Poetry festival has Croydon rhyming

Founders of Well Versed Ink – Natalie, Justine, and Darren. Pic: Well Versed Ink.

A poetry festival took place at Fairfield Halls in Croydon last weekend, showcasing and celebrating the power of the spoken word and poetry.

Well Versed Ink, an organisation who aim reach out into communities to encourage people’s literacy and confidence skills through writing and performance, hosted the Living In Poetry festival, which saw just over 200 people attend.

The all-day event, which launched last year, included panelled discussions with public figures such as Blak Twang and Mercury Prize winning Speech Debelle, two local Croydon hip-hop artists, discussing ‘owning your voice and authentic creative identity’.

The festival also included theatrical performances, readings, workshops and an open-mic session.

Darren Randon, co-founder of Well Versed Ink, told EastLondonLines: “We feel it is important to highlight how accessible and versatile poetry is as a means to improving and maintaining positive wellbeing, whilst engaging with and celebrating different cultures. We believe the more we do this, the easier it is to create and sustain healthy and integrated communities.”

Well Versed Ink, who were first established in 2015, made 80 per cent of the tickets free so as to make the events as accessible as possible. They also host a free monthly open-mic night on Wednesday’s at The Front Room, in Croydon for anyone to attend.

The monthly open-mic night at Box Park Croydon. Pic: Well Versed Ink.

Away from the festival, they run workshops in schools, mental health charities, and organisations, focused on encouraging people to take up poetry and spoken word.

Randon added: “As well as being an incredible tool for processing emotions and improving wellbeing, poetry is an art form that really holds people to account.”

“Poetry holds up a mirror to society and encourages us to reflect on issues we overlook, turn a blind eye to or have drawn premature conclusions about. Poetry and spoken word allows us to voice our feelings and opinions in creative ways to effect change from local to national levels.”

The event was well-attended, with a number of special guests present, including Jude Yawson, co-author of Stormzy’s autobiographyand Symeon Brown, Channel 4 news reporter.

Mina, Debris Stevenson and Bryte (Artists, poets and musicians) enjoying the festival. Pic: Mervyn Shoots.

Randon concluded: “The aims for Living in Poetry Festival remain the same but we are now reflecting on what worked and what didn’t this year, so we can develop different ways of achieving them for next.”

“The participation in poetry continues to grow, highlighted by the increase in monthly poetry nights in the area – Well Versed, Poetic Insight, Poets Anonymous and What You Saying Poetry to name a handful, as well as the many variety shows that now have spoken word as a regular fixture.”

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