Contains Strong Language is the UK’s biggest annual poetry and performance festival. Over three days the BBC festival stages some 30 events in the city of Hull, with leading poets and world-class spoken word artists featured alongside brand new and emerging voices.
Launched in 2017, during Hull’s City of Culture year, Contains Strong Language partners with venues all over the city. The festival has been a resounding success, attracting writers and performers from across the country to appear alongside Hull’s home grown talent – including some of our very own First Story students and Writers-in-Residence.
We got in on the festival action this year through our First Story Showcase, a free public event at Hull Central Library, led by poet and playwright Joseph Coehlo. Joseph’s witty and innovative workshop captivated young and old alike. Participants wrote poems inspired by his challenges, then read their pieces aloud to each other. Total strangers, swapping lines and exchanging words of encouragement: it was a proper community writing event.
We also managed to get ourselves on the radio, thanks to one of First Story’s local Writers-in-Residence, Joe Hakim, who hosts a regular show on BBC Radio Humberside, Culture Night. Joe teamed up with fellow Hull resident and BBC Humberside presenter and producer, Kofi Smiles for a live broadcast from the festival on 27 September. The recording is well worth a listen at BBC Sounds, not least as it features yours truly and one of our talented young writers, Sally Sanchez.
Sally took part in First Story’s intensive programme at Hull College during 2018-19. Keen to continue her creative writing journey, she then applied for a coveted place on our 2019 summer residential course. Sally joined 15 other First Story students from across the country, for a week-long writing retreat at the Arvon centre Lumb Bank. She told Joe and Kofi that her First Story experience has been transformative.
“[First Story] has had a huge impact on me. To write, for me, comes naturally. It’s something I just do; it just comes to me. But techniques: they are something I pick up from listening to other people’s works … and hearing about how they write. It’s given me a lot more confidence in how I write and what I write.”– Sally Sanchez, First Story graduate
Listen to Sally’s full Culture Night interview with Joe Hakim here — she’s on after 30 minutes. Sally also reads beautifully from one of her poems, Loved and Lost.
And if you fancy hearing me wax lyrical about what First Story is doing across Hull and the wider region, I’m on at the 37 minute mark!