If you’re a promoter and you need a 50, 100 word biog etc. then please email me and I’ll supply you with one ASAP! Don’t try and pull one together from the self-indulgent essay below…my career is just too bizarre for me to leave any of it out. Ta!
2006-07 | Spoken word beginnings
December 2006, a few weeks before my 18th. I’m at an impromptu jam session, at a Bromheads Jacket after-show party, in a secret underground venue in Sheffield’s red light district. Somebody had heard my early poems on MySpace and ushered me onto the mic…
From there, I began introducing bands on the Yorkshire indie scene. Before long, I had a string of regular compère slots. My breakthrough came at a Love Music Hate Racism gig in April 2007, where I first performed my early trademark ‘Nazis on the Doorstep‘ piece.
2007-09 | Skint & Demoralised success
In May 2007 I was contacted via MySpace by a Sheffield-based songwriter/producer, using the alias ‘MiNI dOG’. He started layering my poems over some electro instrumentals, which soon developed into an indie-pop songwriting partnership – Skint & Demoralised.
After 6 months, our demo ‘Red Lipstick’ was played by Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 1, and from there it snowballed. In March 2008, we signed to Universal. We recorded in NYC with The Dap-Kings, and completed ‘Love, And Other Catastrophes‘ at RAK in London.
Début single ‘The Thrill of Thirty Seconds‘ was Colin Murray’s Record of the Week on R1 and playlisted on 6Music. We were being hailed as “the next big thing” by the likes of The Sunday Times Culture, Q, Clash, The Times, The Guardian, and many online music sites.
2009 kicked off with a headline UK tour, before a summer release of ‘Red Lipstick‘. It was Sara Cox’s Weekend Anthem on R1, but charted at #100 and saw us dropped. Despite this, we were a big hit at festivals, including Glastonbury, Latitude, Leeds/Reading, and Bestival.
2010-13 | More Skint & Demoralised, plus solo festivals
In April 2011, Skint & Demoralised signed to Heist Or Hit Records, and subsequently released three albums through the label. This included a 20-date tour of the UK in October 2011, plus some headline shows in Germany that Christmas.
In summer 2010, I returned to the UK festival circuit with far less gear to carry; performing 30 minute spoken word/comedy slots at Latitude, Leeds and Kendal Calling. The three Skint & Demoralised albums received critical acclaim.
2013-15 | Full return to spoken word
A hat-trick of spoken word slots at Glastonbury 2013 gave me a fresh appetite for poetry, which led me to co-found a collective known as A Firm Of Poets. We had an anthology published by Ossett Observer in September 2014, and were a hit at regional festivals.
In spring 2015, I formed what is now the UK’s leading spoken word record label: Nymphs & Thugs. In the summer, I did a week’s run at Edinburgh Fringe, and then in autumn/winter, I co-fronted A Firm Of Poet’s 22-date UK theatre tour ‘Ossett Observer presents: The People’s Republic of Poetry’.
2016 | Projects and political activism
2016 began with a project called ‘Four Under Parr’, which saw me programming and producing four monthly events in response to the Martin Parr photography exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield.
I was a central figure on the #JC4PM tour, and performed on both nights at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. That year, I shared a stage with the likes of Sara Pascoe, Francesca Martinez, Attila The Stockbroker, Grace Petrie, The Fall, Sleaford Mods and Paul Weller.
I visited ‘The Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, and campaigned for several issues including homelessness, anti-racism and the refugee crisis. My work with The Poetry Takeaway led to me starring in a national TV ad campaign for Nationwide Building Society.
2017-18 | #LIVEwire and #TwoLittleDucks
I then did a full Edinburgh Fringe with my début one-man show ‘Two Little Ducks’. The show explores the working-class Leave vote; my experiences at the Calais Jungle; and a fictionalised character called Maria. It received rave reviews.
After a slot at the Roundhouse’s Last Word Festival, ‘Two Little Ducks’ embarked on a 22-date UK tour in autumn 2018, accompanied by my debut collection on VERVE Poetry Press (buy here).
Earlier in 2018, I was commissioned by Arts Council Collection to write responses to the ‘Revolt & Revolutions’ exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I also wrote the official poem for and performed at the European Youth Forum’s bi-annual Yo! Fest in Strasbourg.
2019 | Classrooms, comebacks and commissions
My début poetry collection for kids was published by Bloomsbury Education on 11 July. ‘A Hurricane in my Head’ is targeted at kids aged 10-14 and is available to purchase here. It was one of National Poetry Day’s recommended reads, which led me to appear live on Blue Peter.
Following a 6-year hiatus, my band Skint & Demoralised are back, with brand new music on Fierce Panda. All four singles received plays on BBC Radio 6Music, and our fourth album ‘We Are Humans‘ is out digitally and on limited edition white vinyl (purchase here).
I appeared in another national TV ad campaign for Nationwide Building Society, was commissioned to write this poem for Cancer Research UK, this poem for Leeds United FC’s centenary kit launch, and this poem for Jeremy Corbyn’s General Election campaign.
With the UK on lockdown for 2020, I focused mainly on creating content and providing platforms. This included co-presenting Roaring 20s Radio alongside Salena Godden and Amah-Rose Abrams, which still airs monthly on Soho Radio. I also started hosting weekly Insta sessions through Nymphs & Thugs – in the end we hosted 50.
In the April, I co-starred in a Nationwide Building Society advert alongside my better half Maria Ferguson, which was the first of many commissions during lockdown, including a COVID-19 mural at North Ormesby primary academy in Middlesbrough.
The Poetry Society invited me to be a patron for 2020’s Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, which was a great honour. I also wrote a series of articles for The Football Pink and started a monthly Leeds United column in the Yorkshire Evening Post.
Finally, I also did an online performance of my ‘Two Little Ducks’ show, which you can stream back in full (links in this post).
The first half of my year was dominated by Nymphs & Thugs‘ #DisarmHatePoetry project, which saw 16 of the world’s leading LGBTQ artists commissioned to write a response to a documentary called Disarm Hate. The album was released on 12 June, marking the five-year anniversary of the Orlando tragedy. The digital album and vinyl pre-order are here.
Towards the end of that project, Arts Council England awarded me funding to develop my début novel ‘VOIDS’, including mentoring time with acclaimed novelist Richard Milward. I also announced that my second poetry collection will be published by Verve Poetry Press in October 2022.
Finally, I’ve recently started a full school year residency at Dixons Trinity Chapeltown. This is an exciting project for me that sees me working with pupils aged 11-15 every Thursday, and I can’t wait to see what they produce!