A beginner’s guide to spoken word

In June, we are welcoming back saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings for a night of explosive jazz. This time, however, Shabaka is joined by poet, musician and novelist Anthony Joseph. This is set to be an exhilarating collaboration weaving a lyrical journey of reimagined Caribbean folk songs.

Anthony JosephAnthony Joseph, among possessing many other talents, is a poet who brings his words to life through spoken word. Spoken word is one of those genres that gets people confused, and maybe even a bit scared. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.

Urban Dictionary defines it as simply ‘poetry intended for onstage performance… At its best, spoken word is a powerful, high-energy form of expression’.

The UK’s spoken word scene is huge, especially here in London, but it’s actually one of the oldest art forms. Think the ancient Greeks, the oral tradition of our ancestors… they all laid the foundation for the future of spoken word.  So, because we don’t want you to miss out, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite poets to help open up your world to this timeless and so relevant form of expression.


Top 5 spoken word poets that will get you listening

Suli Breaks – 27 year old from Wood Green

Best known for: Why I Hate School But Love Education (over 7.5 m views)

‘If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.’

EP:  The Dormroom (2013)

TED Talk


Hollie McNish – aka Hollie Poetry, from Reading, studied French and German at King’s College, Cambridge

Best known for: Embarassed (1.3m views) – shone the light on shaming women breast feeding in public

‘Now, the comments around me cut like a knife / As I rush into toilet cubicles / feeling nothing like nice’

Book: Nobody Told Me


George the Poet – aka George Mpanga, born 1991, North-West London

Best known for: Cat D (604K views)

‘Miss Coca-Cola/ Shape like a bottle, face like a model / But your strengths be where your weakness from / Because you’re empty when the sweetness is gone’

Book: Search the Party


Polarbear – aka Steve Camden, From Birmingham

Best known for: ‘Jessica’ (120k views)

‘Let me tell you a little thing about Jessica Brown / Every single maths lesson I’ve been checking her out / There’s something in her face makes my chest wanna shout / And that freckle by the neck of her blouse I’m like wow.’

YouTube: S Camden 

TEDx Talk


Kate Tempest – Grew up in South-East London, Mercury Award nomineeShabaka

Best known for: ‘The Beigeness’ (490k vies)

‘Nothing’s beyond you / Do what you want to do if you feel that it wants you to’

Album: Everybody Down



Anthony Joseph is performing with Shabaka Hutchings on 3 June, as part of our Summer Festival 2016. Book tickets here.




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