Spoken word is far from the pretentious stereotype that we've seen mimicked in TV and films over the years. You know the one; a beret-wearing, roll-up-smoking grad student shouting angrily into a microphone against the exposed brick wall of a basement bar in New York. No, no. This particular performance art continues to grow here in the UK in a sincere, cliché-free way, and the breadth of stories shared – and the conversations they prompt – is really exciting.
If you've ever looked for an entry point into the spoken word world, consider The Last Word, the London Roundhouse's annual festival of the art, your gateway drug. Across 19 days, an incredible selection of artists give performances that will completely change, or even define, what we know as 'spoken word'. Music meets podcasting, poetry meets drag, and so much more in between. It's powerful stuff. We spoke to five of the most exciting women involved to find out just how much so.
Shahlaa Tahira, Katie Greenall, Rakaya Esime Fetuga, Chloe Florence and Kat Francois are all appearing at The Last Word and are connected to this evolving genre of performance. From social commentary and personal growth stories to the sheer hilarity of how life works out sometimes, their shows cover it all. Here, these women tell Refinery29 why spoken word, a punchy, fluid and rule-breaking art form, speaks to them so loudly. I challenge you not to google your nearest poetry slam when you come up on the other side.