Since their early beginnings in 2014, Say Owt has turned into a York poetry powerhouse. With their regular slams, anti-slams and various other poetry events and workshops, founders Stu Freestone and Henry Raby have certainly made the most of their Arts Council funding.
We were invited along to Say Owt Slam #19 and - as always - we savoured every second of it. Henry and Stu were on hand as the hosts, engaging the sold out audience and maintaining the positive and celebratory vibe that has become synonymous with Say Owt events.
As testimony to just how far Say Owt has come, this Slam’s special guest was non-other than former UK Slam Champion and third ranked poet in the World Slam Championships 2014, Sara Hirsch. Hirsch offered up some of her finest spoken-word masterpieces and demonstrated exactly why she’s become one of the hottest poets on the scene. With her raw and authentic verse, combined with an expertly endearing delivery, she seems to have a way of taking an audience by the scruff of the neck and hugging them all at once.
The Slam itself saw 9 poets compete to become the Say Owt Slam #19 champion, and took us on an eclectic journey, exploring pressing issues such as gender conformity in Joe Shaw’s offering, Figure Exhibit and homelessness with poems from Liz Crossley and Stuart Arthur. Arthur’s first poem though was an emotive telling of a real-life sexual assault, delivered with a raw conviction that rightly saw him through to the second round of the Slam.
Other highlights were Tom Priestley’s Fairytale - a grim, cutting and comedic portrayal of Britain, as well as Ciarán Hodgers’ critique of what he calls ‘Generation HD’, in which he see’s technology slowly beginning to disrupt our humanity.
Every Slam needs a winner, and the Say Owt Slam #19 title went to Ruth Awolola. Her tender opening poem, Thank God the Garden is Still There saw a change in tone to the night, and her understated, honest delivery had the crowd hooked. Awolola’s second poem continued along the same vein and was a masterpiece of honest vulnerability that stunned the room and justly saw her gain the highest score of the evening.
‘The standard was really high. To share the stage with so many great poets was just amazing’, said Awolola.
We can’t wait for Slam #20, but Say Owt have many more events on offer in the meantime, including their ‘Anti-Slam’ on 1st April. For a full list of events by Say Owt, Click below.Say Owt Events