BBC Radio 1Xtra & BBC Asian Network launch ‘Words First’

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BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Asian Network have launched ‘Words First’ alongside BBC Arts and Contains Strong Language Festival, aiming to discover the best emerging spoken word artists from across the UK.

Working together with poetry organisations across the country, the Words First scheme is looking for people who are passionate about spoken word in any form. From rappers and MCs to poets and lyricists, anyone with an interest in developing their spoken word skills can apply from 29th May until 19th June 2020.

In previous years, shortlisted artists would attend regional workshops in person. However, given the nature of the current situation, this year’s scheme will have a digital focus. Entries, workshops, mentoring and the showcases will be conducted using video conferencing to engage and support performers from across the United Kingdom.

The BBC Arts funded talent development scheme has had previous support from George The Poet, Kojey Radical and Merky Books author Jude Yawson. Finalists have included Isaiah Hull, who performed at The Roundhouse in 2016, and also Radio 1’s Big Weekend in 2016. BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Yasmin Evans and Asian Network’s Yasser have also championed the scheme in previous years.

Yasmin Evans says, “My favourite thing about the music I love is that there are so many layers to it. Words First really showed me that. My favourite moment was in 2019 when I went to a small intimate showcase of artists who had put together pieces about their life experiences; no more than one minute and I was absolutely blown away, I saw some of the most talented people perform that day.”

Yasser say, “I’m really excited about Word First returning! Last year we witnessed a diverse range of new and powerful spoken word talent from all over the country. The future belongs to the youth and Asian Network and 1Xtra are incredibly important when it comes to young voices in Britain today. I can’t wait to discover new talent and offer them a platform to showcase their skills and spark important conversations.”

Selected artists will be mentored and supported by the BBC and a network of regional poetry organisations throughout the UK including Young Identity, Apples & Snakes, and Neu! Reekie!

Mark Strippel, Head of Programmes at 1Xtra & Khaliq Meer, Acting Head of Programmes for Asian Network, say, “1Xtra and Asian Network are two leading UK platforms for young minds to authentically express their evolving identities and constantly changing lives. We’re thrilled to come together again for Words First to create new spaces and opportunities for fresh voices to flourish and be heard, especially during these challenging times.”

Jonty Claypole Director of BBC Arts said, “The rise of spoken word in Britain is one of the great cultural stories of the 21st Century: full of honesty, ingenuity and beautiful acts of self-expression. Words First shines a spotlight on some of the greatest of those artists, as well as the extraordinary organisations who support them. In the current emergency, it is more important than ever to have those voices speaking the truth about Britain today on our airwaves and digital platforms.”

Sue Roberts, Director of BBC Arts’ Contains Strong Language Festival says, “Over the past 3 years, BBC Arts’ Contains Strong Language has made a name for itself as a festival that gives a platform to emerging talent alongside established poets. CSL is delighted to be working again with BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Asian Network to offer a new group of emerging artists this exciting opportunity.”

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