Anyone who’s witnessed a group of young people up on stage, putting everything they’ve got into a slam poetry performance, will know that youth slam is alive and well in the UK. Across the country, diverse and different slam programmes bring poetry into schools, theatres, community centres and youth groups, making it meaningful for all kinds of young people, often in unexpected ways.

Programmes run by Spiel Unlimited and The Poetry Slam in the South West, Dreadlockalien and Spoz in the West Midlands, Young Identity and Wordsmith Awards in Manchester, Radikal Words in the North East, Leeds Young Authors and the London Teenage Poetry SLAM are examples of this powerful and often life-changing work.

Several of these programmes have national and international reach. Since 2003, Leeds Young Authors has brought a team of young people to Brave New Voices, the United States’ national youth poetry slam, to represent the UK. The London Teenage Poetry SLAM continues to send young poets to Chicago every year. Dreadlockalien’s UK Schools Poetry Slam Championships scout out spoken word talent in schools across the country.

SLAMbassadors UK, headed by Joelle Taylor for the Poetry Society, is a national online youth slam which has been running for the last ten years. Young people submit their work via video and winners take part in workshops and a live showcase. You only have to look at the young people who come out of this programme to see what an impact it has.

In 2006 and 2010, Apples and Snakes organised WORDCUP. Inspired by the football world cup, the project brought together many of the organisations above in national poetry slam project across nine regions of England. This culminated in a national youth poetry slam weekend, which in 2010 took place at Contact theatre, Manchester, complete with vuvuzelas, a screaming crowd and poems to bring down the roof.

So where does Shake the Dust come in? Inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Shake the Dust is the first national youth poetry slam project of its scope. Through collaboration and partnership between slam producers, venues, poets and educators, the project will reach young people in a wide range of schools and youth groups in each region, culminating in regional slam finals and a national weekend showcase and celebration in July 2012 in London.

What makes Shake the Dust different is the scale of the project and the commitment up and down the country to creating a national youth poetry slam that will set a precedent for the UK. This is a chance, not only to take part in a vibrant and far-reaching project, but to look forward, to a time when US youth slam teams begin clamouring to experience youth poetry on this side of the pond.