Leyla Josephine is our ‘New Voices’ act for the launch of Rally & Broad’s Glasgow Season on Sun 26th Oct, 2.30pm, Stereo, Renfield Street Lane. A performance and spoken word artist from Glasgow, you can usually find her in random pubs and cafes saying things about nightclubbing, feminism and Beyonce. She is Rally & Broad’s Commonwealth Cultural Programme Slam winner and The Hammer & Tongue UK Slam Champion. She is currently working on Drew Taylor’s ‘HOWLING’. She is also moving to Japan in a couple of months so catch her while you can!
1: Poets end up performing for a lot of different reasons. What led you into the scene?
I began writing poetry by accident. I come from a performance background and studied Contemporary Performance Practice.
I was making my graduation show based loosely around what feminism meant, and I was watching a lot of youtube videos; strangely, these were mainly of Christian women doing spoken word. I decided to try write some stuff and it really worked and it ended up in the show. A couple of months later my mate Sam Small* who runs a night at Inn Deep in Glasgow’s West End asked me to come along and perform. I was so scared and I didn’t think my stuff would be considered poetry, but he was really supportive and I got such a buzz after doing it. Sam was a huge influence, I think he’s still my favourite poet of all time and he was the one that made me want to take it further. It’s strange because looking back now I realise I always liked Spoken Word, I just didn’t realise it was called Spoken Word.
(* Sam Small will be supporting Kate Tempest at The Bongo Club, Sat 25th Oct – Ed.)
2: What do you try to achieve with your poetry and performances?
I always try to give the audience something to think about. I try to make everything I do political. Even when I’m just telling the audience stupid stories about myself, there is always an agenda. I hope that my poems are relatable too, because then the audience member can take something away from the performance for themselves.
3: Tell us about your favourite gig thus far…
It’s so hard! I’ve had so many great experiences. I think The Wickerman Festival this year was a highlight. I remember coming off the stage and thinking ‘Yeah I could totally do this for the rest of my life.’ It was a small gig, but it felt really good to be getting a new audience that wasn’t just Glasgow.
I also performed at The Royal Albert Hall this month, that was definitely a moment for me. (NB: This is where Leyla won the UK Slam Championships – Ed.)
But Inn Deep feels like home to me, feels like I will always come back and perform there because there is such a good vibe, every time.
4:…. And, your least favourite.
I forgot my lines in Nice & Sleazys one night. That was horrific. I just froze and no one said anything. Just shows no matter how well you think you know poems, sometimes you just fuck it up and there is nothing you can do!
5: What is the strangest place that poetry has taken you/ the strangest thing that has happened to you because of poetry?
The strangest thing that has happened to me was when one of my videos went viral online in America. It was my poem “I Am Not Ashamed,” which is about abortion. It was featured on Upworthy and Huffington Post, and this started a snowball effect. It was being shared on loads of different sites, but mostly American, right-wing, Christian ones. It was really crazy for a couple of days! I had to delete my Facebook page and force myself not to read the comments people were posting. I think I even briefly regretted posting the video, but I received so many messages from young women who had been through the same thing and had found comfort from the video, so I decided to repost it instead.
These people online giving me abuse seemed to be under the impression that abortion is an easy decision, one that women take on flippantly. This simply isn’t true. It took me three years to write that poem, so when people say, ‘she’s proud’ or ‘she doesn’t care, she’s a murderer’ they’ve totally missed the point. I think what’s also hard for people is when I describe “her” as a little girl in the poem… On reflection I realise that this is really difficult for many people… However, that’s what happens in many women’s mind when faced with this choice. You do humanize it, and then – in my experience – you move past that. I intended to write something honest about the experience, and that feeling is a big part of it.
It was really horrible and I got a lot of online abuse. I think that has been a huge lesson for me, if you are going to share something on the internet, you’ve got to make sure you’re completely ready for the poem to be ripped apart but also to be judged by thousands of people who don’t know you. Being called a ‘feminazi jihadist’ was particularly confusing!
6: And finally, the theme of this month’s Rally & Broad is “Bigmouth Strikes Again.” How will you be interpreting that in your set (if at all?)
Aw I am a huge bigmouth anyway! Try shut me up! I dare ye.