The Great Northern Slam

In today’s day and age, digital forms of expression are increasing at a rapid rate. Ungodly technological advancements have enabled us to put forth our thoughts and emotions in a multitude of ways that we ourselves cannot fathom.  In such a modern paradigm, poetry slams offer an exciting alternative. It might be outlandish to consider plain, verbal public speaking rare… But in an ever digitizing space, poetry slams remind us of the simple yet sheer power of the human voice, unrestricted and unfiltered.

The Northern Stage hosted the ‘Great Northern Slam’ on the night of the 4th November, an event most unusual and innovative. As the crowd of sixty-nine gathered in the building’s basement, around chairs and tables, they were handed small plastic clickers. After some amount of confusion, the hosts, Jeff Price and National Slam champions Scott Tyrell informed the crowd that they were all judges. The power to decide the winner would be in the hands of the audience, and not a select few judges.

The competitors themselves were as varied in personality as they were in style

The sixteen competitors faced off in one-on-one battles until there were only two finalists, with the audience voting for their favourite after each duel. The competitors themselves were as varied in personality as they were in style. Both extemporaneously and with text in hand, each competitor took the audience on a journey, which seems hours long, in just three short minutes. Everything from a train ride to Blackpool, a walk along a fence and a drunken tale of sorrow were covered by the sixteen colourful performers, leaving the moments of silence that lay in between, agonizing with anticipation and intrigue.

it reminded everyone of the captivating power that simple speech has upon the mind

The event host and past winner of the National Slam Championship Scott Tyrell himself performed, in the middle of these proceedings. His performances made every member of the audience laugh until their stomachs hurt and sad until they shed a tear. It reminded everyone of the captivating power that simple speech has upon the mind.

   The competition wore down to arguably the most deserving finalists. They exhibited contrasting styles and measures of delivery, yet the desire of each to win was exactly the same.  The first finalist, Cirian Hodgers, chose a more measured and slow boil approach, as he engaged the audience with stories about technological dependence and free speech.

The second finalist, Rowan McCabe, chose to go with flair and theatrics to bring to life the most mundane of daily interactions, providing both a comical spectacle as well as an emotional roller-coaster.  McCabe, alum of Newcastle University, was admittedly had some reservations about going into the entire competition.  He openly confessed that he thought Ciaran’s final performance was much better than his own. Nevertheless, McCabe gave the crowd of experienced, and first time viewers, a performance they are not likely forget anytime soon, including me.

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