With just over a month to go until VERVE explodes back onto the scene, we’re giving you the lowdown on some of our much-anticipated events. If you’re looking for more background info and what to expect when you get your tickets, you’re in the right place!

You asked for more events for young people and we listened. Our 2022 Festival opens with the grand finale of the VERVE Birmingham School Slam, hosted by Birmingham legend Giovani “Spoz” Esposito. He’s been working away for months in schools across Birmingham to work with teams of Year 6 students to build up some brilliant teams, who’ll be bringing all their talent and enthusiasm to the Birmingham Hippodrome on Wednesday 16th February.

VERVE Birmingham Schools Slam Final: Hosted by Spoz Poet and Feat. Former Birmingham Poet Laureate Roy McFarlane

WHEN: Wednesday 16th at 7:00pm
WHERE: The Patrick Studio, Birmingham Hippodrome
WHO: Spoz, Roy McFarlane, Fatma Mohiuddin, Erin Gascoigne-Jones and Faith Taylor

Giovani “Spoz” Esposito

SPOZ is an award winning performance poet, singer / songwriter, film maker, playwright and is the poet-in-residence at Birmingham City FC. He has been seen on BBC and Central Television, has written for and been heard on BBC Radio Four, Radio Five Live, Radio West Midlands, Radio Coventry & Warwickshire and Capital Gold.

SPOZ manages and facilitates many school poetry slam projects, including Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Sandwell, Gloucestershire and other regions nation wide.

Roy McFarlane

Roy McFarlane was born in Birmingham of Jamaican parentage and has spent most of his years living in Wolverhampton. He has held the roles of Birmingham’s Poet Laureate, Starbucks’ Poet in Residence, and the Birmingham & Midland Institute’s Poet in Residence. Roy’s writing has appeared in magazines and anthologies, including Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe, 2012) & Filigree (Peepal Tree, 2018). His first full collection of poems, Beginning With Your Last Breath, was published in 2016, followed by The Healing Next Time in 2018, both published by Nine Arches Press.

Spoz himself tells us more about what he’s been up and what you can look forward to when you get yourself a ticket:

“Who thinks poetry is a little bit… boring?”

Yep. That was the first question I asked the young people of twelve different Junior schools around Birmingham, when I went in to ‘do some poetry’ with them. Unsurprisingly, quite a few hands went up… actually… quite A LOT of hands went up. Not because these lovely ten- and eleven-year-old children think poetry is boring, but that’s what you get when you ask leading questions. Well, I hope so anyway, because frankly, by the end of their respective ‘poetry slam’ days that I inflicted upon them, they seemed pretty excited and rowdy (in a good way) and wouldn’t stop rhyming stuff. It was an absolute joy.

We now have a representative team from each of our schools, coming along to the first-ever Verve Schools Poetry Slam Final to show us what they’ve got. They all wrestled and got to grips with the theme of ‘Choices‘ which, for those of you paying attention to National Poetry Day, was the theme bestowed upon us by the poetic great and good in October 2021. Oh, the beautiful irony of it all. Even before revelations of naughty parties, the young people were giving me nuggets of wisdom that I wished some adults would embrace. If only.

Anyway… if you get a ticket for this event, expect teams of ten and eleven-year-old children to give us poems that will make you smile, cry and even get angry. But whatever emotions may ooze from you on the night, rest easy in the knowledge that the future of poetry is in good hands with these kids… these young people… these young poets.

Giovani “Spoz” Esposito

Confirmed School Teams:

  • Nelson Mandela Primary
  • Yenton Primary
  • Kings Rise Academy
  • Greenholm Primary
  • Bellfield Primary
  • Victoria Park Academy
  • Saint James RC Primary
  • Devonshire Junior School

The final will feature a headline set from Former Birmingham Poet Laureate Roy McFarlane (an equally brilliant replacement for previously-programmed Casey Bailey) and performances from each of our local Young Poet Laureate judges: Fatma Mohiuddin (Birmingham), Erin Gascoigne-Jones (Staffordshire) and Faith Taylor (Worcestershire). Yes, when VERVE adds a fifth day, we make sure it’s packed with poetry goodness. 😉

Young Poet Laureate Judges:

Fatma Mohiuddin

Erin Gascoigne-Jones

Faith Taylor

To behold the future of poetry yourself, be sure to get yourselves a ticket from The Hippodrome Website. Note that because of the ages of the performers, this event is one of the few at #VERVE2022 which will not be recorded or live-streamed.

For info and tickets for this and all our other amazing VERVE 2022 events, head over to our line-up page! In the meantime, be sure to check back here regularly for updates and sign up to our mailing list for all the latest direct to your inbox.

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