Spoken word, the live performance of poetry or prose, has a rich history within the Manchester region.

Nearby Salford was the home of famous ‘punk poet’ John Cooper Clark, and to this day the medium remains fervently popular among the area’s residents. This public interest has increased in recent years, and Manchester now has one of the most exciting spoken word scenes in the country.

Evidently

Manchester and its surrounding towns are home to a vast range of literary organisations, all retaining their own distinct identity. Salford hosts Evidently, one of the fastest growing events of its kind. Started in 2013 by Salford’s own Ella Gainsborough and Kieren King, the night is hosted every other Monday at the town’s Eagle pub. Featuring two guest performances and open mic sessions, Evidently presents a diverse bill of artists, guaranteeing that no two evenings are the same. In the video at the top of this page, find out what Evidently is all about from the perspective of its founders. Alongside its regular poetry readings, Evidently have also been running a web series entitled The First Time. The series of films feature different contributors discussing their initial ventures into spoken word performance. Below, find out how participant Noemi Scotellaro ended up on stage at the Eagle.

The Other Room

Over at Manchester’s Castle Hotel, spoken word series The Other Room presents the art form at its most experimental. Launched in 2008 by writers James Davies, Scott Thurston and Tom Jenks, The Other Room hosts a mix of artists, poets and prose writers. Contributors are encouraged to be bold in their approach, and the result is one of the most wonderfully unpredictable programmes that Manchester has to offer. In the video below, watch American poet Charles Bernstein read from his book Pitch of Poetry

Young Identity

Offering another fresh approach to the art of spoken word is Young Identity, a collective formed in 2006 by Shirley May and Ali Gadema. The group has since grown to include 26 members, and has worked with prominent literary performance artists such as Zena Edwards and Saul Williams. Below, immerse yourself in the intricate wordplay of Identity & Me, a newly commissioned short film featuring Young Identity members Isaiah Hull and Esther Koch.

Last year marked Young Identity’s 10th anniversary. In celebration of the milestone, the group worked with Manchester’s Contact Theatre to put on a show called Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. The event was held in collaboration with two other spoken word collectives. One was Speakeasy, a predecessor of Young Identity set up by Chris Jam, Segun Lee French and Michael Barnes-Wynters, and Inna Voice, which was recently formed by some of Young Identity’s own members.

AndWhat TV

The spoken word scene in Manchester is developing all the time, and a particularly notable addition in recent years has been the YouTube channel AndWhat TV. Founded and directed by Manchester-based performance poet Nicole May, AndWhat is a vital platform for some of the UK’s most powerful voices working in spoken word. Below, watch a performance by Calvin Made-Son Early, specially created for the channel.

The thriving performance poetry and live literature scene in Manchester and its surroundings has positioned the region as the UK’s centre for spoken word. By championing a dynamic art form that speaks to our times, Manchester showcases British culture at its most raw.

 

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