Saboteur Awards: Best Spoken Word Performer

This month, we will showcase each of the works shortlisted in the Saboteur Awards by category. Next up: best spoken word performers! If you’d like to have your say in the awards, don’t forget to vote!

Stu Freestone

“To be included in the shortlist for Best Spoken Word Performer 2015, genuinely left me in a complete state of surprise. Knowing the quality of writers the Saboteur Awards has previously recognised, to be even considered, let alone shortlisted for this award alongside such a high calibre of poets, truly is an honour.”

image1Stu Freestone is a spoken word poet and actor based in York. Having gained experience in theatre, film and TV, he turned his hand to writing and performance poetry in 2013. Since then he has performed over 70 poetry shows across the country including his youthful storytelling spoken word show ‘Spitting Feathers’, which debuted at Edinburgh Fringe 2014. His newest show ‘Talk/No Talk’, is a spoken word and live soundscape collaboration, exploring the nostalgia of growing up whilst tackling heartfelt and touching subjects along the way.

What voters had to say:

He’s amazing. He’s inspired my teenage daughter- not an easy task!

Stu always speaks from the heart and you know you are in for a roller-coaster of emotions when you see and hear him perform his poetry. Fantastic – thoroughly deserves this nomination and fingers crossed he wins!

He has a natural charm and playfulness in both writing and performance that I rarely see elsewhere

Oz Hardwick

In the car back from a reading last night, we were talking about favourite spoken word performers. The first name I came up with is on this list! I’m unbelievably chuffed to be on the same list.

Oz Hardwick

Whereas a lot of people – including some wonderful performers – make great efforts to learn their work, I tend to stop reading poems once they’re too familiar. That may sound perverse; but I know I don’t have the best of voices – or of memories, to be honest – so I rely on the alchemy that can happen when you take ink on paper into a room full of people. My poems have a permanence, an ideal(ish) form, in my books, but no two readings are the same. So far I seem to be getting away with it.

What voters had to say:

Because he is able to convey the sheer depth and beauty of his work in a gentle and understated way that is mesmerising.

One of my favourite performers, a national treasure.

Oz has a quiet temperament but his poetry performances really are thought provoking.

Hollie McNish

I am totally stoked to be up for this award with so many lovely, great poets

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Hollie is a UK poet who straddles the boundaries between the literary, poetic and pop scenes. She has garnered titles like “chick of the week” (MTV), “boundary breaker” (Marie Claire)” and poet Benjamin Zephaniah stated “I can’t take my ears off her”. Her poem “Embarrassed” was tweeted to fans by renowned singer Pink. Her album Versus was released in October 2014, recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London. Her second collection of poems ‘Cherry Pie’, was released by Burning Eye Books in 2015 and a new book on parenthood ‘Nobody Told Me’ will make her the first poet to be published by Blackfriars, London, to be released February 2016.

What voters had to say:

We need more feminist performers to keep women’s issues (and intersectional issues) alive.

She connects with everyone, is brilliant on video and has a lovely unpretentious style when performing live.

Well crafted and full hearted spoken word. She’s not about surface and gimmicks, she’s about substance.

Chimene Suleyman

“To be considered in a category I watched with awe from afar, is a real privilege. Thank you to those who nominated and have been tricked into thinking I don’t have endless nerves standing on a stage!”


Chimene Suleyman is a writer from London. Her poetry collection ‘Outside Looking On’ was published in September 2014 and was mentioned in a Guardian’s Best Books list. She writes on race and gender for such publications like The Independent, The Quietus, and Media Diversified. She represented the UK at the International Biennale 2011 for spoken word and collects photos of Canary Wharf.

What voters had to say:

She is a powerful and fearless performer.

An outstanding writer who cares about her topics, students and craft

Direct style that engages the audience with powerful wordplay

Sophia Walker

Wow, I feel like a total badass. Can you hold on a sec while I ring my mum?


Sophia Walker is short, blonde and sometimes loud. She’s won a few slams, did a book thing, but you should really only vote for her if you like what she does. If you aren’t aware of any of the shortlisted poets’ work, check them all out on youtube. You can follow Sophia on twitter @poetwalker, check out her artist page or glance at her book.

What voters had to say:

She is the MOST creative, articulate, empathetic artist I have ever seen. Quick, insightful, funny and tear inducing. Hands down best.

She’s got so much conviction, and so much care for what she says and how she says it, that you are not only moved, you’re moved to action.

She’s the only big name who actually came up on her own: no roundhouse, no viral vid, no apples and snakes. Everyone else who’s made it had help