Past and present combined in ex-laureate’s extravaganza

Adisa's spoken word spectacle comes to Tower Hamlets. Photo: Mobius Industries

Adisa's spoken word spectacle comes to Tower Hamlets. Photo: Mobius Industries

Hackney’s former poet laureate Adisa has spliced 2010 with 1968 for his intimate new show, which is set to stir audiences in Tower Hamlets next week.

Adisa’s 1968: The Year That Never Ended has already toured the UK, and will arrive at the Barbican Centre on Tuesday. The show’s creator explained to EastLondonLines that the new work examines his relationship with his father, and gestures toward the similarities between 1968 and 2010.

“I wanted to examine what life was like for my parents, so I started researching and realised there was a revolution around the world – huge political unrest, people taking responsibility for their lives and challenging the system,” he said.

The poetry spectacle marries the spoken word to music from Jazz great Randolph Matthews and images by Tartan Walrus. As part of the show, the grapevine from Marvin Gaye’s classic is transcribed into the present, where people are more likely to hear “it” on the TV or the Internet.

The modern-day twist is all part of Adisa’s plan to demonstrate the cyclical nature of life and society. “The small cycle within the show is my growth and my relationship with my father. I want to break that cycle, and make sure I’m closer to my two sons.

“The bigger cycles are all the things that happened in the world in 1968. So much that was happening then is being repeated now. There was the Vietnam War, anti-war demonstrations – now you look at Afghanistan and Iraq. And in 1968 Britain was going through a recession.”

Poetry is more than just words in a book, he added. “It is a tool that can be used to provoke thought. I don’t have the answers, but to get people to think about things in a new light is part of my role, to highlight issues that are worth looking at.

“Poetry is all about people – getting it to the people. Shakespeare is about people, about being read aloud. It’s not about hiding behind a book – that’s come about through schooling. It’s taught to secondary school students in a very dry, sterile way. Poetry is about storytelling, it should be alive.”

Luton-born Adisa became Hackney’s first poet laureate three years ago in recognition of his work with local young people and theatres. One of his earliest supporters was Benjamin Zephania, who helped judge 1994’s New Performance Poet of the year, which Adisa won.

The performance is part of the tenth anniversary celebrations of Rennaissance One, which curates spoken word, poetry and fiction-based events throughout the UK.

Adisa appears at the Barbican at 7.30pm on Tuesday 16 February. Visit for further information.

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