New audience for spoken word poetry?

OPI_Spoken word_James Sturrock-1_webWhile the first Vike’s Men’s football game led to a loss against the UBC Thunderbirds, Jeremy Loveday’s spoken word poem “Masks Off: a Message to Men” scored with many in the crowd. With many fans oblivious to what was happening at half time, it seemed that Loveday’s message might have been lost amongst the noise and sounds from the thousands in attendance. But the applause he garnered proved otherwise.

“Even if it seems out of place, sporting events are a perfect place to talk about gender violence and the ways we can work together to end it,” Loveday said via Facebook just prior to his performance. “It is such a great opportunity to help start some very important discussions.”

Loveday’s poem, written by a man for other men, touches on the ever present issue of sexualized violence against women, and how it is up to men to take charge and make a difference. With nearly 800 000 views on YouTube, his poem has opened a conversation about rape culture, and why it must change. I had seen this video, and Loveday’s performances at various local spoken word events over the past few years, and I was excited to see it performed on a larger scale.

The energy of the crowd was surprisingly supportive, considering most in the stadium were there for soccer, and soccer alone. “I’ve never performed at a large sports event before,” he said, “but big audiences tend to come with lots of energy. As a performer you feel it from stage.”

Going into the performance, Loveday spoke of how different it would be performing in front of so many people. “I think it will be hard to connect with everyone,” he said. But if his message resonated with one person, that is still one person more than there was before the performance.

As an award-winning Canadian performance poet and four-time champion of the Victoria Poetry Slam, his work has sparked international debate, and earned him a global following. He believes vulnerability is a sign of strength, and that together, we can make this world a better place. “I think it is very encouraging to see the University of Victoria fostering conversations about consent and bystander intervention,” Loveday said. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Loveday’s performance nicely complements the “Let’s Get Consensual” campaign co-ordinated by the UVSS, UVic, and the Anti-Violence Project, a program designed to increase discussion about what consensual sex entails, and why it is necessary in healthy relationships.

From where I sat in the media booth, I could hear much chatter after his performance, mostly from people who enjoyed his piece as much as I did. I hope that Loveday was proud that he was able to get his incredibly important message across. He hopes to send his message to more people as he runs for Victoria City Council this fall. “There are ways to party safe and to take better care of each other. Let’s do that.”

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