“I used to think poetry was just standing on stage and saying loads of stuff, but it’s so fun. You can even dance to it.”

– Shake the Dust workshop Participant.

Acting as a shadow artist on Shake The Dust has been anything but easy.  Two and half months in, it’s safe-enough to book a tattoo artist to emblazon those words permanently along my forearms. I think the challenges and questions I asked myself have been different to what I expected:

What’s the best way to develop writing and performance showcasing the individual voice that’s also built with quality?

How do you keep young people interested enough, to get across the feeling you have in in your bones, that something like this is so worth their while, more than they may yet believe?

We entered Leicester’s New College. Less a school – more a reason to employ a personal map planner to make it through the stretching corridors and 10.5 million students rammed into this lively, unique education setting.

We are only three workshops in and still focusing on creating a core team for the regional finals. Session one? Threw us into the process with an assembly hall sprawling with seventy plus year 9‘s/10‘s, some pushing poems out from the emotion in their eyeballs, other’s just pushing each other restlessly off of chairs.

 

There’s something about the honesty of a table of year 9‘s openly telling you everything they write is rubbish, unless it’s about Call Of Duty, or a timid girl slumped in the back row visually shaking incase she has to read a poem aloud, that remind you there’s something so human about projects like Shake the Dust.

I am learning the more you are able to drop your own barriers, and the less serious you take yourself, the more you are able to engage those you teach and allow them to feel safe to write and express themselves.

For now?

Our ongoing focus is to engrain the motto of developing work that can make you laugh and move you at the same time.

Not to mention shaking any remaining  specks of dust of what poetry is believed to ‘have’ to be from the young people we have the pleasure of working with.