The first time I ever sat down to write a poem was in July 2006. I was halfway through my A-Levels; one of which was Government & Politics. I was principally inspired by Jon McClure; the political lyricist in indie band Reverend & The Makers. And I’d just been on a political demonstration in London, with 400,000 other activists.
And so it goes without saying that social and political activism have always been inextricably linked with my spoken word career, in one way or another. The first major breakthrough came at a Love Music Hate Racism event in Wakefield in April 2007, when I performed my ‘Nazis on the Doorstep‘ poem to rapturous applause.
This led to years of work with Love Music Hate Racism, which culminated in me appearing on the panel at a press conference in the House Of Lords, when the BNP were elected into European Parliament (one of their seats was Yorkshire & The Humber). Whilst fronting Skint & Demoralised, and receiving a lot of mainstream media attention, I was very politically outspoken; much to the dismay of Universal Records, but much to the excitement of a lot of trade unions and grassroots political groups.
As a result, I’ve since performed at major annual events for organisations including the TUC, Unite, Unison, the FBU, the CWU, The People’s Assembly, the NUT, the BFAWU, ASLEF and more. Since February 2016, I’ve been a central figure on Stand Up For Labour’s tour; which included the #JC4PM tour (which temporarily became the #KeepCorbyn tour) and more recently, a series of Stand Up For Labour events in the wake of the 2017 General Election.
During my role as Yorkshire Ambassador for Love Music Hate Racism, I delivered a series of anti-racism workshops and assemblies around schools, in areas of South Yorkshire where the BNP enjoyed a high level of support.
In October 2014, I was commissioned by York-based homeless charity Arc Light to write the poem ‘I Matter‘. This was a pivotal moment in my career, as it led me to become an ambassador for London-based charity Trinity Homeless Projects. I’ve attended and performed at their annual Big SleepOut event since December 2015, having first met with Trinity in the July of that year.
Over summer 2016, I volunteered at the Calais Jungle refugee camp; first travelling with the NUT, and then returning alone. I’ve also delivered poetry workshops with refugees and asylum seekers through Meeting Point in Leeds, and helped to raise money for several organisations, including the Refugee Community Kitchen.
I’m also Poet-in-Residence at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, which isn’t a directly political role, but is a core part of my heritage. I’ve performed at With Banners Held High every year since it’s inception in 2014, I’ve been a key supporter of the Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign since it launched, and I was interviewed live on Channel 4 News from outside Kellingley Colliery, on the day that it closed in December 2015.
Throughout 2016, I worked with Foundation Futures in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. They work with vulnerable and disadvantaged young people throughout the region, and I’ve been lucky enough to deliver workshops to groups ranging from primary to post-16, as part of my work with the organisation.
Through my involvement with Stand Up For Labour, I’ve also become an ambassador for CRIBS International; a Manchester-based charity which works with pregnant women and new mothers out in the refugee camps in Greece. They provide essential support and relief for female refugees and families, who are left in unimaginably difficult situations.
As of 2017, I’ve also been regularly performing at and helping to organise events for 38 Degrees, which look to champion grassroots political organisation, and an alternative to the party politics which has left many people feeling disengaged and disenfranchised.
I do everything I can to support public sector workers and marginalised groups, as well as The Labour Party in general. If you have a social or political cause which you feel that I may be able to help with in some way, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. My politics and my poetry go hand-in-hand, because they’re the things that I’m most passionate about.
Through my political gigs, I’ve been lucky enough to share a stage with names including Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, Angela Rayner MP, Ken Loach, Paul Weller, Owen Jones, Mark Steel, Sara Pascoe, Francesca Martinez, Shappi Khorsandi, Clive Lewis MP, Richard Burgon MP and many more.