WORD! is an 20-year-old voluntary poetry and spoken word organisation based in the East Midlands. Not only does it deliver one of the longest running poetry and spoken word nights in the UK, but it is also pioneering an ever expanding programme of other activities across Leicester and Nottinghamshire.

These include regular nights in Leicester and Beeston; one off shows; a poetry festival; annual Slam; regular workshops; ongoing and one-off projects working with specific communities and our publishing imprint, WORD! Poetry.

Previously nominated for a Saboteur Award, the organisation was responsible for the creative development of the highly successful Lyric Lounge (Writing East Midlands’ touring festival of poetry); the East Midlands Poetry Slam and is a founder member of Everybody’s Reading, Leicester’s annual festival of books and reading, now in its tenth year.

We are uniquely co-produced by an NHS Trust (Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust) and currently enabled due to the generous funding support of Arts Council England. Further funding support is provided by University of Leicester Wellbeing Matters (via the Edith Murphy Foundation), Attenborough Arts Centre and Inspire. Our other partners and collaborators include BrightSparks Arts in Mental Health Group and Writing East Midlands.

People

  • Lydia Towsey

    Lydia Towsey

    • WORD! Host & Creative Director
    • [email protected]
    • Lydia Towsey is a poet and performer with an MA in Creative Writing and a primary school certificate in 'tap dancing'. Shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, she has spoken and performed everywhere from the 100 Club, Roundhouse and the House of Lords - to ‘On the Buses’ (as Arriva Buses and Literary Leicester's Poet in Residence). Commissioned by The Guardian, Royal Albert Hall, Apples and Snakes and Poet in the City, amongst others, her work appears in a number of anthologies including Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe Books); Over Land, Over Sea - Poems for those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves) and 10 Poems about Knitting (Candlestick Press). Her two full length collections, 'The Venus Papers' and 'The English Disease' are both published by Burning Eye Books.

      In addition to her work as an artist Lydia is the Co-Director of BrightSparks: Arts in Mental Health CIC, and an NHS worker, co-directing (with Tim Sayers) a nationally unique Arts in Health Service for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust.


      For more information: visit: www.secretagentartist.wordpress.com
  • Tim Sayers

    Tim Sayers

    • Treasurer & Host
    • Tim has been involved in arts and mental health for over twenty years and is the founder member of BrightSparks: Arts in Mental Health CIC. He has a background in mental health nursing, but is also an experienced freelance performer and workshop leader in the fields of music, poetry, comedy, magic and circus skills.
  • Pam Thompson

    Pam Thompson

    • Joint Secretary and Host
    • Pam Thompson is a poet and academic with a Phd in Creative Writing. She’s the author of 4 poetry collections: Strange Fashion (Pindrop Press, 2017), Hologram ( Sunk island Publishing, 2009), The Japan Quiz ( Redbeck Press, 2009) and Show Date and Time (Smith-Doorstop, 2006). Widely published in magazines, such as: The North, The Rialto, Mslexia, Magma and Under the Radar - Pam has had success in a number of competitions. She was winner of the Magma Judges Prize in 2015 and a Highly Commended in the Forward Prize Anthology in the same year.

      In March 2017 she won 3rd Prize in the Poets and Players Poetry Competition. Pam is a freelance writer, tutor and reviewer and is a 2019 Hawthornden Fellow. For more information see: https://pamthompsonpoetry.com
  • Richard Byrt

    Richard Byrt

    • Joint Secretary
    • Richard Byrt is a retired mental health nurse and a member of the WORD! team. He completed an MA creative writing at De Montfort University. He is an active participant in local poetry events. Richard’s first collection, Devil’s Bit, published by De Montfort Books, Ltd., was commissioned by Upstairs at the Western pub theatre. He has also had poems published in several magazines and anthologies.
  • Teagan Buckley

    Teagan Buckley

    • Teagan Buckley (BA, MA) is a teaching-qualified illustrator and poet from Leicester, England. She is influenced by studies in Film and her experience of disability as someone with cerebral palsy. She is a fan of cartoons, coffee and music. During studies, she has been profoundly affected by using ideas of magic in literature and creativity, disruptive tales, and surrealism.

      Teagan is the lead facilitator of The Bradgate Writers - a regular writing group and collective, delivered by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust in partnership with WORD! and Brightsparks and meeting regularly prior to the pandemic.
  • Brandon Oliver

    Brandon Oliver

    • AfterWORD! Host
    • Brandon has a real great knack of pissing people off, and it is brilliant.

      He can save on electricity by smiling in a room, which he chooses to do a lot. His belly is the sign of good wealth and happiness is in his heart, his feet stay firmly on the ground (even when he has fallen flat on his back).

      People say that Brandon is a good listener, and his trick to doing this is usually to have a daydream in the middle of the conversation...about words...about YouTubers.

      He’ll do this for a while before the other person’s words come echoing into his brain and zap him back to reality, and he’s found out that all the words have sunk in anyway, and he can now project an answer with all the use of his voice: a machine gun of confidence tumbling over each other and filling the other person’s brain up to capacity.

      And then, before he knows it, the conversation is over. Brandon is also part of The Bradgate Writers' facilitating team.
  • Jonathan R Hurley

    Jonathan R Hurley

    • Committee Member
    • Jonathan, born in the borough where the Magna Carta was first signed. Followed the Northern star up to Leicester and finally found himself at home with his wife, son and daughter.

      Loves mango ice-cream, passion-fruit j2o’s and strawberries accompanied by Wimbledon tennis. Most infamous moment – when crashing a golf ball through a passing car, most famously known for being an accompanied street entertainer in the middle of Bath, throwing lit torches.

      His wordplay extends to compiling cryptic crosswords and he prefers the lifelines that writing has provided rather than deadlines set for writers. Jonathan is also part of The Bradgate Writers' facilitating team.
  • Abi Willock

    Abi Willock

    • Intern
    • Abi Willock (she/her); Creative Writing and Journalism undergrad at DMU, host of ‘Poetry Hour’ on Demon FM, bookworm and self- proclaimed horse whisperer. My biggest achievement so far is publishing a ‘Mind Exercise’ article in Vlossy Mag promoting mental well-being. My goal in life is to encourage more people to write poetry as form of self expression. Creator of Penpaperjourney.Wordpress.com - a collection of inspirational short stories.

      Look out for Abi, guest curating our social media and out and about at various WORD! sessions.
  • Saarah Patel

    Saarah Patel

    • Film Maker and Photographer
    • Saarah Patel: Photography and Video Undergraduate at DMU, poetry lover and art enthusiast. Her photography integrates her personal experiences and aims to allow her audience to feel understood through the autobiographical imagery. She hopes to go on and study a masters to further widen her knowledge within the creative field and to continue producing visual imagery.
  • Mellow Baku

    Mellow Baku

    • Associate Artist
    • Sound, word and visual artist Mellow Baku has performed throughout UK and internationally for over 10 years, including at London Southbank, Warwick Arts, as well as gigs in Switzerland, Denmark and New York. Associate Artist with both WORD! and the Spark Arts for Children, her work is regularly commissioned for plays, storytelling, poetry and music, at Curve Leicester and Attenborough Arts. Prior to the pandemic she toured Manchester theatres, Leicester schools and Nottingham Libraries. Her work has received airplay on BBC Radio.

      Mellow facilitates workshops for creativity and wellbeing in the community and for the NHS, with gender-specific and inclusive groups. She sings with Ka Safar, a 5-13-piece Egyptian & otherworldly inspired transcendental improvisation ensemble based in Leicester and features with jazz bands. She is currently devising a free-jazz inspired immersive theatre piece ‘Mmm Ahh Whoosh’ for early years, co-produced by The Spark Arts for Children, co-commissioned by Attenborough Arts and Warwick Arts Centre.

      Born in London to a Blues singing hippie and Trinidadian Rastafarian activist writer and actor, Mellow Baku was moved to the Midlands as a child and raised in a cultic religious organisation from age 5–19. She escaped to study Fine Art in Leicester, and has been exploring ways of healing, finding, shedding identity and sharing through writing and creativity ever since.

      "A must for all - the best kept secret in British Jazz" - Courtney Pine OBE
  • Rob Gee

    Rob Gee

    • Associate Artist
    • Mental health nurse turned stand-up poet, Rob has won numeorus poetry slams, including the Edinburgh Slam, BBC Two’s Why Poetry Matters Slam, the Arts Council's LitUp Slam and the Orlando Poetry Smackdown, as well as over twenty awards for his solo shows. He leads creative workshops in schools, prisons and mental health settings, with all ages and ability ranges, and regularly performs at mental health-related events.

      "The kind of performer you pray you'll discover... awe inspiring."
      Orlando Sentinel

      "One of the most gifted and funny poets in Britain today." - Hammer and Tongue
  • Ana Paz

    Ana Paz

    • Associate Artist
    • Ana Paz is a spoken word artist of African and Portuguese decent from south east London . With a background in theatre and performing arts, Ana trained at Identity Drama School as well as studying a degree in Performing Arts for Television, Film and Stage at Buckinghamshire New University, graduating in 2011. Her work includes themes such as mental health and wellbeing, female empowerment, Blackness, racism, discrimination and the importance of perspectives within working class communities.

      Ana’s first collection of poetry - When My Feet Find Home, was published and released in May 2019.

      In 2020, Ana’s spoken word film ‘Sombre’ was showcased at The Gallery in Leicester as part of the Resilience exhibition, commissioned by @serendipityleicester for Black History Month which featured on @bbceastmidlands TV and Capital FM.