This weekend sees the return of Unislam to Leicester’s Curve Theatre, a weekend-long festival of slam poetry. UniSlam is the UK National University Poetry Slam, assembling over two dozen student poet teams from universities across the UK and Ireland to battle it out for the UniSlam Champions title.

Slam poetry is a timed, competitive form of performance poetry with judges scoring each performance for style as well as content. Slams are typically louder, more interactive and less formal than a typical poetry reading or performance. Expect humour, passion and heart-wrenching pathos.

This year, UniSlam will be open to the public at both De Montfort University and Curve Theatre from Friday until Sunday. As well as the twenty-five student teams competing, there are a number of headline professional poets both judging the acts and performing on Sunday, namely Kayo Chingonyi, Vanessa Kisuule, Rob Auton and Bridget Minamore. Rob Auton in particular is a Leicester favourite and is well worth the ticket price alone.

Both of Leicester’s universities will be represented, the teams being drawn from their respective Creative Writing societies.

DMU’s foursome is led by Lydia Bell, a 3rd year Creative Writing student. She’s joined by Dom Hynard, Sammy Mitchell and Rick Ferguson. The topics of the poems they’ll perform range from themselves to love and drugs. Lydia think that the team will do well, although she’s wary of the competition and a little worried about their lack of slam experience. Ultimately, the team is there to enjoy the experience. She urges anyone interested in forming part of the DMU team for next year to join the Creative Writing Society, and of course come along to cheer them on at the weekend.

The University of Leicester are taking a five-poet team led by Francis Mukiibi, a 3rd year Mechanical Engineering student. The rest of the team is made up from Claire Paddison, Abena-Essah Bediako, Clemence Waller and Paras Marlowe. Their chosen poems include tributes to a loving partner, war, feminism and being a foreigner in the UK. Francis says what he enjoys most about slam poetry is that “You definitely have more creative freedom. It feels more free and less structured than page poetry. You also have the advantage of being able to use your body and voice to bring out your emotive side in a way that can’t be satisfied by words on a page.” Francis is also cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances, but says No matter how well we place in the competition, I’m confident that we’ll be immensely proud at the end.”

With the preliminary rounds free to watch, it seems a great opportunity to cheer on your local university teams and soak up some great slam poetry for nothing.

Preliminary rounds at DMU are free to attend and un-ticketed on 26th and 27th January in the Hugh Aston Building, De Montfort University

Tickets for the Semi-Finals, National Youth Poetry Showcase and Grand Finals at Curve Theatre on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 can be purchased here.


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