Words by Benjamin Solah
This has undoubtedly been the biggest year for Melbourne Spoken Word as an organisation and another massive year for the scene as a whole and I think it’s worth summing up what we’ve done, just to look back at how awesome we all are and to give us a little pick-me-up over the holidays and excite us for the new year.
This year saw the twenty-first year of poetry at the Dan O’Connell, and the sixteenth year of Passionate Tongues. Slamalamadingdong was reborn at 24 Moons on a Friday night. The Dan began its monthly poetry comps. We saw new gigs come onto the scene like Girls on Key, Slam of the Century, Poetic Inspirations, the Muddy Rivers Slam and Alakazam, whilst Speak Up at Incinerator Gallery became a regular thing. All of those new gigs, plus our old favourites continued chugging along, finding new audiences and being a familiar home to many regulars.
Melbourne Spoken Word itself hosted thirteen events over 2015. In January, we hosted a workshop and pop-up recording studio to take submissions for Audacious. In March, we hosted Geoff Lemon in our event stream called The Poetic Lab (later renamed to Beta Poetica) where the feature gives constructive feedback to the open micers. Of course in April, we relaunched this very website with a brand new design and events listing system, whilst also launching the first issue of our audio-journal, Audacious. In May, we hosted US slam poet Bill Moran at The Provincial Hotel, one of our biggest gigs of the year, plus a workshop the day after. In June, we held a showcase of poets at Conduit Arts and then featured Anthony O’Sullivan at Beta Poetica.
In July, we hosted Australian Poetry Slam Champion Zohab Zee Khan, one of our other big gigs of the year. In August, we hosted a poetry slam at the Victoria College of the Arts. In October, we hosted an open mic on the anniversary of the first public reading of Ginsberg’s Howl and then the week after we held a poetry slam, spoken word show battle thing in a freaking wrestling ring. In November, we hosted Scott Wings performing his show Colossi. And then in December, the cap it all off, we hosted the inaugural Melbourne Spoken Word Prize, which was awarded to Steve Smart.
Woah, that’s a lot.
At the website/Audacious launch, the Bill Moran and Zohab Zee Khan gigs, the wrestling slam and the Prize, we had in excess of one hundred people in the audience. Looking back, it was amazing to see hundreds of people attend our events over the year, and it’s hard to keep count of just how many, who came back and where they came from, but I know that I recognised many new faces in the audience at all of these events.
Also, this year, alongside launching Audacious, we also relaunched/breathed life into our YouTube Channel. With the help of Freeman Trebilock, and later in the year Will Beale and Jez Speelman, plus myself, we filmed poets at Passionate Tongues, To the Ends of the ‘Verse, Slamalamadingdong, The Dan, RMIT and our own gigs. We published seventeen videos, with a bunch from end of year gigs still being edited. This was partly due to the success of hosting Bill Moran, after paying our feature handsomely, we invested a lot of the money in a new digital SLR camera and a Zoom H5 recorder to take to gigs to get good quality video, and smooth and clear sound.
We published a total of thirty-six articles in 2015, not including videos, ranging from comment pieces, to news, reviews and interviews. The most popular posts of 2015 were Fleassy Malay’s ‘The Audience Deserves More From You,’ my piece ‘In defence of slam and what we make of it,’ and Tim Train’s ‘The wisdom of the heckler.’
Stats vary from WordPress to Google Analytics, but this year we had between nineteen and twenty-two thousand visitors to our website, up from about six thousand to twelve thousand visitors last year. Our videos on YouTube were viewed 3,824 times, the most popular being Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa’s To Advance Australia Fair from Slamalamadingdong. On Facebook, we went from 1,818 likes to 3,039. On Twitter, we’ve reached 839 followers.
Alongside launching our website, we also launched the online store, not only to sell Audacious but books and CDs from poets performing around Melbourne. Alongside Audacious, Koraly Dimitriadis’ Love and Fuck Poems, and Lady Longdrop’s (Kendra Keller’s) Hey Moon were best sellers on the store, as well as at the stalls we set up at our events, as well as the Sydney Road Festival and the Activist Arts Festival.
At the end of the year, we went from a team of one, and a bunch of casual volunteers, to a whole committee. Alongside myself, as Director, we welcomed Amanda Anastasi, Kendra Keller, Lana Woolf, Anthony O’Sullivan, Krish Prasad, Brendan Reed Dennis and Sam Ferrante onto the Melbourne Spoken Word committee, and had the amazing help from Jacky T, Mandy Petit, Margo Coulter, Rowan White, John Englezos, Michael Reynolds, Di Cousens, Adam Gleeson, Aimee Harris, Kerry Harris, James McCathie, Anna Forsyth, Tim Evans, Jez Speelman, Will Beale and Freeman Trebilcock and Jeremy Gibson.
We had a huge range of people who performed for us this year including Geoff Lemon, Santo Cazzati, Abdul Hammoud, Joel McKerrow, Steve Smart, Amanda Anastasi, Bill Moran, Oliver Mol, Kylie Supski, Declan Furber Gillick, Victoria Sapoznikoff, Anthony O’Sullivan, Jez Speelman, Jacky T, Natalie Acreman, Krish Prasad, Ania Walwicz, Cherry Murphy, Zohab Zee Khan, Soreti Kadir, Ebony MonCrief, Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa, Brendan Reed Dennis, Lana Woolf, Meena Shamaly, Freya Dougan, Randall Stephens, Emily Polites, Bronwen Manger, Phil Wilcox, Lady Longdrop, Hunch, Hugo the Poet, Ed Carlyon, Fenella Edwards, Henni Aaltonen, Komninos Zervos, Robert James Conlon, James Jackson, Scott Wings, plus the twenty poets, some already named above, that competed in the 2015 Melbourne Spoken Word Prize.
Looking back, we kind of don’t know how we fit it all in, yet I know that we can do it all again and more in 2016. We’ve got a few announcements up our sleeve and a few ideas in the works for the new year to kick us off but we hope you all have a good break, maybe write some poems and come back all starry eyed for next year.
Photos by John Englezos, Michael Reynolds, Di Cousens and Jez Speelman