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Performance poetry

Representing Refuge: The Role of the Arts in Mass Displacement, on Thursday 7th June 2018

I got to have some fun at UCL last week, having been asked to perform at one of the events held during the Festival of Culture.

Hanna Baumann, the organiser who invited me, and I had discussed beforehand that although I would be mentioned in promo material, I shouldn’t have any attention drawn to me at the event. I wagered that people would forget that I was billed to perform, further adding to the disruption. I turned up at the event incognito, replete with a university hoody (from my days at KCL) to try and better blend in. No-one paid me any attention until they suddenly had to.

It worked! People were unsure how to react to poetry suddenly being pushed on them, without warning, and in a style that they were not used to – my hope for performances like these is that it forces people to lose their existing notion of poetry and to just experience my poem for what it is.

My first poem, which was just one part of a larger poem I have called ‘No Dogs’, reflects on my Nana’s experience leaving Ireland as a young girl to come to England and the impact that has had on my identity and sense of self. What I hope, by performing in this manner, is to represent the sudden impact that a migrant population has on an existing community. The community, ignorant of the wider context to explain the interloper’s arrival, are unsure how to react but feel they must respond quickly and they will take their cues from those around them.

You can see me perform the second poem, ‘We are mostly bark’ in the video below:

For more about the event, visit the RELIEF Centre’s blog.

By Cameron Holleran - Poet, Facilitator and Performer

I only started to get into poetry in Sixth Form where I had some wonderful teachers who put me onto Tony Harrison and John Agard – they were two poets that just stuck in my head as people using the language that they spoke to create poetry. With Harrison, we'd looked at V and it wasn't the swearing that resonated with me, it was the fact he'd used the word 'mam'.

Between that a lifelong love of music, I just really loved using words in different ways and having fun with language. I felt brave enough after a few months of writing to try giving performing ago, so started doing open mics around Manchester (I'm from Salford) in 2009 and won some local slams.

When I moved to London in 2011, my mental health took a bit of a dive and I couldn't deal with performing again. In 2014, I'd got talking to a friend on my degree course (who was and remains an amazing and accomplished poet) and showed her some of my writing – she encouraged me to apply for the Barbican Young Poets and I got on and was part of the programme from 2014 to 2016. BYP was an incredible experience and remains one of the happiest periods of my life and I made lots of new friends and came on a lot as a poet, thanks to the support and mentoring of Jacob Sam-La Rose, Kayo Chinonyi, Jasmine Cooray, and Rachel Long

In that time, I performed at a lot of venues in addition to the Barbican Centre, including the Southbank Centre, People's Palace, Rich Mix and Tate Modern, as well as a number of festivals such as Curious Festival (where I wrote a poem in Anglo-Saxon which was backed by a jazz quartet), the Barbican Weekender, Walthamstow Garden Party. I was part of the team responsible for curating National Poetry Day 2014 at the Southbank Centre, performed at Inua Ellams RAP Party, and worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra on a commission which formed part of the the BBC's Centenary commemorations.

I've been published in a few places such as the Barbican anthologies, Watermarks anthology and Marble Poetry, longlisted for the erbacce prize, and nominated for the first Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship.

I am the current poet-in-residence for the Institute for Global Prosperity at UCL. My work here is used to highlight and complement the research that is being done by the institute, providing a different way for people to interact with their work.

Other things that are important to know about me are that I'm non-binary (they/them/their pronouns), I love cats and Pepsi, and I like to box.

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