British rapper, songwriter and 1Xtra DJ Lady Leshurr, has been announced as the ambassador for this year’s Words First spoken word competition.
Poets, lyricists, rappers and those interested in developing their writing and spoken word skills are now invited to apply to be a part of the nationwide search for new and emerging spoken word talent. Supported by BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Asian Network alongside BBC Arts and Contains Strong Language Festival, Lady Leshhur will be working together with poetry organisations across the UK to deliver this year's initiative. As part of the competition, shortlisted candidates will have an opportunity to benefit from workshops and one-to-one mentoring, with six finalists getting a chance to perform to a live audience at the BBC Arts’ Contains Strong Language festival later this year.
Lady Leshurr says: “I can’t wait to hear and see the talent we find through this year's Words First competition. Whether it’s spoken word, rap or poetry - it will be amazing and I am honoured to be this year’s ambassador.”
Continuing from the first year of a digital-focused competition in 2020, a series of virtual workshops will take place with poetry organisations including Apples & Snakes, Young Identity, Neu! Reekie!, New Writing North and Nine Arches Press. Semi-finalists will be invited to talent led masterclasses, including a workshop delivered by poet Malika Booker. Words First alumni including Isaiah Hull will also hold a masterclass providing motivation, advice and guidance to the brand new finalists.
In 2020, BBC Arts commissioned a series of films showcasing brand new work by the 2020 winning artists including Nine McCartney, Saili Katebe, John Bernard, Jardel Rodrigues, P.A. Bitez and Sanjna Yechareddy, who were challenged to write about 'protest', ally-ship and anti-racism.
Sue Roberts, Director of BBC Arts’ Contains Strong Language Festival says: “I’m really looking forward to seeing the new poets who come to light through this scheme perform. Every year, Words First has unearthed extraordinary talent and helped to give young writers a platform, and I know our year in Coventry as part of City of Culture will be no different.”
BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Asian Network are broadcast partners for Words First and will be encouraging their listeners to take part in the competition, as well as broadcasting highlights from the BBC Contains Strong Language Festival in September 2021. BBC Arts’ Contains Strong Language Festival won Best Outside Broadcast at the Radio & Music Awards 2020.
Ahmed Hussain, Head of BBC Asian Network and Faron McKenzie, Head of BBC Radio 1Xtra say: “Once again we’re pleased to support and provide a platform to help new and emerging talent find their voice with the Words First initiative. Partnering across networks we’re able to reach underserved audiences and we can’t wait to showcase the work of the finalists across our stations and to celebrate the artistry they’re able to produce with the help of this invaluable scheme.”
In previous year’s poets and rappers including George the Poet, Hussain Manawer, Kojey Radical and Avelino have supported the BBC Arts funded talent development scheme, with finalists including Isaiah Hull, Amina Jama and Asma Elbadawi performing at The Roundhouse and Isaiah going on to perform at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in 2016.