WORDS FIRST! A Celebration of the BBC 1Xtra/ The Roundhouse Words First Glasgow Group!

Rally & Broad have had a busy year in 2015! From our regular cabaret series in Glasgow and Edinburgh, to road-trips to Inverness, Wick, Dundee, Wigtown, Gatehouse-Of-Fleet and many other places (including various venues and, um, schools), we’ve had a rare old time of it!

But, one of our major highlights this year was being the Glasgow facilitators of the BBC 1Xtra/ The Roundhouse Words First Project. Partly a professional development opportunity, partly a talent scout, Words First took place in six cities across the UK, with different lead tutors in each area. Potential participants auditioned to take part by sending in a short video and covering statement, in order to gain a place on the project, which was a week-long intensive masterclass series on all aspects of spoken word and performing, as well as a live show with special guests, recorded for BBC 1Xtra. Open to 16 – 25 year olds, we were totally bowled over by the folks who applied! (See clips from the UK wide events here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02rqxdf

words first


The competition was stiff, but 13 new voices gained a place in the Glasgow part of the project, all chosen as they showed brilliant potential in writing and performing and also because they clearly had an interest in, and knowledge of,  the Scottish spoken word scene including the Scottish hip-hop scene. They were Agnes Torok, Ellen Renton, Michael Griffin, Liam McCormick, Joe Heron (aka Shogun), Gus McAllister, Jonah Stead, Monicah Wai, Michelle Fisher, Georgia Bartlett-McNeil, Ish Doney, Emily Killgore and Kirsty Nicolson, all of whom you can catch regularly performing at various events and open mics across Glasgow, and many of whom are already gaining a lot of attention for their work. Check out some of them here! – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5wVggQk6lvFyQDsbvq9LgvV/words-first-in-glasgow


The week long masterclass series was challenging and intensive, with each poet being commissioned to write a brand new piece in only four days. As well as that, we explored different techniques in writing and performance, had a crash course in the history of slam and spoken word, talked about influences, analysed form, and also had a performance workshop with poet Elspeth Murray and a rap masterclass and scene insights from Louie and Audrey from the amazing Hector Bizerk. This culminated in a live event at The Poetry Club, which was attended by scouts and an invited audience, with a special headline set from Hector Bizerk.


(Photo credit: Chris Scott, Rally & Broad, ‘The Apology Shop’ Jan 2015)

The week itself was an incredibly positive experience for Rally & Broad as tutors –  we were totally bowled over by the work of every single person on the project. What we loved most of all was the camaraderie that sprung up within the group as the days went on. Some of the participants had never performed before a live audience before, and it is to the absolute credit of such a warm, supportive group that everyone felt supported to do so.  Also…. to write an entirely new piece in only four days at the same time as intensively studying all aspects of spoken word AND THEN BE RECORDED BY A NATIONAL BROADCASTER is no mean feat…(and Rally & Broad felt rather like protective She-Wolves during the entire thing!) That every single person did this is a credit to the entire group. What a bunch, what a bunch!


The week was a great thing to be a part of, as the testimonials below attest to. On a personal level, Rally & Broad are absolutely thrilled that The Roundhouse approached us to be part of this absolutely stonking project. As massive advocates of building ties across the UK’s various spoken word scenes, working with such an established and ground-breaking venue was a massive opportunity to promote acts just starting out here in Scotland. For those unfamiliar with the work of The Roundhouse – check them out here …. And….promoting acts from across the UK was exactly what BBC 1Xtra/ The Roundhouse were seeking to do as part of the Words First Project!

The week culminated in the live showcase, a short interview with Rally & Broad the following day, and a filmed performance by the BBC/ Roundhouse. From this, six of the workshop participants were selected for consideration for the next stage of the Words First project. Every single one of the participants did themselves (and the Scottish scene) proud with their dedication and commitment to the entire week, and the week in itself means that every one of them will be broadcast on the Words First site come June. However, as part of the ‘talent scout’ part of the project, one poet was selected from the shortlist of six by the BBC/ Roundhouse to go forwards for the next stage. And, selected from the Glasgow group, that poet is….


We are delighted that Liam has been selected for this! With his commission, Liam wrote a poem charting the journey of a fictional character called Gregor, taking on a massive and very taboo subject (Scottish sectarianism) and subsequently creating a piece that was powerful, challenging and hard-hitting. The very first live performance of ‘When Gregor Grows Up’ can be watched below!

Liam McCormick – When Gregor Grows Up

Liz Counsell from The Roundhouse was particularly impressed with Liam’s knowledge of, and immersion in, the Glasgow spoken word scene, and the BBC/ Roundhouse appreciated that he has a clear will to grapple with big subjects. Liam also reflects the strong current of political verse being written in Scotland’s spoken word scene these days.

Liam will get mentoring from a local tutor as well as invaluable tutoring and mentoring from the phenomenal Kate Tempest and George The Poet. He will also gain broadcasting opportunities from BBC 1Xtra and performing opportunities with The Roundhouse in London, meaning access to the wider UK performing scene and the chance to meet and learn from poets outwith Scotland too. We are exceptionally pleased that Liam, who embraced every single aspect of the masterclasses, will be getting this great opportunity.

To every single one of the Words First Glasgow project, though? MASSIVE congratulations! What a week we all had! Particular thanks to The Poetry Club and to Liz Counsell from The Roundhouse for taking care of us during the week. 🙂

Here’s some quotes from some of the participants, as well as some words from Liam on his thoughts on the next stage!



Words First was a brilliant experience for me. Mostly I write alone in a bedroom lit by a laptop screen to be performed in a loud pub. Writing in the workshop made me ask more questions and be more creative. With the aid of my fellow poets and the fabulous Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum I turned an alright idea into my favourite poem that I’ve written. I will definitely be attending more workshops and would recommend them (especially those run by Rally and Broad) to any poet looking to try a new approach.

I am very excited for the next stage. Especially to meet the other poets who got through. More than that- I’m thrilled that I’ve been chosen and hope I can work on even more material.


The fact that the workshops were so intensive and so far removed from any previous experience that I have had, completely refreshed my perspective on how to approach writing a poem. It was a pleasure to work with such inspiring tutors and generous,  like minded young poets, which all in all made for a supportive, stimulating and incredibly fun environment.


(Check him out below!)

I got told off …. the commission took me half an hour on the train and I walked off stage to rapturous applause and was embraced by an overly excited Louie ( – from Hector Bizerk – )… Was a’ight… (Ed:  ………       😉


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 Words First was a phenomenal experience: I got to do things that I never thought I’d do – writing a rap with Hector Bizerk and learning tricks of the trade from Elspeth Murray – and experiencing poetry in a completely different way from how I had previously. I also got to meet some great people, each very talented in different ways, and I was able to learn so much from all of them: I’d like to think they all played a part in my final piece and performance in some small way or another!



 The experience was ultimately invaluable. Spending a week with talented people gave me both food for thought and confidence in my own work and myself as a performer. It was the first time I’d written to a (loose) remit and I think it really worked for me; it challenged and inspired me to think outside of my usual subject matter. On top of all that, I made friends which I’m confident will become lasting professional relationships and I’m excited to see what the next steps for us are!



   It helped me to get on stage and perform. not only that I actually can’t wait to do it again!



Words First was a great experience and a chance to really find my love for spoken word anew. Learned many new things about writing and performing and got to know some great people. Most of all, I am grateful for a full week of complete focus and joyful curiosity of all things wordy. Wouldn’t have missed it for the wor(l)d!



Words First opened my eyes to a medium I really hadn’t explored before. I gained feedback and advice that has helped my writing and performance both in and outside of performance poetry. It was stupid-good fun too!



Words first was such a fantastic experience. Having the chance to gain guidance and feedback not only on my writing but also performance style was super valuable. The atmosphere of the workshops was supportive and creative – the perfect environment in which to write and challenge yourself. I had so much fun over the week and Words First has instilled in me a love of spoken word which I don’t think will fade!



 Good lord, that was good. And we’re friggin delighted to have met every single one of these utter stars. Happy End Of 2015. Ours is. 🙂

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