The Ruckus Slam Poetry group has made a name for itself after holding open mic slams once a month in Brisbane and Melbourne.
Gearing up for their monthly show as well as Adelaide Fringe Festival, the gang answer some questions about poetry, their goals as a group and what's to come in 2017.
"Poetry slam meets circus meets loud heckling meets wild applause"… Tell us more! Where did the fusing of all of these things begin?
Ruckus Slam first began in 2013 in a dingy kitchen in West End, Brisbane. Martin Ingle, Scott Wings and Angela Peita had just returned from an East Coast poetry tour, and were all jacked up and crazy-like on poetry and ready to make things happen (in the wildest ways possible). We thought, “let’s get someone else involved as well in case there’s a fire”. That’s when Ange’s flatmate, Meg Bartholomew, overheard us and asked what a poetry slam even was. We knew we’d found our perfect scapegoat and have been leaving matches in Meg’s cupboard ever since. We host local and international artists and judge poets using an archaic and complex dinosaur scoring system.
Why poetry slam?
It’s an entertaining event where everyone gets involved. Usually poets, because poetry slam, but that’s less important than not caring. The event begins with 16 spaces available for sign up. There are no restrictions on who can sign up. Judges are randomly selected from the audience – they are handed dinosaur themed score cards, eccentric hats and shout their scores from the depths of the crowd. The work of the 16 slammers must be original and unaccompanied – they can do poem/story/rap/whatever... As long as it’s original work. They are given the time limit of 2 minutes 30 seconds. If they reach this time the audience will let them know by erupting into singing John Farnham classic 'You’re The Voice'. First-time slammers will be awarded with hugs from the audience and plastic dinosaurs. No one really understands the scoring system as “the points don’t matter, the point is poetry”. If the performer is awarded the highest possible points everyone erupts into singing, again. But this time it’s a different song that is a secret and we can’t tell you unless you get the highest score. Ruckus Slam is the perfect environment to introduce people to performing their own words in front of an engaged and enthusiastic audience. Alternatively, Ruckus Slam is a great night out to meet new people, yell at our MCs, an ultimate date-night and bucket of fun. Alternatively alternatively, it is a great venue to get kicked out of because you filled your pockets with prawns.
What is the ultimate/ideal goal for Ruckus as a group?
We want to build a supportive and dynamic arts community who deliver quality events and performances across Australia and eventually internationally. In Brisbane our team is heavily involved in the poetic community. However we also have members in Melbourne and across the globe who regularly participate in our other events including immersive theatre, site-specific theatre, music, games and workshops. Real talk. We just want to have fun. In as many creative ways as possible. Taking stories to backyards, streets, cafes and theatres.
Is there anything particularly special (apart from the poetry slam itself of course) about your upcoming show at the New Globe Theatre?
Our February Ruckus Slam marks the beginning of our fourth year. This is the first Slam for 2017 and our whole community will be reuniting after the summer break. The slam falls the day after Valentine's Day. So expect a heap of November babies with names like Slammo or even Martin. At our slams we never know what’s going to happen, who’s going to sign up or what people have planned. At Ruckus Slam, performances have included marriage proposals, break-up poems, love poems, poems about dinosaurs, compliment poems, raps and poems about pimples. We haven’t had anyone get naked yet. We assume all forms of love will be in the air and may encourage the purging of love with a Confessionals Board where everyone can get involved.
You're heading to Adelaide Fringe for a workshop for kids. What will that entail?
'DINO SLAM!'. We have devised an interactive workshop and slam for little dinosaurs hosted by big dinosaurs. We will be teaching little dinosaurs about how important their voices are, and that they can be heard. Everything from rapping raptors to love poems from a stegosaurus will encourage kids to write, be brave, and lean how to roar about the things that matter to them. It’s a bold move to take on Adelaide Fringe and we can’t wait to tell you all about how amazing the Hungry Jacks is there.
It's for kids 7-12 mostly… What are some of the challenges and rewards in teaching kids that young about poetry?
Young people are pretty enamoured by the world, and have definite thoughts and opinions that aren’t necessarily just reflections of their parents. A favourite moment from a workshop was when a grade three girl wrote a metaphor that said “Australia is a lonely cupboard… Because we are big and alone here in the south bit of the world but we don’t open our doors for anyone”. It was a humbling moment to notice what kids notice. The challenges are as you would expect, they will let you know if they are bored. You have to programme in accordance with their levels of engagement and be flexible in your performances. There is no better audience than children to keep you on your toes. Adults are polite and will sit through any old thing. But kids don’t have the patience or care enough to indulge a poets ego.
What does the year hold for Ruckus?
Our regular slams are an exciting fresh energy for the wide-eyed artist, they happen once a month. We will be conducting regular workshops to keep challenging and offering alternatives to the community. It’s so excellent when you notice an artist realise what else poetry can do, that it doesn’t have to be especially stand-and-deliver, performance, or page based, it can be anything… Music, theatre, .gif, meme, mime, dance… Our writing group is kicking along each month and we have a wealth of feature artists from locals to internationals to keep everyone loving and learning. We've got a big year in terms of festivals. Our team is doing wonderful things. Scott has just returned from a festival in Victoria presenting a slam and some interactive performance with a Ruckus team down there. Our team continues to grow and we love it. We will be in Canberra in April directing an immersive theatre treasure hunt called 'Run Amok' for You Are Here Festival. Adelaide Fringe is obviously a big one with 'Dino Slam!'. We are looking forward to workshops and a continuing relationship with Kelvin Grove State College where Scott and Ange will be developing work with young people.
The monthly Ruckus Slam for February takes place on 15 February at The New Globe Theatre.