In the Spotlight introduces you to someone new who’s involved in Shake the Dust…

Chris Jam is Project Manager and one of the Lead Poets for Wordsmith Awards, one of our consulting slam producers in the North West.

Tell us about the work you do with young people

Wordsmith Awards is an inter school performance poetry Wordshop and showcase project which goes into schools across Manchester and works with students for 6 weeks creating and rehearsing original poetry or spoken word.  The project culminates in a showcase with specific prizes for certain categories and certificates and prizes for all students who take part. We have a website (www.wordsmithawards.com), which over the next year will be utilised by working with schools to create original works to be posted up on the site.  The site will also be helping to promote Shake The Dust project.

How did you become a poet?

I originally started out as a DJ in a sound system – Jam MC’s – and during our sets we created a very distinctive poetic style of delivery. In 2000 I created Speakeasy with Segun Le French which went on to become one of Manchester’s best known spoken word events. Over the years with Speakeasy I gradually found my feet as a performance poet.

Tell us about a moment that stands out from your experience working with young people and poetry

There have been many many moments that have sent a jolt of joyous energy up and down my spine whilst working with groups of young people. For instance, the atmosphere at Wordsmith Awards showcases where we experience the fruition of the project, to be amongst these young people and their families who often have not seen their sons or daughters being articulate and confident is indeed priceless. During the nitty gritty of the Wordshops one always comes across some young people with issues and to be a part of enabling them to move forward and create an outlet where they are in charge and able to forge something positive in their lives is extremely valuable. Within the Wordshops we will always encounter one student who has all the components necessary to allow them to develop as an artist of one form or another and assisting these rarefied souls is a sheer honour. Lastly whilst conducting Wordshops I am always without fail struck by the fact that young people are very switched on to what is occurring in the wider world and that these types of activity are essential as a platform to a) give them a voice and b) to relay to adults how important it is to facilitate opportunities where young people can feel like equals with adults especially there teachers.

What’s unique about poetry in Manchester?

Manchester without doubt has an immense amount of talented and passionate poets and a vibrant scene to match.  The work done at Contact Theatre is unparalleled and this is augmented by a plethora of dynamic nights and writing groups like Young Identity, Poets Get Mashed, Manky Poets, Speakeasy and many more.

What do you hope young people in the North West will get out of Shake the Dust?

For me Shake the Dust will give a large number of young people confidence, pride, skills, precious time with young people of like minds, the opportunity for growth, contact with professionals that can enlighten and inspire them and experience of how performance poetry and arts in general can offer them an enriching career path.

What makes a good slam poem?

A good poetry slam needs dedicated and skilled poet facilitators, ample not tokenistic time with their students, skilled project management and well thought out rules for the slam itself designed to let poets express without feeling like their lives depend on it.

What would you like to see happening in the UK youth poetry scene in the future?

Outside of projects like this I feel that the internet is the perfect medium for young poets.

Visit Wordsmith Awards to find out more.