'The most vital voices': Spoken word festival returns to the Roundhouse

Gardens + Other Such Tree Places by Ruth Awolola

Gardens + Other Such Tree Places by Ruth Awolola - Credit: Helen Murray

A two-week spoken word festival comes to Camden in June, celebrating "London's most vital voices". 

The Last Word, "a festival where words come alive", is at the Roundhouse from June 9-23.

This year will see the return of the Roundhouse Poetry Slam, with applications now open for anyone aged 18 to 25 to compete in Glasgow, Wrexham, Gloucester and London to become the Slam champion. 

Also on the bill is a live edition of The Receipts & Friends podcast, with special guests joining hosts Tolani Shoneye, Audrey Indome and Milena Sanchez.

The Receipts & Friends

The Receipts & Friends - Credit: The Receipts & Friends

The BBC's Richie Brave will lead a topical show exploring the experiences of Black communities at a 1Xtra Talks Live event titled Freedom of Speech.  

The founder and authors from A Quick Ting On book series host a special evening and award-winning Letters to the Earth bring young people together to discuss the climate and ecological emergency. 

Apples and Snakes have collaborated with Bloomsbury Poetry to present Poetry Salon, an evening of conversation, music and readings hosted by poet and Bloomsbury’s poetry editor Kayo Chingonyi, featuring the four inaugural poets of the Bloomsbury Poetry list – Valzhyna Mort, Anthony Joseph, Selina Nwulu, and Polarbear

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There will be performances from this year’s cohort of Roundhouse Resident Artists, as well as a sharing from the Roundhouse Poetry Collective.

Jack Prideaux, senior producer of the Last Word Festival, said: “Having been forced to cancel the festival in 2020 and deliver a scaled back version in 2021, this year marks the return of The Last Word as a fully realised festival celebrating the power of words as a tool to describe, engage with and impact the world around us.

"Alongside the usual multi-artform mix of work from emerging and established artists, this year’s festival puts a real focus on dialogue and debate. Whether it’s watching or taking part in a debate in the venue or via live stream or contributing to the conversation online, we want to include as many voices as possible in the conversation.” 

Returning this year to The Last Word, the Roundhouse Poetry Slam Final was first staged in 2006 and become the heart of the festival in 2013.

This year's finale on June 9 will be hosted by poet, performer and playwright Toby Campion, after artists have gone head-to-head in six days of national heats. Previous winners have included Elliot Waloscheck, Rakaya Fetuga, Kareem Parkin-Brown include Maureen Onwunali and applications close on Monday, April 11

1Xtra Talks Live by Richie Brave

1Xtra Talks Live by Richie Brave - Credit: 1Xtra Talks

Also at the festival, taking a cue to reflect from the past two years and inspired by 1967’s Dialectics of Liberation, the Roundhouse Long Table will dig into contemporary issues over the next year, beginning on June 10 with a theme of "power".

From the book series A Quick Ting On (AQTO), which celebrates and chronicles Black British culture and history, writer and publisher Magdalene Abraha will be in conversation with authors Rui Da Silva (A Quick Ting On Plantain) and Tskenya-Sarah Frazer (A Quick Ting On Black British Businesses).

Roundhouse Resident Artist Abena Essah

Roundhouse Resident Artist Abena Essah - Credit: Helen Murray

The Roundhouse Resident Artist programme facilitates and supports the creative and professional development of emerging artists across a range of disciplines, including music, theatre and poetry.

This year at The Last Word, Madeleine Accalia presents her interdisciplinary play The Woman in the Film, while Esme Allman explores in her poetry performance piece Delectably Red the desires of Black women occupying lives in peripheral places and spaces.

Abena Essah Sankofa presents Before the Whitewash, exploring the rich queer African ancestry that existed in Pan-Africa before Chattel Slavery and colonialisation. 

Keziah Hodgson’s Matriarch is a journey through four generations of women in one family contending with the shifting expectations placed on them by society and each other, and Ruth Awolola’s show Gardens + Other Such Tree Places highlights what it means to grieve in a world that is constantly reminding you that it is alive. 

For the full line-up, and for tickets, visit www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/2022/the-last-word-2022/