Poetic Debaters in Essex

PDP essex group pic

Pupils from Castle View and Cornelius Vermuyden Schools

PDP Pop UP has been on a bit of a hiatus but sessions will resume again at the end of June with schools in London in the Swiss Cottage area for The Pop Up Festival of Stories on 13th July.

Meantime, at the beginning of May Sam Berkson and I went into two schools, Castle View and Cornelius Vermuyden Schools, in Essex to run PDP session for the Pop Up Festival High House Production Park. It was a beautiful day and the outside stage brought out a little extra energy from our young poets.

The theme the pupils from chose was ” Does your background affect your chances of success for your ambition?”

On a coin flip Cornelius Vermyuden opted to argue against the point – no, your background does not affect your chances of success.
Castle view had this one in the bag – obviously your background will affect your successes in life and with some strong writing to highlight poverty, difficult upbringing and charismatic performances, they argued the point well.

Cornelius Vermuyden had strong writing in favour of the posed question. They took the approach that circumstances can test you character, challenge you to step up your game. They spoke about class and expectations. But ultimately, many believed that although their own backgrounds were humble, and sometimes, demanding and stressful, it did not affect their drive to believe in themselves.

A thought provoking group of 13 and 14 year olds.

Our judges were the duo 4i2i – Tyler Day and Amiee McWeeney
We had the charismatic, dry witted Essex born Richard Purnell hosting, entertaining both children and parents a like. Richard will also be hosting the Swiss Cottage date.

Listen to some of the day’s poetic debating with PDP poets from Castle View and Cornelius Vermuyden.

0.00 –  Richard Purnell, the host- Intro, debate rules and meet the judges
2:32 – Sonny – I come From
4:55 – Billy – I will Succeed
7:31 – Judging & jokes
9:04  – Jacob, Katie and Rhiannon
11:40 – Louise and Michaela – believe and love me, I am
13.23 – Nina and Grace – Gravity
14.33 – Michaela Louise, Rebecca and Grace I come from group piece
17:12 – scoring. And the Winners are…?

Read poems by Castle View School pupils. (please zoom in and pause.)

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ROH Design team with PDP Posters with Community Groups

Pop Up have teamed up with the Royal Opera House design team to do outreach to the local community of each site visited to engage them pre-festival. This a great way for the local people to have hype about the festivals arrival and and to have a sense of ownership.

Here are of some young people busy on Poetic Debaters poster from the community of Thurrock   where the Pop Up Storytelling Festival will be  on the Saturday 3rd May.



PDP in The Smelting Forge @ Pop Up Ironbridge

The first Poetic Debaters Throwdown Event will be happening in an amazing site. It’s very apt that the venue should be the birth place of the Industrial Revolution. It’s also poignant  that a group of Young Poets will be exercising their freedom of speech in a space filled with such metaphorical resonance.

The actual PDP event will be held in this building – The Forge, where raw mineral iron would have been smelted. The space has dramatic levels and gives so many performance possibilities.


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Sam Berkson – PDP Poet Coach for Pop Up Festival 2014

sam-berkson-webIt is a great pleasure to have Sam Berkson on board the first run of The Poetic Debaters Project.

Sam has been performing poetry since 2002, and published a debut collection with Influx Press in 2012. He has since written commissioned collections on the subjects of Ridley Road market for Fishbar Gallery and on his experiences in Western Saharan refugee camps for Olive Branch Arts. He has been poetry slam champion at Brighton Festival and for Liverpool’s year of Capital of Culture, touring the UK at gigs and festivals, including Queen Elizabeth Hall, Latitude, Hay-on-Wye and Bestival and performing a solo show at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Internationally, he has been a visiting poet at Grant McKewan University, Canada and Kaos Pilots International School in Denmark. Currently collaborating on the Arts Council funded Poetry of Madness project, he performs under the stage name Angry Sam.
A qualified secondary school English teacher, Sam has nine years experience teaching in inner-city schools. As an informal educator and workshop facilitator, he has been a poet-coach for the Olympic-funded Shake The Dust project, taking a team of Year 9 students to the London slam final and was featured alongside fellow poet, Chris Beschi, in a Guardian Education Article about poets who work in school

“Sam has the rare gift of being informed and intelligent without being condescending. His poetry delivers his opinions, but in a way that seems to care about yours. His poetry is warm and honest and well crafted. He is a good poet, a poet in the true sense of the word.”
– Kate Tempest, poet

“Year 9s are won over by his conviction and clarity and soon  become mesmerised” – Judy Friedberg, The Guardian

The Poetic Debaters @ Pop Up

Great news!
PDP is going to have its first live event. Not just one but THREE!
The Pop Up Storytelling Festival for Children will be running in three sites over the UK, Ironbridge in Shropshire, High House In Essex and Swiss Cottage in London.


Click this image and then on the “!” on the little blue banner to see Zena Edwards representing PDP

This award winning festival has a great team who are supporting the production of PDP. English PEN and The Poetry Society‘s Slambassadors have recruited 8 young poets between them to take part in the first ever PDP to take place in at the Crookendale Museum of Iron in Ironbridge, Shropshire. They shall be revealed later. The Royal Opera House designers  are working on the banners and posters while


Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron & Enginuity, Ironbridge, Shropshire
Saturday 19th April : 11am – 5pm

High House Production Park, Essex
Saturday 3rd May: 12 – 6pm

Swiss Cottage, Camden, London
Saturday 12th – Sunday 13th July:  11am – 6pm
(PDP is on the 13th July.)

Check out the Pop Up Festival website and details and program of activities of Pop Up 2014

– Zena