Once upon a time, as all legends start, I was chosen to be dragged across the sky to a land whose spring is as cold as our autumn. Here, I was to be part of an elite team of superheroes whose powers were varied but were intrinsically based on affecting reality with nothing but their words. On the surface, our mission was simple: create. We had a week to create collaborative poems based on home, to memorise these and to record them so they could be shared with the rest of the world. And amidst all this creation, still we would share and perform all across this vast land. Let’s call this land London. Don’t worry, the videos and documentary are on their way, so you might have a glimpse on what these heroes did for the world in those eight days. But that’s all you’ll have, a glimpse. Because, beneath the surface, what they accomplished was so much more, so much deeper beyond the surface. Perhaps this report will help you breach the surface, but still, there is so much more than I could ever share here, in these limited words, but how I will try.
Let’s start with our base, our batcave, our justice league satellite, our fortress of solitude, our (much more fitting) Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters. One of our sponsors and our lair for the time we were there, The Roundhouse. In case you’re one of the lazy few that doesn’t follow links, they’re “One of the world’s greatest live performance spaces and are an engine room of creative invention, powered by great artists and every year they help 3000 11-25 year-old’s realise their creative potential through opportunities in music, media and performing arts”.
Guys! The Roundhouse is an actual round house. You can walk in the same corridor for like 10 minutes and find yourself back where you started. But as you’re walking down this corridor there are band rehearsal rooms, DJ practice rooms, a music studio, a radio studio, a TV control room, a studio theatre, space on top of space on top of space on top of even more space for workshops and events. Seriously, they’ve played a part in launching and hosting artists such as The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Ramones and Jimi Hendrix and more recently, Saul Williams, TV on the Radio, Bob Dylan, James Brown, Jay Z and the Gorillaz (also, did you know that a group of gorillas is called a band? So, essentially the Gorillaz are actually the Band). Also, guys, I performed here. Go ahead, just add my name to that list – I am still tripping! I’ll stop telling you about the other artists that have performed here, such as Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Adele, Lady Gaga, Elton John and Dizzee Rascal because that isn’t the most important work they do. (And honestly, follow the link, they have all that information).
The Roundhouse supports young artists, pay £15 for the year and you can have access to all these spaces for £1 – £2 pounds an hour to practice your art, you also have access to artists that have been in the game to help you out because The Roundhouse actually creates professional artists that it sends out into the world with actual job prospects and they come back to create more artists that will have even more job prospects! If you were to take anything from my ramblings in this article, this is it – why the fuck have we not built our own roundhouse yet?
Here’s how. To create the poems we created in one week, we were facilitated by two amazing poets Deanna Rodger and Deborah “Debris” Stevenson. If you’re one of the lazy few that doesn’t follow links, then my friend, you have missed out on so much beauty. Anyway, these facilitators facilitated us by being facilitated by us. The entire idea is for us superheroes to come back home and to remind you that you are also a superhero and your most important job is to remind other superheroes of their powers. You are the greatest facilitator that has ever existed because nobody else can share your story like you can share your story and, god, your story is fucking beautiful. It has the power to change. (we should just write a comic book about you, or even a fairy-tale, seriously, you are your own fucking folk tale)
I’ll tell you a secret. The ten poets and the two videographers we were with cried on the last day we were together. We cried gaudy, heavy, thick, steaming, glorious, shining tears. Because this art form does that. It changes lives. I mean, seriously, I went to London because I write words. I can compare myself to superheroes and you don’t even argue because I can sometimes perform those words I wrote. Stop sitting around and trawling (trolling?) the internet, go change the world, go be great.
The world is changing. It needs changing leaders. It needs writers that are constantly collaborating to create a better world. It needs criers, thinkers, people that will build the most amazing empires on nothing but the belief that their words will change the world. I’ll tell you another secret, words changing the world is not a belief, it’s a fact. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me telling you what I learned sharing a week with other poets in another country not my own but a world so very much my own. But imagine if more poets traveled the world, came back home with this feeling and this intention for change. Wouldn’t that be a world you would want to live in? I know I started this article with “Once upon a time” and I might have deviated from the format a little, but perhaps “once upon a many times” is more fitting. Let’s get rid of the idea that this life we want to live is a fairy-tale. Because your dream, it exists, it’s just waiting for you to create it.
7 Things I learned when I was in London
- Artists are cool, everywhere. Always travel with artists. They see and feel the world with a depth that makes new experience all the more visceral.
- A network of art spaces and events is imperative; a community is more far reaching.
- When given a chance to perform, impress. You never know who’s in the audience to summon you to your next international tour.
- Talk, converse, share, learn – peoples’ stories are so dynamic and varied that every time you speak is an opportunity to better yourself and the world.
- People open up far more and lot more easily if you have an accent. (I think it’s something about the exoticism).
- Carry a black book. Take down numbers, emails, facebook names, business cards. Have your own business cards.
- Be open. Be humble. Take it all in. Let it change you and through you let it be changed.
I am ever grateful to the Word N Sound team, to The Roundhouse and its team, to the poets I was able to bare my soul to and who bore their souls to us in the time we were there and to you, the audience, the readers, those who take all of this in and give these art forms meaning.
by XABISO VILI