"It was not about the points, but about the poetry" - UoB takes on UniSlam

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By Nora Gunn, third year English

Spoken word poetry and creative writing society travels to Brimingham to compete in the national Unislam performance poetry competition.

The UniSlam competition is a national poetry event for universities, which combines a mentorship and networking opportunity with a slam, and is a huge event in the poetry calendar. This year we took an auditioned team of five to Birmingham, for three days of workshops and poetry.

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Epigram / Nora Gunn

As always, the atmosphere of the competition was nothing but welcoming, a great help to those on the team who had never performed their poetry before.

The team consisted of seasoned veterans of the poetry stage, Ife Grillo and Eve Piper, as well as new comers Annie Wilson, Ellen Crofton and Ellie Sheppard. They all performed valiantly, and special mention should be given to their group poem ‘I’m breaking up with social media’ which they wrote and memorised in 3 days. UniSlam is unique in the sense that group poems are encouraged, and the positive feedback the team received on this performance was incredibly encouraging.

Unfortunately, despite having come first and third in their prelim rounds, the team didn’t manage to make it into the semi-finals. As the organisers repeatedly reminded us, though, it was not about the points but about the poetry.

The real treat from this event was the high quality of the guest judges, such as Melissa Lozada-Oliva, a world-renowned poet who is just about to begin teaching at NYU. We saw two sets of hers throughout the weekend, which were both hilarious and thought-provoking. My personal favourite moment was her warming up the crowd at the finals in the Old Rep Theatre with a sing-along version of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since u been gone’.

The final showcased some of the best up-and-coming talent in the poetry scene, with Leeds University, The University of Strathclyde, The University of Durham and the University of Birmingham all performing to a standard so high there were mere points in between the winning and losing teams. Eventually Birmingham – the reigning champions – were announced as the overall winners and will be going on to perform in the Verve Poetry Festival later this month, and the final of Hammer & Tongue at the Royal Albert Hall next year.

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Epigram / Nora Gunn

Myself, and all the team, are incredibly grateful for our experience despite not making it through the prelims. The standard was unbelievably high and the learning curve so steep that despite no trophy each of us feel as though we have come away from the weekend richer as poets and people. Next year will be our year though so keep an eye out!

The UniSlam team will be performing at the Poetry and Creative Writing Society open mic, for which the date will be announced soon, so if you are interested in coming along and seeing some wonderful spoken word then you’re in luck!

(Featured image credits: Epigram / Nora Gunn


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