How spoken word changed my life. 

I knew who I was from a very early age. Or rather, I knew that I fancied men instead of women. Which doesn’t seem so shocking these days, but growing up in 1980s Surrey with a very conservative family background, at the time it was quite a big deal indeed. For this reason it wasn’t until the year 2000 when I finally ‘came out’ to friends and family and work colleagues, even though I’d known myself since I was about eight.
Yet still there was this sense that I was operating on the fringes of society, and that for some reason my views and likes, my choice of music or film, and absolutely everything about me wasn’t as important or as valid as other people, because I would never get married or have kids or have a sudden urge to do an oil change on a Ford Mondeo. I think that inside, psychologically, i had convinced myself that nothing I did really mattered very much.
I came across spoken word by accident, by going along to a performance poetry night in Torquay, and I soon began performing and using comedy, the same way I’d used comedy in secondary school to avoid being beaten to a pulp every lunch time. However it was only after a year or so that I decided to tackle bigger themes and LGBT issues in poems such as “The Straight Poem”, combining comedy and social critique to look at the world from a slightly different viewpoint. The fact that the audience liked such poems, and that I could even win slams with them and get bookings for other poetry nights, made me think that instead of operating on the sidelines, I had an important voice, or at least, something interesting to say.
I’d always been a shy person and I did not come from a performance orientated background. My school did not teach drama and I’d never even been to a theatre until I was 25. In fact, the worst thing I could think of was wanting to ‘perform’ for an audience, or even stand on a stage and have lots of people look at me, judge me. Performance poetry gave me the confidence to do these things and to share my humour and my voice, and this then translated into other areas. I feel incredibly confident now with who I am as a person and how I conduct myself in life, because the experience of going on the stage and performing has seemingly validated the person I am. Spoken word is all about voices, and it’s great that the voices come from so many different backgrounds, whether black, Muslim, male, female, or a slightly nervous white gay bloke such as myself.

  

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