YOU TUBER Taz Rahman is on a mission to show that poetry can be as exciting as a rave at a club night.
A day at the Hay Festival, in 2019, inspired Taz to launch a poetry channel on the video sharing website featuring interviews the budding writer and poet recorded with other emerging writers.
Taz, from Cardiff, began filming at poetry events and was surprised to find his Just Another Poet channel was attracting attention: “I set up the channel with a vision of creating a free portal that would allow readers a more permanent and curated access to emerging writers.
“As I started to interview and film at poetry gatherings, I found that there was interest among established writers as well to be featured as the channel allowed for more access to their writing and the craft of their writing. So I just carried on.”
The platform, described as “Wales’ first YouTube poetry channel”, has since had hundreds of views for in depth interviews with poets including Eric Ngalle Charles, who has won acclaim for his writing including on migration, and 2021 online National Eisteddfod crown winner Dyfan Lewis.
Taz also puts in thousands researching and compiling content for the channel and this past week went to Swansea, to film with a nature writer and poet, having been at a London event the previous evening.
“The Queen Elizabeth Hall was packed with 750 people on a Wednesday night to listen to the poet laureate Simon Armitage, Max Porter, former Scottish Makar Jackie Kay and this year’s TS Eliot prize-winner Joelle Taylor,” said Taz.
“Looking around I’d say that over 60 per cent of the room was filled with under 25s. The RAP Party had felt almost like a club event but the revelers had gathered to listen to Will Harris from Granta, Isabelle Baafi from Poetry London, Fahad Al-Amoudi (White Review poetry prize winner) amongst a very diverse line-up.”
Taz has now secured funding from the Books Council of Wales, alongside Creative Wales, to expand the Just Another Poet channel and its content.
The funding is also intended to help reach new and diverse audiences, wanting to discover poetry and literature, via their phones and other new technology while broadening interest in poetry and literature and boosting the visibility of Welsh writers.
Though poetry has inspired youth oriented cultures such as hip hop and, more directly spoken word and poetry slam performances, Taz doesn’t fear that formal verse is something more commonly associated with GCSE literature and school text books.
“This is an often asked question and one that the channel shall be hoping to address in a very small way, or at least make a start within its digital remit,” said Taz who added since having the nod he would receive the Books Council Wales funding he has been researching poetry events in London such as the RAP rhythm and poetry event that has been showing poets and DJs together since 2010.
“Obviously London is a huge poetry scene, however, the key to attracting a younger and diverse audience, in my opinion, is in the curation of the programme, mixing other art forms like both those events to make poetry feel more accessible.
“We should be able to replicate a little of this in Wales in our own way and drive interest. Why are open mic poetry events in cities like Cardiff, Swansea and Newport full of people and especially young people? There is interest.”
Just Another Poet is one of 13 projects backed by Books Council Wales. They range from setting up new publishing houses owned and run by editors and authors from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, to mentoring schemes for authors from under-represented backgrounds, and community-based projects for collecting and telling stories.
Taz, who works as a photogapher, said he will now be able to devote more time to his channel and introduce new features: “Filming, video-editing as well as travel and general admin related costs had been the major stumbling blocks so far.
“I was also having to take time off from my other career in professional photography at times to attend events and interviews.
“The funding will address a number of these issues as well as allow for more ambitious planning in terms of what content could be created for future programming segments. I will also be able to look at that whole aspect of ‘poetic writing’ rather than just poetry and hopefully, be able to promote the ‘culture of poetry’ in Wales a little more.
“A new segment (Seren Esgynedol) to accommodate very early career creative writers at grassroots level is being created.
“The wonderful nature writer I interviewed earlier has small children and struggles with childcare costs, and can only spend four hours each week to devote to her writing, which she has been doing for the last year.
“There are a lot of aspiring writers like alongside what we generally accept as marginalized backgrounds, and I hope to offer some of these creatives a little exposure.”
A total of £186.00 has been made available by the Books Council and Creative Wales and the New Audiences grant has been made available across three categories: Band A – up to £2,500, Band B – £2,501 to £15,000 and Band C – £15,001 to £40,000.
Helgard Krause, chief executive of the Books Council of Wales, said the grants are intended to be catalysts for change in the industry and said: “The purpose of the grant is to strengthen and diversify the parts of the publishing industry we at the Books Council currently support, and the grants specifically prioritize new publishing ventures, authors and audiences.”
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