BYP Showcase 2018 GUSH

March 18th was the Barbican Young Poets showcase. Barbican Young Poets (BYP) is a programme for writers aged 14-25 by Jacob Sam-La Rose in association with the Barbican. It’s an annual scheme where Jacob and assistant tutor Rachel Long lead poets along a journey of creative and artistic development which culminates in an anthology and final showcase performance.

The 2018 cohorts showcase performance took place in Milton Court Theatre at Guildhall. It was a truly beautiful evening of poetry and community. There is so much to say about BYP and the work Jacob has done to forge and foster a community (unlike any I’ve known in a creative capacity.) There is so much to be said of Jacob and his import to art in the UK and abroad but for the purposes of this post I’m going to focus on March 18th and why it was such a special occasion to behold and be a part of.

First things first the show itself. You go to a restaurant and the service is amazing, the view is beautiful, they’ve got the exact brand of scented candle you like, it’s all lit. But if the food you receive doesn’t bang, then it’s all a bit dead. Those things don’t serve to enhance your evening rather they just upset you even more. “I was so annoyed, they had those lovely scented candles but the food itself was so dead! Eurgh, the candles had more spice than my meal!” The BYP showcase this year had all the spice, and all the flavour. The performances across the whole evening were incredible and showcased the breadth of creative excellence that had been challenged, stretched and nourished over the course of the programme for that year.

I wasn’t seated in the audience for everyones performance but I heard them all, often cheering and making those groans good poetry evokes in the wings. My personal highlights of the night were: Christy Ku with I Eat For You which I heard from the wings and was absolutely spun. The writing, the delivery, all absolutely marvellous. Matt L T Smith whose poem title I don’t know but it encompassed father and brother, cigarettes and imagery that lodged itself in the gut. Sir Troy Cabida with Closed Fist and Open Hugs who wasted no words and held the audience in his palm the entire performance. Laurie Ogden with two poems the first of which I don’t remember title but the second Delicate I do. She writes in a way that is both hard and soft at the same time, where the poem might break you but demands you treat it with care also. Her words are as perfectly balanced as you on the edge of your seat when she reads.

I bring up the quality of poetry at the showcase because it’s important to put the due level of respect onto BYP and the work done. You don’t get that energy and that buzz without amazing craft first and that is something Jacob and Rachel soak into your brain over the course of the programme. No one wants dead food, but sometimes we accept mediocre food because of the bells and whistles around the experience. What you get with BYP and Jacob Sam-La Rose is delectable food with the amazing experience too!

So now that I’ve gone around the houses to say that the poems were banging, let us talk about the experience. What a time to be alive! Where do I begin? Any audience with Omar Bynon present is an absolute joy. The love and support in the room was beautiful to behold from BYP alumni to people new to poetry, it was an environment that was a pleasure to perform in.

One thing I overheard was a conversation about someone who had come to the showcase with no experience of poetry, was blown away and now wanting to get involved. Or hearing an artist friend of mine conversing with Jacob afterwards about how the poets were making images with their words and evoking in him the desire to create. It is beautiful to see a night of poetry change or inspire people.

I’m really going on much longer than I had planned, so after this point you shall be freed. I say this like you can’t just lock off the article and go bout your business if you want.

I mentioned BYP alumni a little earlier and they are people who have completed one of the previous years of the programme. What BYP is, more than just an amazing annual programme for young poets, is a community. In the audience you could feel it, on the stage you got that sense too. Not everyone is as distinct an audience member as Omar Bynon… in fact no one is as distinct an audience member as Omar Bynon… maybe Gabriel Akamo… hmmmm… I digress. Few can holler like Omar, but the community loves, it still hollers and you can feel the past generations of BYP giving to the new cohort as they step out on stage. You can feel them being present as the poems are given into the world and it’s beautiful. For that I thank all the alum that were there. Also it’s just incredibly lit to be gathered post show and to see the number of BYP poets in the building. They are a swarm of buffness and creative excellence, love and artistic brilliance. The bonds of friendship were evident to see in that space on the 18th and not just between people of their own year groupings. It is a true community which means bonds cross the generational borders. Everyone moves, interacts and crosses over, sometimes you forget that you never actually did a year of BYP with that person, that’s how great the community is. Needs must that at this point I praise and thank Jacob for fostering such into existence. You’re wavy sir, and we love and appreciate you.

This is framed as a blog post, but I think it’s just a gush. So thank you for listening to me gush.

This post was first published on a previous blog of mine on 21st March 2018

Jeremiah Brown