ArtHouse Jersey commissions four poems from the UK Slam Pioneers – Farrago Poetry

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ArtHouse Jersey has commissioned the renowned UK based ‘Farrago Poetry’ to produce four performance poems aimed at young people aged 11 to 14, in the hope that this fresh material will tap into shared experiences and inspire even more creativity.

Farrago Poetry, the spoken word organisation based in London is best known for being the UK SLAM! poetry pioneers. For this unique collection they have brought together poets John O’Neil who has written a piece called ‘Perseverance’, Jersey born Olivia Bouchard with ‘A Thank You Note’, Katie Haworth with ‘HMS Bookcase’ and Dami Okhiria with her poem ‘Vaccination Conversations’. All four pieces were performed exclusively for ArtHouse Jersey Presents and are available to watch now on www.arthousejersey.je.

The pieces will also be offered to secondary schools throughout the Island to inspire, educate or simply entertain!

Farrago Poetry first visited Jersey in 2015 and ran slam workshops in several of the secondary schools in partnership with Jersey Festival of Words. During all their visits, the response to John Paul and his team of poets was phenomenal – with participants, who hadn’t previously considered themselves poets or performers, surprising themselves and their teachers with fantastic pieces and hence a real buzz of achievement.

Farrago is best known for introducing SLAM! an open mic poetry competition format to Britain from America in February 1994. The same year Farrago started organising both the UK SLAM! Championships and The London SLAM! Championships, the longest running poetry slam competitions in Europe. They also co-organised the first poetry slam international events and tours in 1995 & 1996 between London, San Francisco and Asheville, in the UK and in the US. Farrago runs other events including regular Spanish Language nights and the annual Farrago Festival of Spoken Word.

ABOUT THE POETS & THE POETRY

John Paul O’Neill – Perseverance – John Paul O’Neill is a London based poet, writer and educator and the founder and director of Farrago Poetry, the organisation that set up the UK’s first and Europe’s longest running poetry slam in 1994. In more normal times he hosts monthly shows and teaches creative writing classes in community education. He has a PGCE (FE) and an online DBS. He has had poetry, short stories and articles published extensively, as well as producing spoken word projects and presenting and setting up community radio shows. Inspiration for John Paul’s poem: ‘When the NASA Perseverance Rover landed in February this year my excitement reminded me of the wonder I felt as a small child at the NASA Apollo Moon Landings. The memory the poem starts with is not just of me looking up at the moon but also of my father, a pioneering electronics engineer who inspired my interest in Space exploration and astronomy.’

Olivia Bouchard – A Thank You Note – Olivia Bouchard is 22. She moved back to Jersey after completing her studies in English. and has been drawn to poetry from a young age though she didn’t start writing her own until she was about 13 when she came across spoken word on YouTube. While living in London, Olivia wrote a lot more and performed at different open mic nights around the city. She completed her first poetry collection as a final project at university.

Olivia said “For ArtHouse Jersey Presents I wanted to write a piece about body positivity because I think it’s something everyone struggles with in different ways. The inspiration for this piece comes from a common experience; the practice of tweaking our bodies to fit an ideal we think we should look like. However, this poem focuses more on acceptance and gratitude for our bodies, rather than what we do to change them.”

Dami Okhiria – Vaccination Conversations – Dami Okhiria (O-Hee-rih-ah) is currently a medical student at the University of Sheffield, writing and performing spoken word poetry whenever possible. She is the co-founder and former host of the monthly open mic night ‘All Mic Long’ in Sheffield. She is a Say Owt slam champion, Slam of The North 2019 winner, first runner up of UniSlam 2020 and the current Hammer and Tongue Cambridge Slam champion.

She is a member of the feminist arts collective in Sheffield – Verse Matters. Dami said of the inspiration for this piece “This poem was inspired by the unfortunate increase in vaccine hesitancy after the development of the coronavirus vaccine. I hope it goes some way in reminding people how far we have come thanks to vaccines, and how vital they are to our continued survival.”

Katie Haworth – HMS Bookcase Katie Haworth is a poet, writer and editor who hails from Auckland, New Zealand. She now lives in Streatham, South London, and adores her chosen home. Her poetry has been published in journals and anthologies in the UK, and she is the author of four children’s picture books. She has also been writing a novel for a very long time and thinks she has nearly finished it.

Of this poem she said “When I was young, books were everything to me. I was one of those kids who actually read under the covers with a torch until the batteries dies. As a teenager I sometimes got very frustrated at how small and restricted things seemed. It felt like life was timetables, uniforms, parental dinnertimes and endless rules. I didn’t break the rules much because I was too anxious a person, so I just resented them instead. Reading was my escape. To me it was this wild and exhilarating thing that took you to every place the imagination could dream up. In ‘HMS Bookcase’ I’ve turned that freedom and exploration into a ship – a rolling, moving, wave breaking vessel powered by the winds and by stories. I come from New Zealand, a country made of two long islands surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, so the edge of the sea has always carried the promise of new places and the possibility of extraordinary adventure.”

All four poems were created and performed exclusively for ArtHouse Jersey Presents and are available to watch now on www.arthousejersey.je.

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