Take one experienced, established poet coach by the name of Jon Berkavitch.

Introduce one local emerging poet, Jim Hall acting as his shadow.

Jim & John

(Oh yes, that’s us: myself left, Jon right.)

Assign the pair Nottingham’s QMX dance academy as their hub in which to form a youth poetry slam team representing one strand of the East Midlands, throughout the next four months.

Managed by the charismatic Joseph Hall, QMX is a unique space offering varieties of dance classes yet also providing alternatives for young people not attending mainstream education, and I held expectations of urban, issue-weighted youth potentially dismissing poetry as a valuable way of expressing yourself.

It took only 5 minutes into our opening workshop (built on sharing work and getting to know each other) to learn that sometimes, expectations need to be smashed apart. I felt myself in a place of privilege hearing 4 engaged teenagers voice experiences of discrimination, relationships and responsibilities with such intelligence and clear enjoyment of scribbling them out across paper.

“What you’re saying here, it’s real life, you know?” – a piece of feedback given to another’s developing list poem that has yet to leave my mind.

This is real life, more importantly, this is their life and it’s down to us to support them create work that shows the rest of the world their way of seeing it. This can feel daunting, but if it doesn’t, what’s the point?

So why does Jon feel a project like Shake The Dust is important for these young people and the community as a whole?

Shake The Dust offers a lot of opportunities. Besides a chance to work with professional artists and create original, meaningful work, they have a chance to be a part of something much bigger. Maybe the most important thing about this project is it gives the young people involved the chance to be heard.”

Joseph had these thoughts of his own to share as to what he believes the young people involved can get out of the next 4 months:

“the young people we have at the QMX academy are faced with a variety of issues. I want them to work as a team and express themselves with confidence. To tap into different areas of their lives and not just develop their writing ability. But also explore how to communicate and to believe in their own art form. Whatever it may be.”

My personal hopes? Have a list poem! –

Every single individual involved in the project leaves feeling their worth.
The young people take pride in their words, their worth, and their voice.
I go in completely open to learning from the words and experiences of others.
The art we create is a true representation of those who created it.
It’s fun, it’s challenging, the impact lasts longer than the length of the project.

..and when regional final date hits?

That there will not be a speck of dust unshaken.