Spinning Tales: Best Spoken Word At Edinburgh Fringe 2014

1st Aug 2014

Spinning Tales: Best Spoken Word At Edinburgh Fringe 2014
All the cool kids are doing it. Spoken word is officially popular, progressive and being performed in bars, basements and retro cafes across the country. Now a staple at most arts festivals, it was with eagerness I perused the Edinburgh Fringe Festival website to find out what wonderful new and established performance poets would be on offer yelling obscenities, lamenting tragedies and spinning witty tales for their 2014 audiences...

What I found was slightly unexpected; Edinburgh Fringe this year seems, for the most part, to be dedicated to the newcomers rather than the  established performers.

For a start, the concept of spoken word was very loosely interpreted and while there is much to be said for encompassing all manner of verbal performances under this umbrella, it seems odd that stand-up comedy is included when there is a specific strand in the Fringe for that already.

As well, while spoken word poetry is without doubt the most well-known form of the art it now also apparently refers to any kind of talking performance as motivational speakers, spoken memoirs, half comedy, half-singing, half-speaking performances are now rife in the category.

Like I said, this is fine, or would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that it seems to have turned the whole concept of spoken word into a rather muddled idea.

This might explain why some of the best British women spoken word artists on the scene at the moment are mostly nowhere to be seen at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful that there are so many newcomers trying to make a name for themselves and putting their stuff on show, but as a prospective audience member it would be nice to see some of the bigger names as well.

For the spoken word scene, it just doesn’t seem right that the likes of Hollie McNish (who will be at the Edinburgh Book Festival), Kate Tempest (winner of the Ted Hughes Prize for innovation in poetry with her Brand New Ancient’s work), Rachel McRum (of Rally and Broad), and Kat Francois, are absent.

That being said, there are some real gems to be found in the list of women performers this year and the eclectic mix means that there is something to suit all poetic tastes!

Some of the most exciting new faces are actually part of various mixed groups, the best of which I think is Loud Poets – a Scottish based group which markets itself as ‘fist-thumping, side-tickling, heart-wrenching poetry for the masses’.

They have some of the brightest up and coming women poets at this year’s Fringe Festival, a particular highlight being the former Scottish Slam Champion Carly Brown, whose ingenious pieces of work include, “Texas I Can’t Bring You To Parties Anymore” and “Straight” (which as a fellow curly haired ginger girl I can relate to probably more than the next person – but which is still undiluted genius in both content and delivery).

Other members include Tayllor Johnson, whose poem “Dear Hip Hop” is hilarious, insightful and delivered with a beautiful rap-like fluency. Agnes Torok is equally entertaining with slightly less dramatic performances but with clever, well-written material non-the-less.

Of the up and coming solo performers one of the best and most notable is Jess Green, the English poet who penned a viral letter to Mr Gove, the education secretary about his extremely controversial, misguided and uninformed reform policies. As a teacher herself she provides the perfect blend of personal experience and poetic execution.

She got over 200,000 views on YouTube for this one video and it forms part of her first full-length show which she put together specifically for the Fringe.

The strong political stance she takes is both eye-opening and entertaining in equal measure with an excellent reference to how even the boys from One Direction surrounded by flamethrowers and projecting the face of Henry VIII’s wives into the sky would still not be enough to make the archaic curriculum interesting enough for the children she teaches. Definitely one to watch and keep an eye on for the future…


If you are more inclined towards the story telling sort of poetry and less of the loud, rap like versions offered by Loud Poets and Jess Green, then Lucy Ayrton’s show, ‘The Splitting of the Mermaid’ might be a good bet.

A returner to the Fringe, her style is quirky and comedic, but lacks the intensity of rhyme and rhythm of some of her contemporaries. She has been incredibly successful though and was short-listed for the Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Performer alongside the likes of Holly McNish and Kate Tempest.

Her show is a retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson “Little Mermaid” tale, and explores contemporary issues concerning women by reframing the story in a modern context.

An accomplished performer and clearly at ease on stage, she also has a self-deprecating streak which makes for a little light comedy before her acts taking the edge off the intensive nature of the messages she tries to impart with her performances.

To be fair this is just a flavour of all the spoken word on offer, and there are many other poets and a whole other variety of acts set to rock your socks off with their witty words and poetic pizazz in the spoken word category this year.

So block off the 1st to the 25th of August in your diaries and make sure you and your socks are all there to take part in what promises to be an eclectic barrage of new faces, bright talent and insightful words from a whole host of different voices!

So who will you be going to see at Edinburgh Fringe 2014? Leave us a comment! For Books’ Sake will be there and we can hardly wait!

[Image credit: Carly Brown – Slam Poetry Facebook Page]


  • Carmina says:

    Interesting finding out about some new poets. Though Jess Green wasn’t ever a teacher, but I believe she worked at a school as a Library Assistant.