“It's 2018. Poetry Jam belongs to you, to me, to us, and to everyone who hasn't found their way here yet,” Amerah Saleh narrated in The Story of Poetry Jam, a video posted in 2018 to celebrate Poetry Jam’s 5th Anniversary where it saw over 500 people gathered at Birmingham’s Town Hall.
Poetry Jam was founded in 2013 by Anisa Morridadi and started with questioning what would happen if you gave young people free and open space to talk about their ideas, thoughts, and feelings? Will anyone come? Will they have anything interesting to say? Will anyone care?
From having 60 people crammed into the upstairs of Urban Coffee Company in 2013 to celebrating their 5th birthday at Town Hall and now, set to take over the Jennifer Blackwell Performance Stage at Symphony Hall on Thu 2 Feb for their 10th, Poetry Jam continues to grow.
Kindled by the passion, love, and warmth of a community of lyricists and wordsmiths the idea manifested into what we know today as Poetry Jam and has been powered by that community ever since. It’s an open mic platform for stories, poems, raps, monologues, rants and debate. “It’s how we build our connection with young people and youth culture.”
“We started to celebrate Poetry Jam’s birthday at Town Hall fuelled by the idea of reclaiming a space that represents Birmingham people and where traditionally citizens could speak their truth to power,” We Don’t Settle’s Community Developer, Eugene Hilton, says.
Birmingham’s Town Hall held the anti-slavery meetings of the 1830s, as a platform for the several addresses of social reformer, MP and Birmingham mayor Joseph Chamberlain and was an important venue for the Suffrage movement over the span of 74 years (1872-1946). By 1946, Town Hall was hosting International Women’s Day celebrations to unite women as wives, mothers, workers and citizens.
This February, Poetry Jam’s 10th Birthday will be held at Birmingham’s iconic Symphony Hall: “[The venue] wanted to strengthen their relationship with the communities of Birmingham, and we wanted to platform the voices of young artists across the city.”
“I think it's been interesting to see Poetry Jam organically grow, and we are seeing much more people of an older demographic watch and perform poetry. I think this is a beautiful thing as poetry has no boundaries with age limit.” Even after ten years, Poetry Jam and We Don’t Settle’s flame has only bloomed ever stronger with plans for more exciting projects in the future. Eugene adds: “I’m excited to see how we can further make use of Poetry Jam as an intergenerational platform. We have also explored ideas of doing themed open mic nights reacting to issues young people care about, and of course our regular open mic nights would still take place. Watch the space!"
Celebrate Poetry Jam’s 10th Birthday at Symphony Hall’s Jennifer Blackwell Performance on Thu 2 Feb at 7pm.