|ABOUT HAMMER &
Tongue promotes the best in live literature from the UK
and the rest of the world, and gives new artists a stage on which to
promoters of Slam Poetry
in the UK, making champions from everyday people, handing the power of
judgement to the poets’ peers, creating a democratic cutting-edge
spoken word culture, reaching out to communities, organising workshops
in schools, universities and prisons, Hammer And Tongue creates
best live poetry” events in The UK in venues that you
to see poetry to a hip hop and world music backdrop.
A HISTORY OF HAMMER
Tongue was set up in October 2003 shortly after Steve
Larkin met Jim Thomas performing at Catweazle in Oxford; they went down
to compete in a slam in London (which Steve won with perfect 10s! Jim
came a close second with one judge dropping him to a 9.9).
Steve was frustrated with the lack of gigs in Oxford, everything being
either open mic things that weren't dedicated poetry nights or they
appeared to be dull affairs and Steve was unimpressed with the London
scene which he had moved to Oxford to be near having been a developing
professional performer for ten years in the North.
As soon as Steve
met Jim, he knew he'd been exposed to the sort of
vibrant performance poetry that he loved, he was great. He’d
The States and got training from slam masters.
Steve had his
number and called him out of the blue and said he wanted
to put a night on, he'd found the ideal venue to start something off
in, this was The Brickworks on Cowley Road, a small independently owned
behind this was that a venue of that size would look full with 20
Our first night
attracted about sixty people, it was hot, it was
sweaty, it was an electric atmosphere, Soul Evans a slam champion from
the United States mesmerised and inspired those sixty people who went
away as converts to “slam poetry” or “performance
poetry” with the
first two rules of Hammer And Tongue drilled into them.
The first rule
about Hammer And Tongue”
and the second
about Hammer And Tongue”
knew they were on to something. They attributed the early success of
Hammer And Tongue to hard work on their part (and the fact that they
could take their skill to other venues and demonstrate what poetry can
do), to fantastic and innovative designs and flappy tongued posters
made by local artist Stig, and the community of talented and conscious
people in East Oxford who embraced the idea immediately. They also knew
that to extend this any further and battle against “the P
fact that the word poetry automatically conjures up Arran sweaters and
bearded men being dreary and serious), they needed to take advantage of
the best advertising tool there is – word of mouth.
booked up until Christmas being ready to foot the bill if the worst
came to the worst but the audiences just kept growing and growing, they
at first thought that they’d become temporarily fashionable and
the numbers of people would settle so they stayed at the same venue.
They thought that maybe they relied on students but April’s gig
Mark Gwynne Jones, slap bang in the middle of their Easter holidays was
the busiest they’d had with over eighty people cramming
a tiny space. Somehow in May they got over a hundred people.
out effort and generous support from Stax (Students Taking Action For
Community Change) saw them take the formula to The Zodiac for The Big
Slam where they attracted over 300 people who saw The Oxford Team that
was made up of Hammer And Tongue slam champions beat Birmingham New
October Poets and then narrowly loose to an extremely strong USA team
led by Taylor Mali (six time US National Slam Champion).
And Tongue then moved permanently to the The Zodiac, which is a few
doors up from the original venue. They launched with one of the biggest
names in the UK scene Atilla The Stockbroker and followed up with the
likes of TUGGST.A.R and Jean Binta Breeze as well as American
favourites like Buddy Wakefield.
2004 Steve was invited to Canada for the Spoken Word Olympics the
Canadian version of The US Nationals where thousands gather every year
for the biggest slam fest on the planet. There he saw off stiff
competition beating a host of top American performers including former
US Nationals champion Mike McGee to come away with the title of Spoken
Word Olympic International Champion.
Now the UK
poetry scene was on the international map and Hammer And Tongue were
able to persuade some of the best in Canada and The United States to
compete against an Irish team and a best of British slams team in the
first ever Four Nations Slam.
This event was
sold out The Zodiac with Four Hundred people crammed in to witness a
breathtaking display of poetic ability, performance and culture; each
nation’s poets bringing with them their own unique style and
then Hammer And Tongue has launched in Brighton, London, Bristol and
Steve both live in East Oxford and are quite attached to the culture
that has seen Hammer And Tongue become so successful, Jim still has a
full time job with The ETC group campaigning against nanotechnology and
GM and Steve works full time for Hammer And Tongue, the organisation
that they set up.
work has now extended beyond promoting events, they are running
and performing workshops for those that have been sat in the audience
wanting to express themselves, Steve has been working in a category B
prison and has presented the first “Slam In The
Slammer” with the inmates of HMP Grendon. The fluid group poets
being used in education more and more. They have plans to make a film
using the footage they have taken so far and to create a great
interactive website that hosts the first ever poetry charts exposing
people to the spoken word in the same way that people have been exposed
to music. They also plan to unite all the people promoting spoken word
in Oxford under one banner for a festival next year, so their work is
cut out. This is all on top of the poetry career Steve and Jim are
enjoying themselves, which so far has seen Steve share stages with
great poets like Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Hegley and John Cooper
Clarke, and Jim compete in The US Slam Nationals.