A spoken word collective are set to launch Croydon’s first major poetry festival in October. 

 In an area both heavily tipped to top the London Borough of Culture 2020 list and on the back of a pending multi-million-pound cultural regeneration of Fairfield Halls set for completion in 2019, it feels like the right time for Croydon to host its first poetry festival.

The  Living In Poetry (LIP) festival,  at Stanley Halls in South Norwood will see Well-Versed Ink, alongside a number of talented community poets, come together to perform over  two-days in October.

 This is a major step, not only for spoken word but for the arts in general in the borough.

Well Versed Ink are formed of three poets, Darren Randon, Justine Agbowu and Natalie Twum-Barima. The trio moved from staging open mic nights at a small performance space on Brigstock Road to presenting ‘South London’s Potent Poetry Night’ every last Wednesday of the month, to growing audiences at Box Park. 

Formed in 2014 after a performance at Thornton Heath Arts Week, Well Versed Ink are committed to educating and championing the local community through the arts, acknowledging that it was through a community-organised event they were ultimately created and given a platform to share their amazing poetry.

Darren, of Well-Versed Ink is a huge supporter of the poetic talent Thornton Heath has to offer and marks this as inspiration why the group want to showcase creative young people in the area, such as on the line-up of their new LIP festival.

He said: “I think there is a huge creative community in Thornton Heath, and even though we get a bad rap this emerging talent is slowly but surely changing the perception, such as in the arrival of Box Park. 

“There have been so many poets that have been discovered here over the years. They have always been here and been talented, but they just needed that break or platform to shine for the community to see the value in the arts.”  

Spoken word, in essence, is poetry created to be performed. It is arguably poetry reinvented for a modern audience, providing a kind of social commentary on everyday topics in society ranging from relationships to more ‘controversial’ subjects including politics or mental health. 

It has recently seen a huge surge in popularity, primarily from poets who share their poetry through various videos online where some have even racked up millions of views on YouTube. 

Darren believes this insurgence of spoken word into a mainstream narrative has been “a long time coming.” 

He added: “We’ve been going for four years now, whereas some artists have been going for over 20 years which is absolutely fantastic. 

“Recently, the number of open mic nights (for spoken word) have exploded as well as artists the likes of Sugar J and Laurie Ogden appearing in national adverts. This is showing how more people are willing to share their thoughts and feelings and see the benefits of sharing their poetry in safe spaces.” 

Well Versed Ink will be hosting the Living In Poetry Festival over the weekend of  October Saturday 27 and Sunday 28  at Stanley Halls in South Norwood.