In September, I was lucky enough to compete against a bunch of talented poets in the Hammer & Tongue Regional finals. The winner and runner-up of the Regional Final goes through to the Hammer & Tongue National Final. The winner of the National Final gets crowned Hammer & Tongue Slam Champion for that year
Contestants are a culmination of 8 months of competitive mayhem, each winner voted for by voluntary judges from the audience over the year’s preceding slams. This years finalists were: Joe Navarro (October 2015) , Jack Bateman (November 2015), Robin Lamboll (December 2015), George Maurice James (December 2015), Nathan Smith (January 2016), Maddie Godfrey - Poet (March 2016), Amanda Jervis Poetry Page (April 2016), Uppahar Subba (May 2016) and I won the Strawberry Slam in June 2016.
The rules for the Hammer & Tongue Cambridge Regional Slam Final are as follows:
Slammers are chosen at random from the list to perform - spoken word only, no music, no props. Each competitor has 3 minutes from the time they start talking on the mic. After 10 seconds’ grace period, they start losing points (1 point for every 10 seconds!). At the end, they’re given points out of 10 by five judges chosen from the audience, while the top and bottom scores are removed to ensure fairness. The slammer gets a score out of 30, and the competition moves on.
Two preliminary rounds (the second in reverse order of the first) give us the combined scores of the poets which leads to an elimination, where four compete for the coveted crown and title!
Hammer & Tongue Cambridge is hosted by the wonderful Fay Roberts who kept the night on course and the audience entertained and informed throughout. The slam is always kicked off with a sacrificial slammer who gets the audience energised, calibrates the judges and sets a high bar for the contestants to reach. Traditionally, at the finals, the sacrificial poet will be the current reigning Slam Champion which was Tim Knight.
I unexpectedly placed in the top four with Maddie, Robin and Jack alongside. I had only practised two poems so I ran off to prepare my third one! Everybody did extremely well and scored high with the judges but it was the deserving Robin who took home the title and the trophy!
The atmosphere at the Hammer & Tongue events in Cambridge is truly unique but at the regional finals, it is always special. Our spoken word scene seems to be something different to the other cities as every person intercepts spoken word in their own way. This means that every style you can imagine is showcased and every topic is covered. Most importantly, the contestants are always so supportive of each other and there doesn't really seem to be a competitive element to the night.
Congratulations to Robin and Jack who will be going through to the finals at the Royal Albert Hall!!