Marketing Coordinator Petra Harrison talks about this year’s ‘Last Word Festival’ celebrating its 10th year at the Roundhouse

The launchpad for some of the UK’s brightest spoken word and poetry talent, the Last Word Festival, hosted by the Roundhouse is currently enjoying a take over of the arts venue. From the 1st to the 18th June, the event marks the return of the coveted Roundhouse Poetry Slam Final, renowned arts organisation – Apples and Snakes’ 40th year celebration, a conversation between award winning poet Sophia Thakur and #Merky Books editor Lemara Lindsay-Prince, a live podcast series by Lyrix Organix featuring Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens amongst many other events. Talking to us about this year’s 10th anniversary, marketing coordinator Petra Harrison tells us more about what it means to be able to host this vital event years on, and what the marketing aspect for an event such as this looks like.

Hi Petra, The Last Word Festival, curated by the Roundhouse is currently taking place until 18th June. How is it going so far?

It’s safe to say The Last Word Festival hit the ground running this year. We kicked off with the jewel in the crown, the Roundhouse Poetry Slam Final and then had two other fantastic nights in the main space with Speakers Corner Quartet and Apples & Snakes. Other highlights so far are prior Slam Champion Elliot Waloschek performing their debut spoken word show ‘Waterlog’ and a genre-bending performance from poet and rapper Dizraeli in our Studio Theatre.

The Last Word Festival is a two week long event celebrating the power of words and the nation’s most vital voices, this including Apples and Snake’s 40th birthday celebrations, Roundhouse Poetry Slam, #Merky Books editor Lemara Lindsay-Prince, Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens amongst a multitude of other influential artists and events. How was it decided by Roundhouse what this year’s line up would include?

Our programming team are constantly seeing and having work pitched to them as well as dreaming up ideas of their own. With this being the 10th year of the Festival, there was a particular ambition to acknowledge The Last Word’s roots in poetry and spoken word, platform the young creatives we support all year round through programmes like our Self Made Live Series, Transmission Roundhouse, Poetry Collective and Film Fund, as well as celebrating how far the Festival has come with a spectacular headline show from Speakers Corner Quartet and an all-star lineup of guests.

Your role as marketing coordinator sees you develop the festival’s advertorial element. What has this involved? 

This year, we really wanted to focus on content and messages that resonate with our audience on a more personal level; a campaign that is connected to themes that often emerge from this Festival – honesty, vulnerability, pride, strength, thought-provoking. My team organised digital advertising, outdoor media, press, emails and social media to reflect the overall aim – to platform essential voices. I loved the opportunity to work with a range of artists as it really gave me more insight into the nuanced differences between this particular art form. When developing these elements from a Marketing perspective, it’s really about knowing your audience and, in some ways, meeting your community where they are.

The Last Word Festival celebrates 10 years of platforming the nation’s most influential voices. What does this mean to the Roundhouse to be able to do this?

It means a lot to see the focus of this art form grow, especially given the impacts our industry has experienced over the past few years. To still be going strong after 10 years is an achievement and testament to the love of spoken word and poetry on a national scale. For example, seeing performers attend the Poetry Slam Final from across the UK, sharing their ideas and using their voices is ultimately our vision brought to life. To see artists who played the Festival earlier in their careers (Kae Tempest, Hollie McNish, Inua Ellams) return for our 10th year also brought the celebrations to new heights.

What have you learned/taken away from working on the festival?

It might sound cliché, but I genuinely have taken away a stronger love for poetry! The world of spoken word is truly a powerful art form. How it can capture the attention of a whole room at once, leaving audiences stunned, in awe, in tears, in fits of laughter – to me there’s a real beauty in being able to inspire that.

6) What can audiences expect from the festival?
Anyone anticipating a stuffy, outdated environment steeped in tradition will have a bit of a rude awakening at this Festival. This scene attracts people from all walks of life, and boasts performances, music and discussion that is fluid, honest, inspiring, playful and far from dull. Genre boundaries are of little significance here as we welcome artists who have written plays, novels, albums, films and more. From new to established voices, it really is a time in the Roundhouse calendar to come and hear the voices of the next generation – I promise you they have a lot to say!

7) What would you like for audiences to take away from the festival?
The essence of this Festival is rooted in connection, and that is what I hope audiences leave with. I hope they can relate to the stories being told and remember that there is a place in this bustling city of London where their thoughts can be heard and a safe space can be shared.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

The Last Word Festival takes place from Thursday 1st until Sunday 18th June 2023 at the Roundhouse. To find out more about the festival, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop