van called IVY) to playgrounds across Lewisham, performing to over 1500 children aged 7 – 11.  IVY also travelled to an adventure playground as part of Lewisham Borough of Culture, as well as to Potters Field for Family Dayz Festival. The ‘Solitary Bee’ song is still buzzing in our heads!  PLOT17 will be on the road again next year.

In October, we were commissioned by Lewisham Borough of Culture to take SPIN, our poetry gig and workshop for kids, to Lewisham libraries. SPIN saw Jan Blake, Adam Kammerling, Simon Mole and Kenny Baraka transform in ‘eco-word-warriors’ to perform the 45 min shows with Laurie Bolger delivering the workshops.

We relaunched our Book A Poet scheme which takes poets into schools and communities, often delivering a first-time experience with a professional poet to the participants.

Our Keats Shelley project ‘Content Cottage’ which will culminate in Spring 2023, saw us visiting a number of secondary schools and includes a teacher’s education pack and digital resource for use inside and out of the classroom.

Supporting and developing artists across the country is at the heart of what we do.

In 2022, we delivered a wide range of artist development programmes including:

  • Words First – the talent development programme for new poets in partnership with BBC 1Xtra and Contains Strong Language Festival 
  • Writing Room – an intensive programme for aspiring writers from across the country which ends with a residential week at Arvon. You’ll spot the poets from this, on our socials, as part of our ’12 Days of Writing Room’.
  • Jerwood Arts/Poetry in Performance Year 2 programme which supported 6 artists (within the first ten years of their practice) to challenge their creative practice
  • Artists Retreats, a new programme, which brought poets together to spend a day recharging themselves with workshops focused on the crossover between wellness and creative writing.
  • Red Sky Sessions, our open access development programme for aspiring writers aged 18 to infinity. This highly popular programme goes out twice a year in March/April and Sept/Oct.

One of our core ambitions is to ‘Go Digital’ – and a small positive to emerge from the pandemic was people becoming more comfortable online helping to accelerate our progress in becoming more digital! We’ve been able to offer our events and workshops online, and we now reach more artists, audiences and participants across the country than ever before.

As part of this ambition, we are delighted to be back with our partners at Elstree Screen Arts filming for our Blackbox series, as well as starting production for Series 3 of Apples and Snakes: The Podcast, which will be out early 2023.

You can catch all this on our website pages READ/WATCH/LISTEN. Blackbox has its own channel on YouTube (@applesandsnakes) and Apples and Snakes: The Podcast is available to listen to on your usual listening platforms (Apple, Spotify etc.)

Our 40th year started with a fantastic special edition of BBC’s The Verb, which was filmed at the Contains Strong Language Festival. Take a listen!

In 2023 as we continue to celebrate our 40th year, we will be working on a couple of big celebratory projects. Future Voices will commission 40 poets from across the country to create short pieces which will shared digitally.

WORDCUP2023 will work with teams of young people across the country to develop confidence, creative writing and community. This programme is an opportunity that is now, sadly, so rare to come across.

We’re running a JustGiving campaign to help support this, so, if you’re able to donate the price of a coffee or more, that would be awesome!  

Look out for our #ThisIsAPoet campaign which often draws on our fabulous archive: Spoken Word Archive

The Apples and Snakes team have shown, yet again, how much they care about the work that we do and supporting the artists we work with. This year we’ve continued to work with Zena Edwards who is helping us push forward with an exciting online community platform and which we’ll say more about next year!  As well as Helen Seymour who’s working with us as Creative Access Consultant, looking at disability awareness and access across our programmes.  

Thanks to all our funders, especially Arts Council England –  we are delighted to remain part of the National Portfolio, our partner organisations whose support enables us to do everything we do, and our board who give up their time voluntarily to support the organisation.  Special thanks to Chris Elwell, who has been our brilliant & supportive chair, who stood down at the December board meeting after 9 years of leadership and wise counsel. Our new Chair will be announced in the new year.

And finally, extra thanks and love to all the Apples and Snakes team for being awesome!