LUSO Theatre Arts program, Learning Disability Association London Region, and Youth Opportunities Unlimted (YOU) are some of the community organizations that have summer poetry workshops with poet Holly Painter. She explained that since each of their groups have their own goals, she runs these events to encourage youth to get involved in spoken word and writing, and to remind them that they have a voice.
“I sort of go in and model that and talk a little bit about what I do in spoken word, and how I use my voice to communicate, share my stories, and speak up on things that I find important, and that they can do the same thing too.”
Painter said the London Poetry Slam performers come in a variety of ages, but the topics in their poems are similar. “You may have a 15-year old talking about their first love, and then you may have someone older talking about heartbreak,” she explained, “That’s universal, that’s just being human.”
Since it used to be her biggest fear, Painter had many tips to help with public speaking, such as drinking water, avoiding big meals, and using a notebook instead of using a piece of paper. “One of the biggest things I’ve had to realize when I’ve been performing is that the audience really wants you to succeed,” she said, “Nobody really wants you to go up there and just make a total fool of yourself. They’re really rooting for you.”
She also said watching performances from the London Poetry Slam helped her feel more confident about public speaking. “You kind of start to feel a pull towards it, and you start to hear other people’s stories and you start to hear how powerful those stories and voices are and the effect they are having on you,” she said, “Once you get the itch to get up there, it never really goes away.”
Photo courtesy of Holly Painter