No props, no musical instruments, no costumes. Those rules aside, anything can happen onstage at Victorious Voices, a spoken word festival taking place right now.
From April 11–13, the festival will showcase local, and national spoken word talent. This is the seventh year for the Victoria festival, and, according to city councillor and festival director Jeremy Loveday, it’s the biggest year yet.
“It’s the biggest festival of its kind on the island, and the longest running in Canada,” says Loveday. “And this year we have nine high school poetry slam teams going head-to-head in a really high energy poetry slam showdown.”
The festival will feature high school slam poetry semi-final and final competitions, as well as an alumni showcase tonight at 7:30 p.m.
“We’ve had amazing poets come through Victorious Voices over the last seven years and so this is a chance to hear from those poets now that they’re off in the world doing amazing things,” says Loveday.
If that wasn’t enough to pack into three days, Victorious Voices has joined forces with other organizations to make their seventh year their most exciting.
“For the first time ever, we’re also offering day-time programming. So we’ve partnered with the [Greater Victoria Public] Library to offer free workshops for youth, as well as some daytime shows at the Victoria Event Centre for highschool students,” says Loveday.
The daytime shows are new this year, thanks to grant funding from CRD Arts and the B.C. Arts Council. It has given Victorious Voices the opportunity to share the work of professional spoken word artists with high school students who aren’t competing in the festival. It’s a new opportunity to connect with youth that Loveday is very excited about.
“Growing up, I wish I had something like Victorious Voices,” Loveday muses. “When I was a teenager, I really needed a positive, creative outlet and I didn’t have one . . . when I was shown spoken word by a high school teacher, it really ignited something in me.”
Loveday has carried that passion with him, and when he returned to Victoria with fresh eyes, he saw that spoken word could be of great value to the youth of the city.
“I think the more we, as a society, shift towards creating opportunities for youth, the more that it’ll be easier for young people to cope with all the really heavy and hard things they’re going through,” Loveday says.
“I think any time you have people who are speaking their truth, powerfully, that connects with people and that propels conversation and can help build social movements . . . When [messages are] put in a way that is both easy to consume and challenging, that’s when spoken word can really come alive and really help propel social movements and propel dialogue and discussion about hard topics that are often left out of everyday conversation.”
And having your voice heard as part of a community of acceptance, celebration and understanding? That, says Loveday, is something young performers will never forget.
The name of the festival itself is inspired by the role of youth, and plays on the double entendre of “victory.”
“Yes it’s a competition,” says Loveday. “[But it’s also] a way to create a platform where young people can have their voices heard, and have their voices celebrated by their peers, and recognized by the general community and by community leaders.”
So what comes next? While new poets aren’t able to perform in the festival, if you, like Loveday, are spoken to by spoken word, it’s easy to get involved.
Coming to one of the workshops on Tuesday or Wednesday, says Loveday, is a good start.
“We also have the Victoria Poetry Project, which is the overarching body that puts on Victorious Voices, and we have open mics twice a month — it’s called Tongues of Fire at Solstice Café — it’s a really positive, supportive, welcoming place to really try out poems for the first time.”
If you’re still shy about putting yourself on stage, Loveday suggests just coming to one of the open mics and taking it in. Whether or not you decide it’s for you, Loveday is sure you’ll find a welcoming, warm community.
“A healthy society has the arts in it, and healthy communities have places where discussion can be had, where people can celebrate their cultures and their stories. And so, for me, the arts are very necessary in building healthy communities, building healthy people, and having fun, having a vibrant city.”
For more information, check out the Victorious Voices Facebook page.