You could hear the dust shake at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton where the South East regional final took place last night. MC Kenny Baraka had the crowd with him, saying: Shake the … And the crowd responded by making a noise that actually sounded like dust being stirred up, shaken, swept away.

 

I was stirred, shaken and swept away by all the performances. Every single person on the stage was a winner and I have to blame the dust because I got tears in my eyes, seeing how much effort the young people had put in.

 

 

Who won? Well,  Samuel Cody Specialist Sports College in Farnborough was the highest scoring team. The judges – who had a tough job – praised them for their sense of humour and the fact that they had so much fun on stage. What’s important to remember though is that the Samuel Cody team – also knows as the Awkward Squad – will represent ALL teams from the South East when they go up to the national final in London next week. Every single team contributed something to the whole and special awards were also given for such things as best line and best performance technique.

 

 

Just after all the teams had had their rehearsal with mikes on stage, I went round asking how they were feeling.

 

Scared. Excited. Scared. Excited. Scared. Excited …

 

 

The responses were mixed, but I think you need that adrenalin rush, that mixed between fear and excitement to do a brilliant performance. But Shake the Dust is so much more than just a competition. This is what one girl told me:

 

“It’s been an amazing journey for me. I always thought that poetry was just talking, talking, talking, but now I’ve learnt that you have to write the words and then learn them and perform them and it turns into something really amazing. It gives me hope for the future”

 

During the day the students from the five different schools (Forest Education Centre, Redbridge Community School, Samuel Cody Specialist Sports College, Harrow Way Community School and Quilley School of Engineering) were mixed up into different workshop groups led by poet coaches and shadows. For me that was the most enjoyable part of the day and one guy told me:

 

“It was great working with other people and making new friends. Whatever happens in the final I will keep doing poetry stuff”

 

 

And when seeing guest performers Slam Champion Dizraeli and Beatbox Champion Bellatrix entertain at the end of the evening, I heard a voice in the next row saying:

 

“This is so inspiring! I didn’t know that poetry could be so cool!”

 

The National Final takes place over three days 5-7 July at the Southbank Centre in London and that will be one of the coolest poetry events in the country so don’t miss it!