Poetic Unity a Brixton based charity founded in 2015 by Ryan J. Matthews-Robinson better known as Ragz-CV was set up to give young people a platform for their voices to be heard.
Originally from Brixton, Ragz-CV always knew he wanted to work in the local community. The aim of the organisation is to provide spaces in which young people can express their experiences and process the world around them through poetry. Poetic Unity do this through a range of events and workshops across the year.
You may have heard of their weekly event The Poet’s Corner: an evening of spoken word, held at Black Cultural Archives. The Poet’s Corner has been running at BCA for over four years and has developed an intergenerational audience thanks in part to Stephen, 71 years young. “We call him Grandad” Ragz explains, “He’s been at more of these events than me in recent times! Stephen gives wisdom to the youth that I can’t give at the age of 32.”
Poetic Unity’s school workshops use poetry and spoken word to deliver an alternative curriculum, focusing on personal development, expression and confidence. “We are based in Brixton but the work we do is for everyone” explains Ragz.
Last year Poetic Unity took part in an international exchange with RISE! Canada where the team delivered workshops for 60 young people in Toronto.
Poetic Unity are looking forward to the year ahead and have a number of new programmes they will be introducing that focus on personal development, self-esteem and continue to find ways to make poetry interesting and relevant to young people.
“Our other projects include ‘Mandem Let’s Talk’ a safe space for young boys to discuss mental health; ‘Poetry In Motion’ where poetic affirmations are recited while doing exercise, which we started at The Gym Group and will now be expanding into schools; ‘It’s more than Shakespeare’ which is linked to our initial programmes, focused on spoken word performance.”
Ragz continues “When you say poetry a lot of young people switch off, but we are working to show young people that there is more to poetry than Shakespeare and that it’s really relatable.”
Poetic Unity are also using poetry as a therapy tool and will be expanding their mental health programmes. “We host ‘Communion’ a monthly event giving young people the space to talk about thoughts and feelings. We are not mental health professionals this is a group by the community for the community.”
Ragz continues: “It was really important to start in Brixton and it’s great to have a home here at the BCA. Our events here bring young people into the building and hopefully they will then go on to visit the archives or exhibitions. This is a very important building with important values, and it means a lot to us that we can be a part of that.”
Ragz is joined by Jayda a young person who has recently become a mentor and is being trained as a workshop assistant. Jayda found Poetic Unity through Instagram, “I had always written but it wasn’t something I would read out loud. Through social media I could see other spoken word artists and it allowed me to see that I can and want to perform. Ragz has supported me to build confidence and given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had before.”
The hope is that young people who have been involved in workshops and events will become mentors, with the opportunity and training to run workshops themselves, building a sustainable future for Poetic Unity.
- The Poet’s Corner takes place on Wednesdays at BCA
- Last Friday, an intimate night of poetry and games, takes place each month at Theatre Peckham