The Marlowe
Having your voice heard

Having your voice heard

Ahead of this month’s LicKitySpit poetry slam, we spoke to co-producer and host Henry Maddicott about the ‘welcoming buzz’ people can expect at the events and the importance of having your voice heard, appreciated and accepted.

There’s just one week to go until the next LicKitySpit. The monthly poetry slam takes place at The Marlowe Kit and has a different theme and guest headliner at each event.

LicKitySpit is presented by Rough Cut Collective – a programme founded by Beth Cuenco from Wise Words Festival with the aim of promoting poetry across Kent.

Henry, a spoken word artist and member of the collective, says: “Rough Cut Collective (RCC) members had been active in the poetry community for some years both performing at and running events. We had a wealth of experience between us that we wanted to put it to use on a professional stage.

“Having competed in and hosted loads of different slams in the past, we knew we wanted to take the best bits from all of them and jettison the bits we didn’t like until we came up with what, to us, is the perfect slam event. The Marlowe were looking to incorporate poetry into their programme and everything came together.”

As part of RCC, Henry wants to show that poetry is for everyone to enjoy.

“Our goal is to engage our local community with poetry making sure people know you don’t need a fancy degree in English to be able to understand it, real poetry is for everyone and comes from the heart.”

“When people hear ‘poetry events’, I feel they often think of dark rooms with people wearing moody expressions under their berets, nodding their clever heads in silent approval as someone shouts incomprehensible nonsense at them. And sure, we’ve got nothing against berets but LicKitySpit is all about making noise and having your voice heard.”

During the LicKitySpit events, 10 poets are each given three minutes to perform a poem. Each month there is a different theme for this work to be based around. Afterwards the audience are given the chance to judge what they’ve heard, which Henry explains is “all good, supportive fun.”

“The judging element is not to make people feel bad but to encourage the audience to actively engage with their work and to ignite discussions,” he says.

“There is always an excited and welcoming buzz around these nights that I’m really pleased we’ve cultivated. People can expect lively, hilarious and hard-hitting performances from all who perform, this is the biggest poetry stage in Canterbury so people always bring their best work. We also have exhibitions from local visual artists to help bring together artists from different creative walks.”

“The local winner gets to come back the next month and kick off our evening with a paid 15-minute slot. This is part of our commitment to providing paid opportunities for local artists as well as giving them a chance to perform for longer than the three minutes slam time which is always a constraint.”

As well as giving local artists the chance to perform, each slam features a different headliner. This month’s is MC, poet and singer Dizraeli – who previously won the BBC Poetry Slam Championship and has recently released his first self-produced album The Unmaster. Previous headliners have included UK National Poetry Slam champion Birdspeed and internationally touring poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams.

Henry says: “We go for the philosophy of aim high and see what happens. Essentially, we pick our favourite artists that we’ve admired from afar for years and see if we can convince them to come and perform.”

Henry feels LicKitySpit is an important event that brings a number of benefits to the people involved.

“These events are vital for giving people a chance to share and develop their work in a supportive, if slightly competitive, environment,” he says.

“Poetry events give people the chance to share what is sometimes deeply personal work that they may not even feel comfortable sharing with their closest friends and family and yet these nights give them permission to share it with a room full of strangers.

“It’s not about group therapy but about being able to, for a short time, have your voice heard, appreciated and accepted. The competition side helps draw a crowd but also gets audiences engaged and pushes poets to develop their work. There are very few performance formats that are able to do all of this.”

LicKitySpit: Wednesday 18 March