This is what Shake the Dust is all about, changing lives and bringing people together through the power of poetry. Writer and performer Paul Cree tells us about getting heard with spoken word! 

“Of the experiences I’ve gained so far in poetry workshops, one of the most challenging tasks has been trying to convince young people that they have something interesting to say, something that someone else other than themselves, would not only want to read, but hear spoken out loud. For me, one of the joys in seeing poetry performed is hearing the voice from which the poem came. It allows me to connect, if only momentarily, with the writer in a way  that I can’t do with say, a well polished actor performing in a play.

I often get asked what part of London I’m from, when I tell people I’m from Surrey they’re often surprised. Where I grew up wasn’t exactly expensive private schools and country mansions housing Chelsea footballers, images that I think are often conjured up when people think of Surrey, but it was nice enough and quite leafy.

Lots of the families where I went to school and where I lived, had, at some point, moved out from London. Growing up, I  picked up an accent heavily influenced by what GCSE Geography taught us, was called The Thames Estuary, even though we were no where near the river, because of this, and the fact that I was shy and mumbled a lot, I was forever being told to ‘speak properly’.

What was never picked up on, either at school or at home, was that I actually find talking quite difficult, the physical formulation of words in my mouth, would often amount to something like multiple car moterway pile up’s as my brain seemed to keep feeding me ideas that just wouldn’t, and often still don’t, convert into comprehensible sentences, which is why, all those years ago now, writing rap lyrics destined for Drum and Bass and Garage beats was such a relief, because I could take my time with it and work out exactly what I wanted to say and that is still very much the case today.

Performing those words though was an entirely different matter, particularity when I started going to Poetry open mics. I’d never shaken off my childhood shyness, still mumbled and no matter how hard I tried, I still found it very difficult to pronounce every T and TH in a sentence without struggling and becoming embarrassed. I was very self conscious about the way I spoke and thought I would never be taken seriously and at worst, maybe even laughed at.

What I found, after beginning to perform, was completely the opposite. People listened.

Working at the Forest Education Centre, outside of Southampton in theNew Forest and hearing the young people there speak with an accent different to mine is a real pleasure, especially when they realise that they have something interesting and valid to say and there are a whole load of us out there that want to listen.”