Birdspeed Wins UK Spoken Word Championships

The Bajan raised artist’s winning poem was dedicated to Barbados

Safiya Kinshasa aka Birdspeed, a Barbadian raised artist is the new UK Spoken Word Slam Champion 2019. She was the only black woman in the final and her winning poem was about Barbados, her Gran Gran and Kadooment.  The Hammer and Tongue UK Spoken Word Championships were held at The Royal Albert Hall on the 1st June. The competition lasted for up to 8 hours and she was victorious over 25 over finalists from around the United Kingdom including Ireland and Wales.

Birdspeed performing

Her poems are inspired by Black British and Caribbean culture, and she spices up her performance by combining the artistry of dance and verse to captivate audiences.  The competition started 18 months ago and she won both the Bristol and London regionals to secure she placed in the final.  

She performed in 3 rounds here is a brief break down of the poems:

  1. My Afro. This was about being searched by airport security… You can’t make this up, funny but true and a particular recent phenomenon for black folk.  Her poetry weaved sartorial humour into a human experience, which led to a tearful audience. 
  2. In the poem called the Running Black Girl she physically ran on stage whilst performing.  Birdspeed performed this also as  a salute to Caster Semanya and to embody the symbolism about what it means for marginalised people to run from oppression. 
  3. Last but not least the winning piece Carnival Queen! This poem is set in Barbados 1994, when Birdspeed was taken to her first Grand Kadooment by her Gran Gran. She explored the heritage of carnival and explain why it is not just a street party. The gifted artist also danced during the poem, with choreography inspired by dances learned in Barbados.
The mulit-talented Birdspeed

She gave a very tearful acceptance speech and thanked her Mother, Gran Gran, Grandaddy; Alma and Chester Whitaker respectively who unfortunately are not with us today. She also dedicated the win to Barbados. 

Barbados has a rich literary and performance heritage so I feel honoured to be a part of it. Caribbean narratives are missing from the performance poetry scene in the UK and especially the US so I hope to encourage more.

Since being in The Nation a few years ago, for wearing the Bajan flag in her hair, with photographs taken by Reco Moore she has not returned to the island. The artist promised she would not return until she was able to give a great deal back to her countrymen and women. Now after her accomplishments: National Champion of the UK; a finalist in the New York Slam Championships; winner of multiple slams in New York,  she is almost ready. Birdspeed has been disrupting the poetry scene with an exciting new style using choreography, about to be a published writer in a few anthologies and performing internationally all the while doing Barbados proud.

She plans to return and perform back home and also provide workshops to help anyone interested in poetry and has a story to tell young and old. 

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