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Words First: Are you the next spoken word star?

26 April 2019

BBC Radio 1Xtra, BBC Asian Network and BBC Contains Strong Language are working together to find the best emerging spoken word talent in the UK. Whether you are influenced by poetry, lyricism, rap or hip hop – we want to hear from you! We are looking for people with a real passion for spoken word (in any form) that are keen to develop their skills.

What is Words First?

Words First is a talent development scheme that will run throughout 2019. Selected artists will be given the chance to attend regional workshops in May / June 2019, where they will work with established artists and mentors to develop their work, and be given a platform to perform their own work at regional showcases.

The finale will be broadcast on BBC Radio 1Xtra from the Contains Strong Language Festival in September 2019.

Asian Network’s Yasser and 1Xtra’s Yasmin Evans and Reece Parkinson will also attend the individual regional showcases to watch the writers perform their work and partake in the shortlisting process, with some performances broadcast on 1Xtra and Asian Network.

There will be a further performance showcase in Manchester in July and the finale of the scheme will be broadcast on BBC Radio 1Xtra from the Contains Strong Language Festival on 27 September 2019.

Additionally, throughout the scheme selected artists will be mentored and supported by the BBC, book publisher OWN IT! and a fantastic network of regional poetry organisations including Young Identity, New Writing North, Apples & Snakes and Neu! Reekie!.

Jude Yawson, who recently co-wrote and edited Rise Up: The #Merky Story So Far with Stormzy, has been appointed as an ambassador for Words First. He will provide guidance and mentoring for the finalists throughout the scheme. Finalists from the scheme will be published in a book of poetry which Jude will edit.

1Xtra previously ran the Words First scheme in 2015 - 2017 with support from George The Poet and Kojey Radical, and the finalists included Isaiah Hull, Amina Jama, Solomon O.B., Reuben Field, Liam McCormick and Asma Elbadawi. They all performed at The Roundhouse in 2016 and at the Contains Strong Language Festival in 2017, and Isaiah went on to perform at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in 2016. You can find out more and see content from last time here.

To take part this time, simply upload a short performance video using the link below. Entries open 26 April 2019, and videos should be no more than 1 minute long. As this is a spoken word talent search, videos with a backing track or other music will not be accepted, so please perform on silence. Your video application must be submitted before entries close at 23:59, 10 May 2019.

Follow the links to the entry form and Terms and Conditions below, but please read the FAQs underneath before you enter.

I'm so excited about the talent we are going to unearth, which will not only offer a platform to a new generation of creatives, but also spark important conversations about the true meaning of connectivity in the modern age.
Jude Yawson | Photo by @blaowphotography

A crouching DJ Target with previous finalists of Words First

Words First



How long will the workshop(s) take?
The workshops will take place over 2 separate days. If selected, your regional poetry organisation will be in touch, providing you with the relevant workshop details.

Who will be running the workshop(s)?
Workshops shall be conducted by a variety of tutors. Each tutor shall have experience in performing and facilitating such workshops.

How much does the workshop cost?
The workshops are free of charge for selected participants to attend. You do, however, need to get yourself to the relevant workshop location, arranging your own travel, food and refreshments (travel costs will only be covered special circumstances or if you don’t live in the vicinity of one of the workshop locations, see below). If you have a specific need, please provide us with details, and we will review this on a case by case basis.

Where are the workshops taking place?
The workshops will take place at the following locations: Bristol, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, and Newcastle. Please don’t be deterred from entering if you do not live close to one of our locations, reasonable travel expenses will be covered in special circumstances.


What if I’ve never performed in public before?
The workshops are for amateur spoken word artists of all levels, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been performing for years.

Yasmin Evans of 1Xtra
Yasser of Asian Network

What do you mean by spoken word?
‘Spoken word’ is a tricky one to define but you can check out BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Spoken Word Explained for more information.

Ultimately, Words First is an open call for spoken word artists, rappers, MC’s, poets and performers – so if you create work in any of these forms, we want to hear from you.

Spoken Word Explained

What quality does my video need to be?
You can record it on your mobile phone, a webcam or whatever you like – as long as it’s a clear recording and we’re able to hear and see you clearly.

How do I record and upload a video of myself?
You don’t have to use professional equipment to make your recording – the quality of video will not be judged. You could simply use a webcam on your laptop or on a computer at a local library, or use the video feature on your phone or a camera (or maybe ask a friend if you don’t have access to a camera that records).

If you need help on recording your video, there are lots of guides and tutorials on ‘how to record a video of yourself’ available on the internet. Once you've recorded your video, you can upload it here.

What if my video is over 1 minute long?
It’s fine to submit a video longer than 1 minute, but we will only watch the FIRST one minute.

Who will be shortlisting applications?
You will be shortlisted by the Words First Partners, as well as team members at BBC Radio 1Xtra and the BBC editorial team. They aren’t looking for polished performances, just artists who can show their passion, originality and personality.

How will you be contacting the successful participants to join the workshops?
We’ll be in touch with each selected candidate by 19 May 2019. If we don’t hear from you straight away, we’ll send you an email - so be sure to include your contact details in your application.

You will only have 24 hours in which to get back to us – if we can’t get hold of you during this period we will offer that place to another participant, so be sure to get back to us if we leave you a message.

Due to the volume of entries, unsuccessful candidates will not be contacted.


What will happen to the recording I make of my work that I submit as part of the application process?
Whilst you retain the copyright for your work, the BBC will have a license to publish, broadcast and release your video online, or on any other platforms. Please read the Terms and Conditions for more information. Video submissions cannot be returned, so please remember to retain a copy.

Reese Parkinson of 1Xtra

Words First Partners

Words First