BITE, the Brighton & Hove Youth Poets vs MCs Slam returns to Brighton for April and May. Offering the chance to learn the skills of poetry and rap from professional coaches, this series of workshops is free for young people in Brighton & Hove.
Now in its third year, the scheme motivates young people and pushes them beyond what they believed they can achieve, culminating in a grand showdown on 23 May for the third Annual Brighton Youth Poets vs MCs Slam.
Building on the success of previous events, BITE offers series of workshops coached by professional poets and rappers, working with young people in schools and youth clubs. The event reaches out to young people from all parts of the community, building their confidence and skills to write and perform their own poems and raps.
This isn’t the staid polite event you may picture when you imagine a poetry night, nor the feast of cliches you may associate with hip-hop, but a lively and engaging event which empowers young people to speak out and have their voices heard. Young people of all ages and abilities are encouraged to take part – as one of the participants from the 2014 workshops said, “Anyone can do it!”
The annual Poets vs MCs battle has been a fixture of the Brighton spoken word scene for over twelve years now – from humble beginnings when a couple of rappers decided to crash a poetry event at the Full Moon, to the present event which regularly sells out venues as large as the Concorde 2 and Komedia. In 2013, Michael Parker, performance poet, host and mentor, decided that it was too much fun to be left to the adults, and set up BITE!. “I love BITE! It sprang out of the biggest and best-loved spoken word night in the city,” He said. “We poets and rappers, the best of enemies, bring out the best in each other and in the young people that we work with across the city. I love that any of the young people inspired by the project can end up battling with confidence on stage, even if they have never done anything like this before. And I love being continually surprised by what everyone brings to the show. Our workshops last year brought both laughter and the tears of heartfelt expression, and at the Big Event all of the participants, poets and MCs alike, wowed us all by not only performing what they’d prepared but feeling confident enough to improvise with the band. We’ve got an excellent team of coaches and the support of last year’s participants, keen to share their genius. I’m excited.”
For the past two years, the finale has taken place in the buzzing atmosphere of the Brighton Youth Centre, as a stunning selection of young and remarkably talented poets and MCs did battle (in a verbal sense, at least). With the experience and guidance of the team of poet and MC coaches, who ran a series of workshops across the city leading up to the event, young people who had never performed before, took to the stage and delivered a breathtaking series of performances that left their adult contemporaries looking to their laurels.
And it didn’t stop there. Tommy Sissons, 17, went on to seize victory in the Hammer and Tongue Slam Final, going on to bring out his own collection of poetry and put on a solo show as part of Brighton Fringe 2014, whilst some of the other participating poets and rappers have gone on to perform at various other events including Brighton Urban Arts Festival, FUSE in Chatham, Kent, Patchfest in Brighton and Create in Ashford. Two of the young poets have performed at the local poets spot at the Hammer and Tongue slam.
Supported by Arts Council England, AudioActive, Hammer and Tongue, the East Brighton Trust and B-Fest, BITE! is as a springboard for young people to express themselves, discover their own unique voice and gain confidence and experience at performing their own style of spoken word on the stage, and it’s also a lot of fun, as all who experienced it in schools and youth clubs over the last two years will remember.
And now it’s back! Starting the ball rolling with a series of free workshops each … , as well as sessions in schools across Brighton & Hove, the BITE! team will be seeking out young people to take part in the second annual Brighton Youth Poets vs MCs Slam. The Grand Finale is taking a giant leap from the Brighton Youth Centre to take over the skatepark at the Level for a verbal battle on Sat 23 May. The first part of the event will see Brighton’s finest young poets and MCs in a war of words, and then join forces for the second half, where they will take on the combined might of Oxford’s youth spoken word team.