In the Spotlight introduces you to someone who’s involved in Shake the Dust. Spoz is one half of Write Down Speak Up and former Poet Laureate of Birmingham.

Hi kids! I’m Spoz and I’m one of the poet consultants / coaches / general good eggs for the West Midlands. I’ve been working with young people since 2005 when I was made redundant from MG Rover  … and decided to commit myself to poetry! Not much of a life change huh? Designing cars to poetry … practically the same thing – yeah, right! I guess it all really started when I met my good friend, Dreadlockalien, who happens to be the other poet consultant for the West Midlands. We bumped into each other for the first time in 2004, when we recorded some stuff for Radio 4 … and the rest, as they say, is history! I was really chuffed in 2006, when, after a load of encouragement from Dreadlockalien, I became Birmingham’s poet laureate – and I ain’t looked back since!

I do a lot of work with young people in schools, from year one children right up to sixteen year old youths … and beyond! What really keeps me coming back for more is when you get those moments when young people say “I never thought I had all that poetry in me” or “I thought it was going to be really boring … and it wasn’t!” Young people don’t only amaze me on a daily basis, but they amaze themselves … and their teachers! One of my proudest moments stems from Word Cup 2010. Two of the young people I worked with are now Young Poets laureate – one of Birmingham (Demani from Holyhead High School, Handsworth) and the other of Worcestershire (Laura from Woodrush High School, Wythall) – how cool is that!

I’m not sure that young people from Birmingham and the West Midlands differ greatly from young people any where else, but there is something that is unique … and that’s our Brummie accents! A Brummie accent slaps you round the chops like the opening metal guitar riff of a Black Sabbath song. Love it or hate it, you just can’t escape it – and we think it’s BOSTIN!

I really hope that the young people involved with Shake The Dust get a really positive experience that they’ll carry with them for a long time – something that will enrich them as I know, first hand, poetry and spoken word can do. There will be times when they get nervous – even terrified, but that’s natural and it’s cool. Just go with it and then you can look back and say “I did that!”.