Holding on to the awesome Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye crowds

Op-Ed by Benjamin Solah

Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye (not related) probably realised a few dreams last week. Two nights in a row, these YouTube superstars packed out Melbourne venues and brought spoken word to new audiences. It was seriously exciting being in the crowd and seeing new faces, and being impressed by their engaging performances.

And it was fitting to have them perform at what are fast becoming the two premiere spoken word events in Melbourne, Slamalamadingdong (run by Michelle Dabrowski) and Sweetalkers (run by Randall Stephens).

Poets in Melbourne aren’t much used to huge crowds. We occasionally get them, like with Luka, Alia and Joel’s Please Resist Me tour. So when we do, we’re surprised and I probably wasn’t the only one that spent a decent amount of time staring at the crowd and wondering who these people are or where they’ve come from.

The truth is, both of them basically built their profile through word of mouth and YouTube videos. Spoken word isn’t on the TV, the radio or most mainstream media, but spoken word, particularly from the US, collects millions of views on YouTube. It points to how important it is to get our own work up online and to try and reach new audiences.

But it also points to one reason why I set up Melbourne Spoken in the first place. With new faces being introduced to live poetry in Melbourne, there’s a whole audience there to bring them along to more. There’s multiple gigs a week including open mics and slams. Usually the MC of a gig will plug their Facebook group or perhaps a website, but often pointing to some of these online locations can be tricky or the names or addresses hard to remember. Often Facebook group addresses are numbers.

Which is why I want to encourage MCs gig organisers, slam masters, and other poets to point audiences to at their gigs. If we can establish one location with an easy to remember address that has all of the gigs, as well as videos and reviews of spoken word, than hopefully it can help to grab hold of those new fresh-faced crowds and make them a regular part of our scene, that will in turn tell their friends, share our videos around and maybe, just maybe, even turn a few of us into stars like Sarah Kay.

Benjamin is the editor of Melbourne Spoken He is also a Melbourne Spoken Word artist himself, introduced to the scene by the colourful and radical Santo Cazzati. He can often be found on the open mic at Passionate Tongues every second Monday being the angriest poet of them all.

Annie Solah