Tuesday, 17 June 2014

This Week #RayRecommends The History Of The N - Word on Radio 4, Adam Kammerling & Out-Spoken

Ellah Allfrey at 8pm this Saturday (21st June)

There are some words in English that are so controversial that they are shortened to a single letter lest they cause offence. Perhaps the most inflammatory is the N-word. The proxy barely disguises the racial insult, "nigger", which has topped lists of ugly and hateful words since it was first uttered in the seventeenth century. It has regularly wounded black people, its target, down the ages. When, for instance, the African American boxer, Muhammad Ali, was asked why he resisted the draft in the Vietnam War, he is alleged to have said: "No Vietnamese ever called me nigger."
Ellah Allfrey looks at its evolution from its origins as a mispronunciation of the Spanish "negro" in the 17th century. She illuminates how and why the capitalised "Negro" became the more acceptable version of the word in the 1920s (the landmark adoption of Negro by the New York Times was in 1930); through to the subsequent re-appropriation of the N word in rap and hip-hop culture. But even when coming from the mouths of black people the N word continues to cause offence. There have been calls for the word to be banned. But is this possible or desirable? - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0474xdk
#RayRecommends Adam Kammerling
Adam Kammerling has been grafting lately, winning his last Don't Flop battle, dropping a brilliant album and spitting bars like this -- there is no stopping him!

Musa Okwonga's poem, Monotony about Drones is powerful and disturbing, haven't got it out of my head.

Lastly, this article is essential reading for native Hackney residents and gentrifiers alike.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Raymond Antrobus at Glastonbury, Latitude and more...

I'll be appearing at Tagore Festival this month with One Taste, celebrating one of India's most renounced and profile poets, Rabindranath Tagore.
20th - 22nd June
Chill Pill's Deanna Rodger is Poet in Residence at Glastonbury this year and has just announced my appearance alongside Rob Auton, Chris Redmond, Sally Jenkenson and more...

25th - 29th June

I'm also excited to be appearing alongside Michael Rosen and Scroobius Pip at Latitude Festival.

17th - 20th July
For Chill Pill festival dates of Camp Bestival, Now Festival, Hamswell and Wilderness check our site -


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Dear Michael Gove - Educating The Mind Is Not Colonising It

Michael Gove has removed Of Mice and Men and To Kill A Mocking Bird from the National Curriculum. The two texts that explore race politics in the classroom. On a day when Right Wing political parties are winning seats in the European Election it's hard to pass off Gove's agenda as sheer naivety, this move is suspiciously political. Classrooms are one of the most influential avenues for transforming the attitudes of society.

I work four days a week as a poet in residence at an East London school. Most of the students are second generation African and Caribbean British. While reading 'Of Mice & Men' to a year 11 class, one student responded powerfully to the treatment of Crooks, (the novels only black character who is repeatedly referred to as a "nigger)", by throwing the book across the room and stamping on it. The following day we had an in class debate about the use of the word, to gauge how teachers (who are mostly white) can engage with their black students sensitively. This persona piece is inspired by the views expressed by the students.

The next question is what texts will replace Steinbeck and Harper Lee? How subversive will they be in their ethnic and gender representation? Dickens, Shakespeare, Shelly and Keats have numerous subversive representations of women in their work, other minority groups, not so much. Granted that Shakespeare's imagination was informed by his knowledge of Africa, ("she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear") and the Middle East ("I know a lady in Venice would've walked barefoot to Palestine for a touch of his nether lip"). 

Educating the mind is not colonising it.


"Some of you will be aware that Michael Gove has denied narrowing the curriculum. Let's address this and keep fighting.
No matter how he is choosing to spin it in the wake of popular opinion the GCSE curriculum has been narrowed and made more anglocentric. If students are ALL to be examined on Romantic Poets, a 19th century novel, a Shakespeare play and a British (why British?) text since 1914 then the curriculum is being limited not expanded. His claim that "If they wish to include Steinbeck – whether it's Of Mice and Men or The Grapes of Wrath – no one would be more delighted than me" is a nonsense similar to his assertion* about averages. Teachers will be unable to do anything extra, they'll be busting a gut to make these difficult texts appealing. Keep the pressure on, please!
*Q98 Chair: One is: if "good" requires pupil performance to exceed the national average, and if all schools must be good, how is this mathematically possible? Gove: By getting better all the time."

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Great Reads #RayRecommends

I am currently in the process of drafting my third collection of prose and poetry, entitled, 'The Island That's Hard To Find In English'. Given that I have been a part time Masters Student (in Education Theory and Spoken Word Education) these past two years, as well as working as a full time Poet In Residence at Cardinal Pole Secondary School in East London (same neighbourhood I grew up in), my creative output has been slow but I've been immersed in reading these past months and thought I'd recommend these books as they've informed some of the direction my new writing is going in.

Martin Espada

Andrew Salkey
Sherman Alexie
Arundhati Roy
Monique Roffery
I have attended numerous teacher seminars recently about the reformed UK National Curriculum. Michael Gove is only allowing the teaching of literature published in a country that's been colonised by the British, (The British Isles). To counter this I've made a personal investment to stay in touch with all the reasons our Government would rather pretend certain things didn't exist.

This speech by the great Arundhati Roy (author of one of the greatest novels ever written IMHO, 'The God Of Small Things') should be on every National Curriculum in the world.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Chill Pill Shorts (New Youtube Channel for UK Spoken Word Poetry)

Red Earth Studios have teamed up with Chill Pill to curate a new youtube channel dedicated to Spoken Word Poetry, Chill Pill Shorts. The videos are visible from Chill Pill's new site - http://chill-pill.co.uk
We'll see you at The Big one, at The Albany featuring Ty, Femi Martin and Shortmann on Thursday 24th April.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Musa Okwonga, Joelle Taylor & Raymond Antrobus at one of London's first Spoken Word Schools

Since September 2013, the UK’s first full-time poetry Spoken Word Educators have been embedded in six London secondary schools.

On Wednesday 9th April students from Cardinal Pole Secondary will perform their work. Coached by Hackney poet, Tedx speaker and one of The Guardian's poets in residence, Raymond Antrobus. 

The Spoken Word Education Programme offers a highly effective approach to raising children’s confidence, self-expression, team-building and leadership skills, whilst also developing oral communication and literacy skills.

The Spoken Word Educators comprise award winning poets Peter Bearder, Dean Atta, Indigo Williams, Raymond Antrobus, Cat Brogan and Keith Jarrett. They work with young people who may not otherwise get access to arts opportunities, with a range of complex issues that affect their lives and engagement in learning. Spoken Word Poetry is a cathartic outlet for them, allowing them to be more focused and productive learners.

The key to this innovative model’s success is embedding poets in the culture of each school and enabling them to build relationships with the students, both in school and during their after school spoken word clubs.

The programme has already benefitted more than 2000 students in some of the most deprived areas of London. The participating young people have wowed audiences across London including performances at Portcullis House for Parliament Week and the launch of Words Over Waltham Forest. Joshua Izundu, a year 11 student at Cardinal Pole Catholic School in Hackney said, “I have a new appreciation for spoken word. I have learnt how to turn a picture into words.”


Showcase Details

Cardinal Pole Catholic School
205 Morning Lane
London, E9 6LG

5pm - 7pm

Nearest Station 
Hackney Central or Homerton Overground

Musa Okwonga, one of the UK's most popular bloggers 
Musa Okwonga is a writer, broadcaster, poet, musician, communications adviser and commentator on current affairs, including culture, politics, sport, race and sexuality.

A former City solicitor, Musa contributes regular opinion pieces to The Independent, Huffington Post and The Newstatesman on a range of issues, and has on several occasions been a guest on BBC Radio 4′s TodayProgramme. He has been interviewed by Channel 4 News and Sky News, and he has given talks on social media and literature for BBC Radio 3 and 4, the latter at the Royal Society of Arts in London. He has also written for The Guardian, The New Humanist and the Financial Times.

He is the author of two books on football, A Cultured Left Foot (Duckworths, 2007) andWill You Manage? (Serpent’s Tail, 2010), the first of which was nominated for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year. He has also written about football for The Blizzard, The New York Times and ESPN, and is a regular pundit for the BBC World Service.

Joelle Taylor
Joelle Taylor is a spoken word artist, playwright, performance novelist and cultural terrorist. She has performed across the UK as well as internationally for the British Council in Zimbabwe and Botswana, taking in a diverse range of venues from Dingwalls, the 100 Club, the O2 Arena, the Royal Festival Hall and Ronnie Scott’s to the Royal Court, the ICA, Buckingham Place and Pentonville Prison. Her book Ska Tissue was released in 2011 and, after a summer festival tour, is now in its second edition. In 2001 she co-ordinated the first London youth slam championships for the Poetry Society and is currently the Artistic Director of SLAMbassadors UK, the national youth slam championships. Joelle is also the coach of the UK team and delivers Master Classes and ongoing mentoring for young poets and spoken word artists (aged 12 – 19). She has a wide experience of working in both primary and secondary schools – and is the Poet in Residence at both Kingsmead Primary in Hackney and Newstead Wood School for Girls in Kent – as well as tutoring adult poetry courses (Arvon Foundation, Cardboard Citizens).

BOOK TICKET HERE - http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cardinal-pole-showcase-tickets-11161154313 (free to book, £3 on door)

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

ChillPill Speak Poems at TedxEastEnd (Society Beyond Borders)

In January, three of the Chill Pill poets (myself, Adam Kammerling and Deanna Rodger) were invited to speak poems at TedxEastEnd. The theme was "Society Beyond Borders", here's what went down...