Young Scots Catch the Beat at Scottish Youth Poetry Slam!

The Scottish Youth Poetry Slam, a bi-annual competition encouraging young people to embrace language through poetry and spoken word, has launched a series of workshops in schools across the country. Now in its 2nd year, the project invites young people from the whole of Scotland to take part in music, poetry and performance workshops leading up to Scottish Youth Poetry Slam 2018. This year’s event has a unique addition: a collaboration with Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) who will create music to go along with the poetry to be performed at the live final.

The workshops will take place across the country - from Inverness to Kelso – over the next two months and regional heats will take place in Stirling and Inverness in early October, with the live final taking place at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock on 31st October 2018.

The Scottish Youth Poetry Slam is supported by the Year of Young People event fund, managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate. The Year of Young People 2018 is a Scottish Government initiative consisting of a year-long programme of events and activities aimed at inspiring all ages of young people by celebrating their achievements, valuing their contributions to communities, and creating new opportunities for them to shine on a local and global stage.

The Slam crosses traditional barriers by using fun, youth culture elements to nurture language and literacy and to engage young people in literature and culture and upskill them with creative ways to manage mental health. The Slam is a fast paced, good natured, highly inclusive competition and, with audience participation, the whole country is involved in representing their area and cheering on their teams.

The project founders, artistic director Rachel Jury and poet Anita Govan, are both dyslexic and have made a successful career out of writing. Both found writing later in life and wanted to do the project to give young people a different route to connect with words and literature. Rachel said: “Both Anita and myself are dyslexic but have still managed to become writers. Poetry is a good medium to do this as it’s about what you want to say and not commas and full stops.

Momtaza Mehri, Young People’s Poet Laureate for London, has given her support to the project and will attend the heat in Stirling on 2nd October, give some input and judge the heat. Commenting on the project, Momtaza said: “Poetry can help young people articulate what they’re going through to themselves and their peers. It can be a solitary coping tool they turn to as well as a form of communication that brings people together. Poetry should be an expressive arena that expands our understanding of each other. I’m looking forward to reading and hearing the poems as well as the unique ways the poets bring them to life. My tip would be to trust your poem and let it lead you. Take the audience along with you on this journey.

Mearns Castle School in Newton Mearns, Glasgow is one of the participating schools, Georgina Godolphin, Drama, English & Learning Support Teacher, commented: "Mearns Castle took part in the 2016 Slam and it had a big impact on the participants. Because it's so inclusive, it opened doors for many pupils and it was a great boost to their confidence when they discovered they had a poem inside them and could express themselves. The Slam was such a hit that the pupils demanded a slam poetry club at school and our music concerts now feature poetry. The impact on the school has been has been phenomenal."

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Ms Hyslop added:  “Using art as a conversation starter, the Scottish Youth Poetry Slam is a unique opportunity to break down barriers and for young people to talk honestly and creatively about issues affecting their lives. I am looking forward to attending this year’s event and hearing from all the entries as we mark Scotland’s Year of Young People. Best of luck to everyone taking part.”

The current titleholders, Port Glasgow High School, will be defending their title. The group of seven’s entry ‘Young Life Crisis’ scooped the award in 2016. Their poem is all about being yourself and making the most of the present and the future. Following on from SYPS2016, the young people of Port Glasgow High have continued the legacy by encouraging younger pupils at their school to take part in lunch time poetry clubs, teaching them the art of slam poetry which have proved very successful.

Port Glasgow High School, said: Winning the title of Scottish Youth Poetry Slam Masters 2016 was amazing and since then we have gone on to teach poetry workshops to primary schools and performed for Prince Harry and Megan Markle at Holyrood House during their first official visit to Scotland.”

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