The Poetry Exchanges Videos

Throughout lockdown, ten poets from Born Lippy  (Newcastle) and Spoken (London) Collectives met, researched, wrote & rehearsed poems about social issues important to them. Filmmaker – Davey Poremda (Fly Films) brought their message to life by creating five hard hitting videos.

The five videos will be released one at a time, every Friday at 2pm from 27/08/21- 24/09/21. Watch them all here.

Please leave a comment about your thoughts on the issues the videos raise, share and subscribe to the Blog & YouTube Channel.

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Video 1/5:

Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson & Ellen Moran – Competitive Oppression

Competitive Oppression explores the way people are pitted against each other based on identifying characteristics, and how we need to work together regardless of race and gender.

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Video 2/5:

Andreena Leeanne & Andi Talbot – Home Unknown

When you think of homlessness please also consider those who are the hidden homeless.

Video 3/5:

Donald Jenkins & Tim ‘Passion’ Forde – Mute The Truth

The Covid pandemic has also been a crisis of information with society divided by conflicting narratives. Poets – Donald Jenkins & Tim (Passion Forde) go head to head in a much needed heated debate to try and unmute the truth.

VIDEO 4/5:

Jayda David & Sara Zafar – Assimilation

Poets – Jayda David & Sara Zafar share their experiences of assimiliation – attempting to blend into a society that wouldn’t otherwise accept them and their cultural backgrounds.

VIDEO 5/5:

Poetry Exchanges Part 5/5: Haylee Venus & Tom Cee- Scrolling

This piece is an account of social media user experience, a pondering on how it has changed our society and where we might be headed in the future.


The Poetry Exchange Event


Born Lippy & Spoken present -THE POETRY EXCHANGE

Live and direct from a stage to your living room. Over Ssix months poets from Newcastle & London have visited each others cities to co-create spoken word to inspire social change. This night will be the premier of of those poems performed alongside a healthy dose of stand-up comedy, live Hiphop & Grime.



Activist, educator & performer trying to change the world, one heart and mind at a time, using spoken word as a tool in bringing about change through verse. His work had featured on BBC Radio 4 to the Paralympics and runs London night -‘Poetry From The Grassroots.’


Spoken word poet who fbelieves in taking collective action and working cooperatively to change our society to be better for everyone. She is the winner of the Great Northern Slam 2018 and a semi-finalist of the Hammer and Tongue UK Final 2019.

Plus much more TBA

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What’s it all about?

This blog is dedicated to documenting the Poetry Exchange – an exciting partnership project between poets from Newcastle and London, enabling them to visit each others’ cities to write and co-create spoken word videos to inspire social change. 

 The project is led by two collectives – Born Lippy (Newcastle) and Spoken (London) who both run dynamic poetry nights in their own cities. Through collboration, they aim to make art that raisess awareness of injustices, builds empathy and gets YOU TALKING & TAKING ACTION in your own communities.

Donald Jenkins (Born Lippy)



Meet the crew…

Meet the Project Coordinators

Greetings, my name is Donald Jenkins. I am a performance poet, writer, spoken word producer and coordinator of The Poetry Excange. Coming straight out of Newcastle, I represent Born Lippy – a spoken word, Hiphop and comedy night, that is one of the two collectives taking part in the Poetry Exchange.

Hello there, my name is Moussa Sylla-Amine. I am a Community Organiser, activist, spoken word producer and coordinator of the Poetry Exchange. Coming straight out of London, I represent Spoken – a dub poetry, spoken word and acoustics night, that is one of the two collectives taking part in the Poetry Exchange.

Collectively, we will be updating this blog regularly to keep you posted on the developments of the poetry exchange.

Meet the Poets

Haylee Venus (Spoken)

Creativity is her life force and her source of inspiration. Haylee Venus is a social entrepreneur, humanitarian activist, singer and creative artist. She established herself through a creative network, Embrace U Empire, and has since been working as a performer, creative artist and entrepreneur within communities and in partnership with community organisations addressing homelessness. She is also starting the fashion show Inspiring Edge amongst other initiatives. Haylee is also the co-founder of the poetry platform Spoken, which uses poetry to cultivate conversation around social change and social action.

Tom Conway (Born Lippy)

Has been a writer all his life and a performing poet for almost a decade. In his role as co-founder of the Born Lippy collective, he has helped bring poetry to new audiences. He firmly believes in poetry as a tool for change, both personally and communally.

Andreena Survivor (Spoken)

Andreena Leeanne is an out and proud Black Lesbian Poet, Compere & Inspirational Speaker. She writes and performs poetry to speak about her personal experiences with abandonment, homelessness, mental health and childhood sexual abuse. By speaking her truth she inspires and empowers others to speak their truth and take action. Andreena founded Poetry LGBT Open Mic Night in January 2015. Poetry LGBT is a warm and welcoming space for the LGBTQ+ community to come together to share their experiences through poetry and spoken word. Andreena has performed her poetry at various community led & Labour Party and Local Authority events such as LB Hackney during LGBT History Month, the Greater London Authority and at International Women’s Day events. You can read one of her poems on The Survivors Trust website here.

Andy Talbot (Born Lippy)

Poet and activist from Newcastle, England. Their latest chapbook “Old Wounds //New Skin” (second printing) is out now via Analog Submission Press. They have work published in several places, such as Back Patio Press, Fragmented Voices, Paper and Ink Zine and Vamp Cat Mag. They are an avid Raiders, San Jose Sharks and Newcastle United fan.

Jayda David (Spoken)

Young spoken word artist whose poetry centres around social and racial politics, inspired by her life and experiences as a working-class, dual heritage woman in London. Jayda has performed on London Live, BBC Radio 5 and at The Television Centre for Mental Health Week. She was also the winner of Poetic Unity’s Black British History Competition 2019. As well as performing, Jayda also facilitates spoken word workshops, which combines her love of poetry and teaching.

Sara Zafar (Born Lippy)

Sara’s poetry focuses on the cultural struggles of women around the world and her own experiences of being a British South Asian woman. Sara aims to address the avoided and uncomfortable conversations of race, religion and gender with her writing.

Mark T Thompson (Spoken)

‘Philosophers seek to interpret the world, but it’s us who needs to change it.’ This is my take on Brecht, interpreting the idea of Marx, that creating change in society is what we are here to do. I believe that spoken word is a brilliant tool with which to attack the challenges involved in bringing about change through opening hearts and minds with verse. Words are the building blocks of thought and communication; and the best words, in their best order, help us to understand both ourselves and the universal context around us better. As an activist, educator and a performer I have been directly involved in trying to change the world, one heart and mind at a time for nearly twenty five years. London based, I have lived in the west end of Newcastle, and I’m not thrown by the vernacular of either the Norse infused Geordie or the Jamaican and influenced contemporary twist on Estuary English.

I’ve delivered workshops on Black History, culture and identity, genetic selection and violence in the home, and had work featured from BBC Radio 4 to the Paralympics. 

Ellen Moran (Born Lippy)

Spoken word poet from Newcastle who wants to create social and political change. She believes in taking collective action and working cooperatively to change our society to be better for everyone. She is the winner of the Great Northern Slam 2018 and a semi-finalist of the Hammer and Tongue UK Final 2019.

Tim Anthony Forde aka Passion (Spoken)

I am a creative activist that’s been writing poetry since the age of 13. I was once named ‘Literature Pimp’ after I performed a poem by the same name. Under the name Passion I penned and performed poems like ‘Ribena’ and ‘Soul Searching’ in 2001, part of a poetry album called ‘Love Inspires’. I once wrote and edited a spoken word video named ‘Unfaithful’, which tells a story of my affair with Poetry and music videos as I’m also an avid filmmaker. These days I’m just Tim Forde. I currently write for love, life and social injustice. I tend to sometimes write my poems in a self-centred attempt to leave a legacy but also with the understanding that someone is going to look back at this time and see what the Griots of the time were saying.

Donald Jenkins (Born Lippy)

Performance poet, writer, event producer, arts facilitator, community activist & co-founder of Born Lippy. His poems have featured in the anthology- ‘New Word Order’, ‘The Writer’s Cafe’ magazine and ‘Riggwelter’ journal and upcoming Best British Poets 2020 in Eyewear. He won the Great Gateshead Slam 2018 and has performed at Glastonbury and the Royal Albert Hall. He has completed commissions for Curious Festival 2019 & 24 Hours in Isolation.  Donald is a qualified English teacher and youth worker and has over twenty-two years’ experience of working with young people in working class communities. He is committed to writing poetry that challenges stereotypes and sheds light on unheard voices. 


Zoom a Zoom Zoom, 10 Poets in a Virtual Room

The Initial meet up – Saturday 12th September

Like most things in the world, we have had to adapt this project to embrace the so called ‘new normal’.

The poetry exchange was due to start back in April 2020. However, due to Lockdown measures and the ongoing pandemic, the Born Lippy Collective (based in Newcastle) were sadly prevented from visiting London to meet up with their poetic counterparts- Spoken. As measures have since somewhat been relaxed we decided to start the project, but felt that it was safer to do this via an initial meet up on Zoom.

I have previously run a number of workshops on Zoom as it has quickly become the new classroom, youth club and team meeting, enabling everyone with an internet connection to participate, regardless of their location. Before we started, I was still feeling quite nervous as I knew there would be limitations in meeting virtually like people not being able to express everything they want to say or becoming tired due to Zoom fatigue.  

What occurred was amazing. Nine poets from London, Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough met online to meet and greet each other, find out more about the project and start to have discussions about the type of issues they were of importance to them.

Initially taking part in a series of icebreaker games led by myself, the poets were moved into breakout spaces where they were asked to find three things they had in common and find out what had initially each got them interested in spoken word poetry. Commonalities included: a shared love of lasagne, jungle music and Paris, a shared interest in travelling, nature and doing charity work and a shared dislike of internet life, Brexit and Chelsea F.C. Reasons for getting into spoken word included: writing a poem while attending a Mos Def Hip-hop concert, getting into performing while acting in a school adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and attending a spoken event while going out on a date night. Poets found this difficult as they were only given three minutes to meet and find out off all of this info from each other.

They then each had to get on their virtual soap box and talk passionately about a social issue that was of importance to them. The purpose of this exercise was for each of them to speak out and enable the other participants to find out more about what makes them passionate, makes them tick and what they are concerned about. 

Poets were timed, being given only two minutes to preach before others were able to chime in and talk in support of that same issue for one minute. Topics included: learning lessons from British black history, the connection between racism and class, how big and diverse racism actually is anfd its connection with colourism, division and isolation within LGBTQ community, alienation in face to face and online communities, youth empowerment at a time when services are being cut, the danger of division created by fake news during the pandemic.

Though initially it was planned for everyone to share one of their own poems from their repertoire, we were cutting it close for time so we put the poets back into breakout rooms to discuss the issues they raised in more depth. This was useful for helping the poets work out who they bonded with and might want to collaborate with on the project. Unfortunately it was difficult as due to technical difficulties we were only able to talk for three minutes which meant discussions did end quite abruptly.

Back in the main room, people then fed back about the process and checked out about their thoughts on the day. Comments included:

“Lots of interesting topics and learning taken from everyone – it helped me get educated by hearing from different voices and experiences”.  

“Met lots of people I think I could really work well with by having conversations that got me thinking”.

“Looking forward to using poetry to work out things that are more difficult”,

 “Today was beautiful. Feel optimistic and grateful for being involved.”

“Excited about being involved in a project with other people who want change the world-  so let’s go out and shake up the s**t.”

 “Never been involved in anything like this before, but now feeling really positive.”

“Longest Zoom call I’ve ever had but it was really interesting and got a chance to share the space with you all.”

Though a great success, one poet was sadly unable to attend so we will have to recruit someone to replace them.  I found the day inspiring but I found it challenging being both a facilitator and participant.

Next stage- we are meeting up in London in person on 22nd October to be paired up with poets and start writing We might even get the chance to perform some poems in front of actual people at a Spoken showcase. Watch this space. 

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Poetry for change

After many months of discussions, the day had finally arrived, when a bunch of poetic Geordies descended on London for a day of making new connections with their equally creative counterparts to change the world, one poem at a time.

Taking the train from Newcastle to King Cross and making our way across to Tottenham on the Underground it was glaringly apparent how much the pandemic had impacted the volume of people seeking to get from one place to the next. On one level I thought it was sad to see how ghostlike some of the services were.  Yet at the same time, it was refreshing to arrive in the capital and not feel immediate mobbed by the swell of people rat-racing each other and cramming into the confines of the Underground.

Arriving at the Selby Community Centre, we were met by our first partner poet- Andreena from host organisation- Spoken, whose warm smile set the tone for what was a great day of building relationships with artists from different cities.

Project coordinator Moussa Sylla-Amine greeted us and made every effort to make us feel at ease by providing a great socially distanced space for us to meet, topped off with some fancy snacks and refreshments. He was a truly great host, providing us with all the details of the centre and groundrules for the space.

Following that, I played as series of icebreaker games, getting people to introduce themselves. This ended up being a bit of team effort as I stupidly forgot some key instructions when leading an avctivity Thankfully, Spoken poet – Mark Thompson, who like me, has a background in teaching was able to correct my mistake, meaning that we eventually did have a winner in the game we were playing.   

We were also joined by Born Lippy poet – Sara Zafar on Zoom, who had sadly been unable to attend the session in person. Thankfully Moussa had set it up for her to be projected onto a big screen so that every participant was able to talk to her in the space at the Selby Centre.

People talked through their thoughts for the day which included things like:

  • Excited as it was their first time collaborating in this way.
  • Looking forward to the process.
  • Great opportunity to motivate them to write something new.
  • Looking forward to changing opinions through poetry. 

To get people in the mood I led a few warm up writing exercise where poets had to write a quick manifesto poem using letters of the alphabet. We are then shared our favourite line from the poem we had written.

Haylee Venus from Spoken collective had gone out and had some amazing Poetry Exchange t-shirts printed, which she handed out to all the poets. This exchange of t-shirts has become a tradition for the poetry exchange where over the last three visits the host collective has had t-shirts printed for all the poets involved in the Exchange. This time, Spoken excelled themselves by getting an epic holographic like print of the Born Lippy logo alongside the Spoken logo on the shirts. They have definitely raised the bar, so Born Lippy needs to come back with something extra special for their t-shirt design when Spoken visit Newcastle in February 2021.

Poets were then paired up as such

  • Jayda David (Spoken) & Sara Zafar (Born Lippy)
  • Mark Mr T Thompson (Spoken) & Ellen Moran (Born Lippy)
  • Haylee Venus (Spoken) & Tom Conway (Born Lippy)
  • Andreena Leeanne (Spoken) & Andi Talbot (Born Lippy)
  • Tim Anthony Forde ‘Passion’ (Spoken) & Donald Jenkins (Born Lippy)

They then set out for several hours of discussion and brainstorming ideas to work out what they wanted to write about. To help guide them I offered them an optional framework of questions to consider:

  • What do you want to say?
  • Who do you want to hear it?
  • What do you want them do to?
  • What do you need to research and where do you need to get it?

As some passionate discussions were underway we were invited by Moussa to visit the boxing ring located in the belly of The Selby Centre. Moussa has long had an ambition to host a spoken word event inside the boxing ring so as to give it a rap battle feel. Though this wasn’t possible due to Covid-19 restrictions, he thought it was still worth while allowing poets to express a few words in the ring to each other.

When we arrived in the boxing gym, we took some photos as the pairs posed in front of the punch bags before going inside the ring.  A heated discussion arose around the use of facemasks and whether or not they were important to wear for personal protection or of they were a barrier to human connection. This moment sparked some interest from a local boxer who was sparring in the gym at same time who gave his own response to what he had witnessed. He was appreciative of spoken word and explained that he was also a writer and really valued the power of written communication.   

Poets returned to their group discussions and mapped out their thoughts on flipchat paper on what was a great afternoon of creative synergy.

We all took a break to have some amazing Carribean takeaway food that Haylee and Moussa organised. This allowed the poets to relax and chat with food being so central to the experience of breaking down boundaries, sharing ideas and culture. As we chowed down on jerk chicken, saltfish, callaloo and plantain, I was really happy to eat these treats as good quality Carribean food is hard to come by in Newcastle.

As the conversation continued, some poets took advantage of using the Levi Music Studios, located at the Selby centre to record some of their previous work. This was a great little addition to the project that Spoken had arranged, enabling us to use this great community resource that was set up by grime rapper – Skepta. The famous emcee used to come to the Selby Centre when he was younger to make and record music so reinvested into the building by offering an affordable community recording space. It is really important that we give credit to Sami- the studio’s soundman who had the patience of a saint, and was great at working with us all to record our rhymes. 

It was a lush day to make some new friends, share thoughts and and start formulating the responses to issues we want to affect change with our writing.       

Written by Donald Jenkins (Born Lippy)