How do you sum up 2016? It’s been a big year for us and for me personally, the first year where I’ve basically run Melbourne Spoken Word almost full-time, and in some vain utopian dream, tried to even earn a living off of it, albeit with the safety net of an incredibly supportive partner with one of those real jobs.

We can say we’ve done a lot, and it might sound like bragging, and maybe we need to slow down but we’ve been riding this train all year and it just didn’t stop.

We’ve hosted international poets, as a platform for local Melbourne poets to perform alongside them and raise the profile of spoken word in general in Melbourne. We’ve hosted weird and special events from performing in wrestling rings, performing at White Night, on trams, to the Melbourne Spoken Word Prize. We’ve hosted workshops as well as our special free We Work This Shop. We even hosted our first Australian Poetry Slam Heat in 2016.

In general, our aim for this year has been to create platforms for raising the profile of spoken word, an art form with no real institutional backing, a bit unknown, on the fringes of festivals and the literary sphere. We’ve tried to support the existing and growing scene. Sometimes it felt like we were pushing uphill, spending a lot of time hustling and urging people to buy tickets or support a particular project, which can often feel icky, but often necessary. Other times we’ve been blown away by something taking off, from hundreds waiting outside to get in to see the APS Heat, the crowd at White Night, but some of those intimate moments, the small workshop groups where someone got to share for the first time or just find a space where they could express themselves.

You could sum up 2016 by looking at the numbers. They’re a bit dry but they say a bit. We’ve listed on our website more than 400 poetry gigs in 2016, including 37 regular gigs that happen quarterly or more, usually monthly, and including 20 events hosted by ourselves. We’ve also published 46 videos on the YouTube channel, gained 1,558 new Facebook likes (whatever that equates to) and 545 new email subscribers.

We have some ideas about where we want to go next year, we’re collecting responses to our first annual survey, we’re hosting OVEOUS (HBO’s Def Poetry Jam) on the 15th at Howler, we’re going to launch Audacious 4 & 5, we’ve got some projects to promote the poetry & spoken word scene to wider Melbourne, and of course, we want to end 2017 with The Melbourne Spoken Word Prize.

Massive gratitude to those who found the scene for the first time this year and stuck around, to those who continue to support local poetry gigs week in week out, whether that’s running a gig, performing on the open mic or being part of the audience. And of course, thank you to the MSW crew, past and present whose tireless support and work have helped keep me going.

What was your highlight of 2016? Let us know over on the discussion forum.

Benjamin Solah

Benjamin Solah

Benjamin Solah is a writer, poet, spoken word artist, activist and the Director of Melbourne Spoken Word. He grew up in Western Sydney before calling Melbourne home in 2008, where he's performed since 2010 around Melbourne's regular spoken word and poetry nights including Passionate Tongues, The Dan Poets, Voices in the Attic and House of Bricks as well as the NGV and White Night. He's released a chapbook, broken bodies, and two spoken word albums, Duel Power with Santo Cazzati and The World Doesn't Make Sense EP.
Benjamin Solah

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