The Last Word Festival is a annual festival of spoken word events at The Roundhouse. The organisation supports young artists with their work, giving them a platform to showcase their work, as well as featuring well-established names in poetry, such as East Anglia’s own Luke Wright. The programme was full of acts happening in every crevice of the building, spilling out into bar, where Talking Doorsteps videos were available to listen to on headphones in seating booths. Read on to find more about some of what this year had to offer.
Talia Randall – Bloodlines
Bloodlines, one of the more innovative and experimental shows of the festival, saw Talia Randall pushing the boundaries of the form by incorporating sound, music, and song. Whilst these elements are common in spoken word poetry shows, in this show they were both integral to the meaning, poetry in themselves, and made in unusual ways. Here, a briefcase would contain the music, like a wound-up music box, and granules would be dropped onto plates, used to make a rhyming soundscape of dinnertime. Lines of text were displayed in the centre and unravelled throughout the show, keeping a sense of anticipation.
Randall attempts to tackle big topics, like Communism, but in a self-conscious way that is accepting of what feels like the impossible magnitude of these subjects. Bloodlines is a multi-layered show, connecting past histories to a present that belongs to both artist and audience.
Deanna Rodger – Home
Curated by Deanna Rodger, Home forced you to change angles when looking at the topic from different perspectives. It highlighted how the meaning of one word can be so different. from start to finish. It began with a heart-breaking sentiment came from Pete the Temp’s video, where he spoke about his experience squatting — the only practical way to begin working as an artist without dependency on the state, an inflexible day-job, or parents. He quoted poet Gerry Potter, stating that it is also a reality that ‘people on the street are dying of hunger in the shadows of empty buildings.’ This is a horrifying statement, but it is true. It has happened, and it will continue to happen until something is done about it.
There was also a screening and reading of experiences of the E15 Mothers’ housing battle. It brought home the idea that even those, like me, who are fortunate in so many ways, are being priced out of London. It’s simply not viable. The gentrification of London has pushed people out of Zone 1, and it will continue pushing. It has been something that I’ve accepted, as if I’m not deserving of such privilege. A happy accident of being born and bred in this city, and somehow I have accepted this impossibility instead of fighting against it.
Roundhouse Collective Showcase
This year’s Roundhouse Poetry Collective are again tutored by poet Bohdan Piasecki, as well as Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson. Members who performed live included Nik Way, Laurie Ogden, Leke Alabi, Toby Campion, Alice Frecknall, Charlotte Souter and Phoebe Wagner. Videos were also shown from members who couldn’t be there, adding an extra dimension to the experience. One of the highlights from the showcase was Nik Way’s attempt to encapsulate protests, and what it feels like to chant whilst marching in unity. It was introduced naturally with humour and generated a successful feeling of hope and solidarity, and got over wider political ideas through the poem without it feeling didactic.
Tom Gill – Growin’ Pains
This was a scratch that left me wanting more, as I became completely absorbed in the story, even with incomplete sections. Tom Gill has a clear use of rhythm and rhyme, but also breaks out of his patterns of delivery. Recently having released a video on a poem called ‘Magazines’ that links different brands of magazines and shops (better not to get into the Nicki Minaj vs. The Smiths line), he’d woven tube stations in one section. This however also links to one issue that presented a contradiction within his gender politics.
Gill rejects his so-called friends’ laddish ‘banter’ (which is actually misogyny). This was in actual fact so good, that it brought tears to my eyes. So therefore it was disappointing that when he meets a girl in London, he references how large her breasts are in a way that suggests he’s still got some growing to do. Growin’ Pains addresses an important subject matter surrounding gender and masculinity, but this just means it’s even more vital to get it right. I hope to catch the show again when it’s finished to see if these issues get ironed out.
Becci Fearnley – A City of Foxes
I had seen snatches of this show before, but here it was pretty much complete, so we were treated to a full scratch show, beginning to end. Initially I was worried how Becci Fearnley would tackle such a huge and complicated subject, which essentially boils down to the issue of racism within Britain today and what it means to be British. The show narrates the story of a young girl who is half white half Indian, and an old woman, who could be seen as that clichéd ‘racist nan’ if the stereotype wasn’t sadly far too true for 2015. If it wasn’t for the complexity of the subject matter, it would be faultless.
it should be a dialogue, a conversation about the issues
‘A City of Foxes’ uncovers and how communities can
be brought together
At times I felt uneasy about the old lady’s narrative — the sympathy it evoked reminded me The Secret Garden, where the young racist girl provokes sympathy from the references to her loneliness. However, there is an intention here. The old woman needs to appear human, harmless even, in order to target those who this is aimed at, and also for to get us talking about this issue, to grapple with it in the way I am working out what I feel here. This review isn’t something that can end with what I think, but rather, it should be a dialogue, a conversation about the issues ‘A City of Foxes’ uncovers and how communities can be brought together
These are just some of the emerging artists who are being supported through the Roundhouse’s ‘Young Creatives’ Programme from those age 16-25. To find out more about The Last Word Festival and other artistic interests, sign up to the Roundhouse mailing list.