The Roundhouse is back! They’ll be re-opening their doors for seven days of electric performance with this year’s The Last Word Festival. This exciting programme will see some of the boldest stories told by some of the capital’s most vital voices. The prestigious Roundhouse Poetry Slam celebrates its 15th anniversary with best-selling author Candice Carty-Williams (Queenie) joining the judging panel while a host of young, trailblazing Spoken Word artists compete for the coveted title of Slam Champion. With the acclaimed Letters Live, live podcast recordings and performances from Roundhouse Resident Artists, The Last Word Festival is the perfect way to welcome audience’s back to the Roundhouse and its incredible programme.
One of the most anticipated events in this year’s festival, the Roundhouse Poetry Slam Final (29 July) will see artists who make it successfully through three nationwide Heats, put their original work to the test. This is their chance to win a cash prize as well as the coveted title of Slam Champion. Audiences, whether live or at home, will get to cast their vote and crown their Audience Winner too. Letters Live (28 July) make their comeback at The Last Word Festival! Inspired by Shaun Usher’s international best-selling Letters of Note series and Simon Garfield’s To the Letter, Letters Live is a live celebration of the enduring power of literary correspondence, with each show featuring a completely different array of great performers, reading remarkable letters written over the centuries and from around the world.
Award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams (Barber Shop Chronicles, Three Sisters) will join The Last Word Festival to present Search Party (31 July). Prompted by audience suggestions, he will delve into his archive and perform a one-off, spontaneous poetry set. Inua is known for innovatively mixing the old with the new: traditional African storytelling with contemporary poetry, pencil with pixel, texture with vector images. Meanwhile, in the studio theatre, join Nigerian-British poet, playwright, facilitator and recipient of the 2019 Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship Yomi Ṣode for a live podcast recording of First Five (31 July). Yomi will be talking to a special guest as part of this series, on the books, music and films that influenced them.
The Roundhouse Resident Artists Programme exists to support the artistic development of outstanding artists across a range of artforms. Celebrating the vibrant mix of emerging and established Resident Artist voices at the festival, The Last Word provides an incredible and supportive platform for these artists to present new work. Nothing to Fear (24 July) is a collaboration between technology and the human voice; blending beatboxing and experimental vocals, Benjamin Ecclestone gives us an important lesson on the repercussions of how much we share online. Unbraided (25th July) sees Rakaya Fetuga explore girlhood as a West African, Muslim Londoner. From the straight hair of her styling doll to the cupboard room she prays in at school, she questions what it means to grow up in spaces not designed for her.
Also part of the Roundhouse Resident Artist programme, Jamaican-born, London-based multi-disciplinary artist and spoken-word poet Kirk-Ann Roberts (26 July) will share extracts from her debut play British Book, following the journey of two siblings navigating their experiences of the UK immigration system. With live drums, the show explores applying for citizenship, cultural assimilation, belonging and family separation. Kareem Parkins-Brown will stage a performance/poetry talk-show Bougie Lanre’s Boulangerie: The Reopening (27 July) chronicling his years working in the hospitality industry, exposing a world of raging waiters, kind cooks, rude customers and gentrifying pop-ups. And, Laurie Ogden brings Different Owners at Sunrise (28 July) – a work-in-progress sharing about birds, growing up, and where young women can find safety.
The festival takes place throughout the whole venue and in the bar and café you’ll find Winner of the 2020 New Poets Prize Gboyega Odubanjo launching his pamphlet, Aunty Uncle Poems (24 July) in a Nigerian celebration that documents of all the aunties, uncles, cousins (by blood or by choice) for whom London has become home.
If you can’t make it to Camden, there’s still plenty to enjoy. Ahead of the festival, don’t miss the Roundhouse Poetry Slam Heats (6 – 8 July) taking place on Zoom, bringing together the best up-and-coming talent from across the UK in spoken word as they compete for a place at the final. Also online will be a captivating ‘in conversation’ with the Young People’s Laureate for London, Cecilia Knapp (25 July). Cecilia started out as a member of the Poetry Collective at Roundhouse before going on to develop and perform her own work on their stages, now coming full-circle as tutor of the Poetry Collective. Cecilia’s work has reached impressive heights featuring in publications such as Vogue, The BBC, The Guardian, Tate, The Huffington Post, The Independent, and The Stage.
Marcus Davey, CEO and artistic director, Roundhouse said: “We cannot wait to throw open the doors of the Roundhouse once again to welcome artists, audiences and our team back into the building. I couldn’t think of a better occasion to mark this special moment than The Last Word Festival. The past year has been like nothing we’ve ever experienced before, in our sector and in wider society, and this festival celebrates the most vital voices from our capital to reignite our live programme, which continue to progress important conversations whilst celebrating creativity. I’ll be on the front row of every performance, I cannot wait.”
Roundhouse are committed that their offer to people with access needs remains consistent post-pandemic and that people who cannot attend the venue, or feel hesitant to attend public events, are able to experience The Last Word Festival from home. A further digital offer will be announced in due course. Audiences can register their interest to attend further events digitally.
The Last Word Festival 2021 runs from Saturday 24 – Saturday 31 July at Roundhouse.