Hive’s first workshop with Saju Ahmed

“It inspired me to write more about my own culture.”

IMG_5506bWow, what a great afternoon on Tuesday! Hive’s first workshop delivered by spoken word poet, Saju Ahmed, and kindly hosted by Sheffield Hallam University.  We had a huge diversity of young people rocking 16 languages between 20 people! Everyone shared a word from a language they knew as Saju encouraged them to use all words, not just in English, in the poems they write. 

Hive, in partnership with Maxine Greaves from the Department of Development & Society at Sheffield Hallam, are hoping to turn the enthusiasm for what came out of this workshop into a regular poetry group for young people from diverse backgrounds who want to express themselves through words. The group will be aimed at all young people, of all abilities, 14 to 25 (or thereabouts), but we are particularity keen to hear from young people from African, Asian and other heritage backgrounds, and other underrepresented groups. Get in touch with us if you want to know more at info@hivesouthyorkshire.com 

Emilee Moore, from the University of Leeds, School of Education, has kindly written a little piece on her experience of the afternoon as a teacher-educator-researcher who is currently shadowing Saju for a project she’s working on >>  

The start of something new
We were mingling at the end of the spoken word workshop organised by HIVE on Tuesday afternoon, clearing away the large sheets of coloured paper we’d been writing on, eating the left over snacks. One young girl told me that unlike other workshops she’d been at, this felt like the start of something new, the building of a community oIMG_5544f young writers. Indeed, over the three hours we were together, we had followed poet and workshop leader Saju Ahmed’s “rules” – we respected, we listened, we trusted each other and we smiled – and the seeds of this community were planted.

I came to the workshop because for the last 8 months I’ve been participating as a postdoctoral researcher in a similar young writers’ group, Leeds Young Authors, where I got to know Saju. I’m a teacher-educator and I’m interested in understanding the socially transformative potential of youth spoken word (YSW), as both a powerful artistic practice and as a youth culture connecting diverse young people. The communities that are built up around YSW empower young people to use their ideas, their words, their voices and their emotions as catalysts for personal development and social change. I’m also interested in how YSW, as a creative practice, defies social and educational boundaries of what it means to use language or express yourself “well”. YSW allows young people to combine words, feelings and ideas in creative and critical ways and to push the limits of their language, thinking and being.

IMG_5484The workshop organised by HIVE had all of these elements. We spoke about who we were and what poetry meant for us. We spoke about our heritage and the languages we knew. We were encouraged to use words from different languages in our poetry to “add flavour”. We were inspired by a poem by Safia Elhillo that started from a simple beginning – “I was born…” and then wrote our own pieces starting with “I was born…”, “I come from…”, “I am…” or “I know…”. Those who wanted read their pieces to us all. Those who didn’t kept them to themselves. I folded my poem up and took it home, really happy to have written, not ready yet to share.

There was talk at the end of the workshop about ways to keep going with the energy we’d all found. The important thing for everyone was that this community needed to be built up for and by young people. I for one will definitely be watching this blog for more information!

Emilee Moore University of Leeds, School of Education
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Before the workshop, Saju and Vicky Morris from Hive were on BBC Radio Sheffield speaking about Saju’s journey with writing, being a dyslexic writer, and what’s happening for young writers in South Yorkshire. You can listen to it here >>