Award-winning poet P. A. Bitez “bites back” at UK’s elitist education system
Young people’s views of the creative-activist turn to digital circulation of spoken word – poetry performed live to an audience – and the future of educational justice in adverse times, are refreshingly presented in a new spoken word video “Oral to A4”, featuring the original poem of multiple-award winning poet Princess Arinola Adegbite aka P. A. Bitez. In the words of the poet herself, in Oral to A4, she “potently protests the subtle ways people are indoctrinated into pedestaling certain artforms and artists over others to reclaim Spoken Word as a powerful means of expression, reaffirming its historical relevance and the context of its continued importance”. Oral to A4 was created as part of Poetic Justice Values (PJV), ESRC-funded research project, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge – Researcher, Dr A. Nikolova, in partnership with Young Identity (YI) – a combined arts charity and Manchester’s premier spoken word collective – CEO, Shirley May.
PJV and YI worked together with young people at a series of workshops facilitated by leading UK poet educators. PJV research addresses a vital education policy mandating schools to teach young people’s spiritual development, rife with historical prejudice (to find out more, visit PJV website). Poet P. A. Bitez explained that she crafted the poem with allusions to workshop discussions, drawing on her “experiences of education as a catalyst to foreground the ideological state apparatus’s impact on young people’s outcomes”.
Bitez further described Oral to A4 as “an exploration of how elitism in the education system bleeds into all societal institutions, lobotomising creativity and leaving young working-class people alienated, erased, and marginalised. It reveals the classist and racist undertones embedded within the education system which are projected onto the spoken word artform”. In turn, Bitez “bites back at the establishment’s obsession with gatekeeping through artistic references, and to reposition the significance of art to reflect the public rather than elite tastes to remind us that spoken poetry came before the written form and should not be viewed as dispensable or artless. For the wordsmith all forms of art serve a purpose and have inherent value – storytelling and connection”.
YI CEO, Shirley May said at the project “it was important that the young writers can work with people similar to their age group who are achieving within the spoken word literature scene, and the arts and culture sector. Young people have gained valuable lessons around writing poetry for slams and performances. While most people do not intend for a spiritual exuberance to underpin their poetry, a spiritual experience can be gained, through connecting with words”. Indeed, Dr Nikolova found this sense of community was palpable in the lively workshops with YI’s skilled team of facilitators and talented young wordsmiths. She views Oral to A4 as one way of translating this liveliness into the digital sphere where a poem takes a life of its own circulating online. For instance, YI Executive Director, Nicole May, founded “AndWhat TV”, a contemporary spoken word channel as “a resource for professionals teaching in education and fans of spoken word, aiming to be a catalyst that brings diverse voices and communities together locally, nationally and globally through spoken word performances”.
In the spirit of live and digital community-building, future plans of the Poetic Justice Values project include an upcoming hybrid conference “Going Places” (Dec 2-3), named after the poem by acclaimed British author Lemn Sissay OBE who will give the opening reading (To learn more, visit the conference webpage). The PJV project will also be launching a Creative-Critical Research For(u)m in Michaelmas, 2022, titled Writing & Publishing Research Other:Wise, which will feature digital events and live workshops with leading scholars and creative practitioners introducing spoken word forms and formats as creative-digital methods to innovate academic publishing (for further updates, watch the project events page).
Invite to Join the Conversation
We invite thoughtful explorations of the topics presented in Oral to A4 from the wide community of young people, both experienced wordsmiths and those new to poetry, teachers, poets, activists, scholars and, researchers, with the possibility to deepen conversations at a roundtable discussion If you are interested to submit a proposal, please read the conference Call for Papers. It is planned that the forum and conference will inspire a new research network on creative-community university partnership to expand and archive youth-led spoken word cultures in higher education.
The poetry video of Oral to A4 was produced by “AndWhat” TV and filmed by Al Conteh, with the generous support of a digital resource award by the Cambridge Digital Humanities. If you wish to circulate the poetry video online or cite the poem, please credit the poet Princess Arinola Adegbite aka P. A. Bitez.
P.A. Bitez or Princess Arinola Adegbite is a writer, spoken word poet, musician, actress, and filmmaker from Manchester. She is a winner of Slambassadors, BBC Words First 2020, One Mic Stand 2021, Common Word Going Digital, and Manchester Creative of The Year 2021. She is an active member of Young Identity and a MIF Sounds Artist. Bitez has been commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Selfridges, BBC, Ripples of Hope Festival, Britsh Triathalon and many more.
Please send enquiries to: PoeticJusticeValues@educ.cam.ac.uk
Going Places Conference: https://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/events/conferences/goingplaces2022/
AndWhat TV YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/AndWhatTVSW
AndWhat TV Website: https://andwhat.tv/
Young Identity: https://www.youngidentity.org/