Introducing the University of Manchester’s UniSlam team 2017
By Jake Piazza
Tuesday the 15th of November marked the night of The Creative Writing Society’s poetry slam which would choose the team off to the prestigious nationwide Slam competition in January. UniSlam started in 2013 and is a Slam Poetry competition where each university enters a team of four or five members, plus a mentor, and performs throughout the weekend, as well as taking part in workshops and finally competing for first place. First place will get to go and compete internationally in Chicago. The event will take place on the weekend of 29th and 30th of January at the University of Leicester, and Manchester are sending a team.
The highlights of Tuesday’s Slam, which saw 7 poets compete alongside several short non-competitive open mic slots, were poems about race and exploitation through conflict and a bellowed poem about love and ballet dancing which made frequent use of romanticism through details of an anonymous girl.
Judging the event was treasurer of The Creative Writing Society and playwright Beth Woods, head of the UoM Feminist Collectives, Writers Collective Seevana Raghubeer, local poet and Roundhouse slam finalist Bob Horton, poet and co-founder of the poetry collective group Young Identity — a group who run regular events at Contact Theatre — Shirley May, and finally mentor for Young Identity and famous poet Isaiah Hull, who also performed during the evening.
First to perform as a contestant was Stella Ryley who performed a lucid and soft performance: ‘Seamstress’ about depression, which featured frequent use of imagery; performed through a very contemplative and serene tone. The second performer was Jake Piazza who performed an abstract, psychological poem about the damaging nature of mental illness and its destructive effect upon one’s own body, mind and their identity through a crawling pace and irregular delivery. Third performer and Chair of The Creative Writing Society, Roma Havers, performed a rap-like poem ‘Blood in The Water’, which was both a creative, engaging and optimistic poem about identity and performed with a free-flowing pace and clever use of wordplay.
After a short break with comedy and entertainment provided by the MC Ola Youssef, poet Alle Bloom performed an optimistic and highly comedic poem concerning the nature of existence with a lively delivery. This was followed up by Damani Dennisur, who performed an intense and dynamic spoken narrative about a boy who becomes involved in gang culture, which combined the socio-political themes of poverty, gang violence, alongside questions of identity and race together with an intense and painfully tragic narrative.
After this explosive and highly emotive performance, Kayleigh Jayshree Hicks added a political slant to the evening with ‘British Value for Money’, a poem condemning the racism and discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in British society, largely through questioning the impact of said discrimination upon a sense of both personal and national identity.
This poem was delivered with an increasingly harsh delivery, the tone of which can be deduced merely from the continually repeated mantra about receiving ‘value for money yet the hate for free’. The final performer, Liv Barnes, performed a contemplative and sombre poem about alcoholism and explored the tragic figure of the individual alcoholic as being merely one in a slow and painfully silent collective.
This theme was accompanied by frequent use of Christian symbolism and iconography to explore the nature of dependency and the nature of alcohol as means of relief, as well as vivid descriptions of setting to evoke mental imagery, the poem serving to create a highly vivid mental painting of this solitary scene.
Overall, it was a brilliant evening of seriously talented poets and performers showcasing their ability. The winners and now UniSlam team are the following people: Roma, Damani, Kayleigh, Alle and Liv.
After the event Seevana said “It was awesome to hear the unique styles and judging was fun when there was so much variation in speed, rhythm and content. Thoroughly enjoyed listening and being a part of it, the team is gonna be ace” with Beth stating “I just would like to say that it was a privilege to judge such a fantastic event, the performances were all wonderful and showed off the creative talent at The University of Manchester, and I wish the team the very best of luck at UniSlam.”
Last night we raised over £100 but still have a long way to go, in order to make sure we can get to Leicester and stay overnight, we need to raise more money. The committee is working very hard to get funding from the Union but we will also be putting on another Slam on the 8th of December to raise more funds. There will also be a crowdfunding page with rewards such as a personal poem written just for you. The team will be working very hard over the upcoming months to represent your University at UniSlam.
If you would like to support the society or get involved with any of our events we meet every Tuesday, all the details are on their Facebook page and you can contact Roma Havers for more details.