Review: One Mic Stand
By Alle Bloom
One Mic Stand is a night run by Young Identity (a spoken word collective formed in Manchester in 2006 by Shirley May and Ali Gadema). They hold workshops in many venues across Manchester, including the Contact Theatre which is where this event took place.
One Mic Stand is described as a “boisterous night of poetry, music and visual art” and certainly lives up to its name! It is a chance for young poets from the collective to showcase their talent (and snap up the £50 prize should they win!) The night also includes an open mic for those who still want to perform without competing as well as special guest performances. As far as poetry slams go, One Mic Stand follows the usual format; poets recite or read their original work before a panel of judges who each offer a score for content and performance.
The audience at One Mic Stand are often pretty rowdy and do not shy away from letting the judges know what they think in the form of cheers and or boos! One of my favourite things about One Mic Stand is a ritual that has developed over the last two events, started by MC Reece Williams, which involves him hyping up the audience and encouraging everyone to stand up and dance in a mini jam session. The energy in the room quickly skyrockets and any nervous competitors or performers quickly feel at ease!
After the initial jam session — watched by a now hyped audience — the poets take to the stage. A huge array of talent was present, with poets performing in many different styles and tackling many different topics ranging from feminism, to family, to questions of existence. Emily Bloom, a first-time One Mic Stand attendee described the performances overall as “humorous yet moving”.
Notable performances included Kayleigh Hicks who switched up the tone of the slam with a hilarious piece that questioned the traditions of slam poetry, as she strutted about the stage, owning it with her crotch grabs and shiny sunglasses.
Joel Cordingley (the slam winner in my eyes) also stood out with his words drawing in the audience all while confronting him with elegant truths and stunning lines such as
“I know God isn’t dead but I’m terribly worried I’m the reason he’s bed-ridden. I spend most of my days writing bad haikus and feeling as lonely and bereft as the attic space in which Anne Frank was hidden”.
Roma Havers also stunned the stage with a resonant piece about her younger brother confronting seven deadly sins. In the end the emerging victor was Rosie Fleeshman, an incredibly talented poet who had originally been scheduled an open mic slot, but stepped into the slam last minute. Her stand-out piece was one about feeling “like a bad feminist”, real truths entwined with clever relatable humour had the audience both in stitches and nodding in agreement. Having sat through many similar-sounding feminist poems in my time attending slams, it was so refreshing to see one tackled in another way. She was a deserving and talented winner. Of the event she said: “Everybody was exceptionally supportive and the standard was so high I was happy just to make it to the final, never mind to win. The night was an absolute pleasure to be at, such diversity and talent on show”.
The slam performances were followed by special guests Misha B, a long-time supporter of One Mic Stand and a previous attendee of Young Identity, and Tolu Agbelusi. Misha offered the audience hints of wonderful realism through her upbeat soulful music, the room dancing along in a way reminiscent of Reece’s warm up. Tolu also exhibited a beautiful realism in her work, bringing the whole room with her into the stories she told, breaking hearts and mending them as she tackled difficult topics with exceptional grace.
In the words of Kayleigh Hicks, the night was quite simply “a unique showcase of talent in young people living or studying in Manchester” and a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It’s great to see the fresh talent Manchester has to offer, as well as the support they have from the local community in the large number of audience members.
The next One Mic Stand will take place on the 9th of June, in the slightly larger and much coveted Space One in Contact Theatre. If you can’t wait until then, you can find more info on Young Identity here. Or if you have some creative talent of your own you’d like to share Young Identity run workshops on at Tuesday at the Contact Theatre, from 6-8pm and 7-9pm, at HOME on the third Monday of the month from 7-9pm, at Longsight Library on a Tuesday from 5:45-7:45pm and at Central Library on a Thursday from 6-7:45pm.