Going Places conference at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, Dec 2022

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


I was invited to deliver a keynote lecture on education, heritage and creativity at the Going Places conference (Homerton College, University of Cambridge, Dec 2022).

Conference details:

How is the digital and live spoken word educating the young spirit? What does a reparative curriculum look like? How do youth imagine educational futures, or rather, how are youth poets already reimagining decolonial, abolitionist and just-peace pedagogies? Or, in the words of poet Bhanu Kapil: “Is a poet/ an imperial dissident, or just/ an outline/ of pale blue chalk?” What is spoken word’s resonance with hip hop, grime, oral traditions, young adult literature, and performance art towards healing post-pandemic trauma? Noted by scholar Bettina Love, is the education system turning into an “educational survival complex”, when schools feel like a roadmap to prison, not a place to thrive?

Speakers include one of the foremost UK writers Patience Agbabi FRSL, as well as leading scholars in education, social justice, the arts, and youth spoken word:

· Dr Helen Johnson - University of Brighton
· Dr Raphael D’Abdon (online) - Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
· Dr Sadia Habib - Manchester Institute of Education and Manchester Museum (University of Manchester)

and the renowned youth mentor, poet Shirley May FRSL, CEO of spoken word collective Young Identity.

At the heart of the conference is social creativity and making community together to explore topics: live and digital poetry, educational justice, advancing youth spiritual well-being, and widening access in education, embracing lived experience, heritage, belonging and multilingual creativity, decolonising personal and collective traumas, and re-creating a reparative curriculum.

“Going Places” is a 2-day hybrid conference (online and in-person), inspired by the poem Going Places and its verses: “I think I’ll paint roads/ on my front room walls/ to convince myself/ that I’m going places”, penned by acclaimed British author Lemn Sissay OBE, who will open the conference. The government requires English Schools to teach for young people’s spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development with British Values, known as SMSC, rife with historical prejudice. With Covid-19 poetry cuts on the GSCE, UK youth poet Kadish Morris warned “poetry saved me, don’t deny to next generation”. The conference will bring together young people, poets, educators, teachers, academics, scholars, creative and cultural organisers, activists and policy-makers, to harness community to “go places” spiritually, morally, socially, and culturally. In this spirit of this, the opening welcomes special guest poets from Young Identity.
The conference recognises Lemn Sissay's landmark legacy across poetry, education, advocacy and equity in the care system, which has been honoured by the Battersea Arts Centre's annual Festival - Going Places - celebrating the talent and work of care experienced artists. The Going Places festival was hailed as a "blueprint for arts institutions". The conference wishes to honour and extend the festival ethos to widening access in academia for underepresented groups to inspire careful work with artists as educators, community-builders and creative-critical researchers - offer a creative blueprint for education to counter intersectional trauma, and be a place to thrive, not survive.

First, the conference will critically celebrate spoken word poetry as a pioneering art form, which has innovated the British and international poetic landscape.

Second, we aim to centre young people’s voices, and imagination to mobilise creative communities as sites of political activism and widening access to education.

Third, the conference will progress creative-critical, decolonial and intersectional research. We want to deepen conversations on countering state-sanctioned violence and social stigma reproduced in the elitist education system, and literary canon, which discredit the experiences and artistry of traditionally underserved young people and poets.

The conference views ‘spoken word’ as an aesthetic-political tool, rejecting stereotypical uses of the term ‘spoken word artist’. The conference is held by ESRC-funded project, Poetic Justice Values that explored these questions, in collaboration with Manchester’s spoken word collective Young Identity, founded by renowned poet Shirley May. Young Identity’s award-winning poet Princess Arinola Adegbite aka P. A. Bitez captured the collective youth voice in her original poem Oral to A4, funded by the Cambridge Digital Humanities (CDH). A poetry video of Oral to A4 will launch on “AndWhat TV”, a spoken word channel and education resource founded by Nicole May, Young Identity’s Executive Director.
Period2 Dec 20223 Dec 2022
Event title"Going Places" with the Spoken Word Community
: Youth Education Between Spiritual & Poetic Justice
Event typeConference
LocationCambridge, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • education
  • heritage
  • creative arts
  • poetry
  • museums
  • identity
  • belonging
  • cultural engagement