Words in the City 2015 Poetry Slam Competition

The Bradford Poetry Slam is one of my favourite gigs. There’s nothing quite like performing to an audience, behind which is the whole of Centenary Square where, if it’s a sunny day, the entirety of Bradford seem congregate. It makes for that organic kind of gig where passers-by feel their ears prick and find themselves casually joining the audience. No-one is there because they’re trapped; they’re there because they want to see what’s going on. And as a poet, part of your job is to let them know: not just what’s going on around them, but what’s going on inside them.

IMG_4220In that way, a poetry tent in a public place makes it a very private place, too. It’s becomes a place where people have to walk over and lean in. It makes me think of people raving on soap boxes in London and around the world; places where people’s voices are democratised and insistent and earnest. That’s definitely the kind of poetry I want.

– Andy Cook, 2014 Slam Winner

Saturday 6 June, 5.15-6.15pm, Waterstones, Bradford
Hosted by Michelle Scally Clarke
Slam Judges:  Joshua Seigal

  • Do you want to be part of the 2015 Words in the City Slam?
  • Do you have 2 poems no longer than 3 minutes each?
  • Are you free to perform on the outdoor stage on Sat 6 June?
  • Are you used to reading/performing your work to an audience?*
  • Are you 18 or over?

If the answer is YES to these questions, then read on…

With only 3 minutes to enthral the audience and judges, the Poetry Slam gives poets the chance to read their new poems at Words in the City.

There will be 8 places for poets at the Slam. All poets will read in Round 1; the judges then shortlist 4 poets who read in Round 2. The highest score over the two rounds is the winner; the second highest score is the runner-up. Judges will rate both the quality of the poem and performance, marking each out of 10.


  • 15 minute slot at Ilkley Literature Festival in October
  • Waterstones book tokens worth £20
  • The two poems you read published on the Ilkley Literature Festival website


  • 15 minute slot at Ilkley Literature Festival in October
  • Waterstones book tokens worth £10
  • The two poems you read published on the Ilkley Literature Festival website

If you want to be one of this year’s slammers, email info@ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk with a brief cv (max 100 words) including your links to Bradford and one poem (you don’t have to read this poem at the Slam). We’ll be selecting 8 performers based on the CV and the poem you submit – and we’d love a wide range of ages and genres.

Extended Deadline for submissions: Tuesday 26 May 2015
We’ll let you know by Friday 29 May at the latest if you have been selected to compete.

Please note, the Poetry Slam takes place in a public area so you will need to be mindful of the diverse family audience when you select the poems you are to perform.

*We’re sorry, this slam isn’t suitable for complete beginners, but if you’re used to reading and performing your work to an audience then please apply.

Words in the City 2015

WITCbannerI was on tour with another project when the first Words in the City weekend took place last June in Bradford’s City Park, but I hear from those that were there that the sun shone, the mirror pool glistened, visiting poets were wowed by the sights and smells of the Curry Festival and you could have been in Barcelona and not a city in the north of England!

We have it on good authority* that the weather is nearly always good on the first weekend in June so we’re confident of more of that sunshine for the 2015 festival which sees a feast of poetry readings, masterclasses, pop up spoken word, free family activity and street theatre, alongside delicious food from around the world.

Bradford’s magnificent Edwardian City Hall plays host to our two headline poets: John Hegley on Saturday 6 June, and one of Britain’s greatest living artists, Leeds-born Tony Harrison, on Sunday 7 June. We’re also delighted to welcome Don Paterson and Jo Shapcott as well as former Wordsworth Trust poet in residence, Shipley-based Zaffar Kunial.

Renaissance woman Imtiaz Dharker, who has recently been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes prize, is on my Not-To-Be-Missed list. Born in Lahore, brought up in Glasgow, she’s a poet, artist and documentary film-maker, of whom Carol Ann Duffy says “Whether she writes of exile, childhood, politics or grief, her clear-eyed attention brings each subject dazzlingly into focus.”


The Poetry Yurt at Words in the City 2014

If you’re interested in crafting your own poetry then we have workshops for writers of all abilities across the weekend. Ahead of a new Bradford Young Writers group we’re also running a free workshop for 12-18 year olds who love writing. No experience needed, just turn up!

Meanwhile, mingling with the World Curry Festival stalls and stages in City Park will be a host of free pop up performances including local poet Javaad Alipoor and Testament, whose forthcoming project at the West Yorkshire Playhouse sees him marry British hip hop and William Blake’s iconic poetry. Look out for our Emergency Poet who’ll be offering free poetic first aid from her vintage ambulance. The iconic mustard-yellow Caravan Gallery with its photography exhibition of everyday life will also be making its first appearance in Bradford, at the start of a residency with Impressions Gallery.

Families can head over to our Poetry Yurt for free drop in activities, from edible to magnetic poems. Joshua Seigal performs his one-man poetry show for families in Bradford City Library and Reading Matters are running a free workshop for parents/carers on reading together.

Rounding things off on Sunday evening Words in the City moves up to Bradford’s resurgent Northern Quarter on North Street and The Record Café, (one of the city’s new craft beer bars), for The Sunday Practise, where you can hear some of the West Yorkshire’s best spoken word performers and musicians.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Festival Fringe, the Mushaira or the Poetry Slam! (I’ll save that for another post).

(*If your child’s birthday is on this weekend, you always host an outdoor party. Apparently.)

– Jenny Harris, Words in the City Coordinator


Tickets for Words in the City are availble online now at www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk