“To those at home who are sitting watching YouTube, don’t start clicking, I know this might look like some kind of extreme babysitting.”
For millions of people, including me, these words were their introduction to Mark Grist.
In 2011 Mr Grist, an English teacher and poet from Peterborough, was challenged by one of his ex-students to take part in Don’t Flop, an 8-Mile style UK rap battle scene, where he found himself facing-off against a 17 year-old rap prodigy from Manchester, MC Blizzard. Billed as a student versus teacher match, the battle went viral on YouTube and is currently weighing-in at just under four million views and counting.
But Grist is much more than a novelty YouTube view. (Deep breath) He is Poet Laureate of Peterborough 2008, Chief Bard of the Fens 2009, Edinburgh Fringe Poetry Slam Champion 2010, and co-contributor to the Dead Poets show which won six four-star reviews at Edinburgh Fringe, went on two national tours and was shortlisted for the Wooda Arts Award (phew). It’s fair to say he has more strings to his bow than ‘just’ being one of Don’t Flop’s biggest draws. His latest poem, Girls who Read, clocked-up over a million hits within a single evening of being posted online and has now reached over three million; he’s even appeared on Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me.
So, with Mr Grist fast becoming one of the most recognizable faces of spoken word/poetry in the UK, it’s very exciting to hear that Blackpool and The Fylde College Students’ Union have booked him as a headliner for their event, Perspectives, which also features Lancashire talent, Trevor Meaney, West Yorkshire’s Meriel Malone.and music from The Ebeneze. I caught up with Blackpool and Fylde College’s Student Union Higher Education President, Lisa Kelly, to ask her about how they managed to book such a great act.
Hi Lisa, Perspectives sounds like a great night. Interesting title, can you tell me a bit about the thinking behind it?
Sure. It’s the launch of our new initiative, Riding the Rollercoaster, where we look at the ups and downs of life in Blackpool and how that affects our students. One issue is feeling like they are always being labelled, which is the idea of Perspectives; we should be able to hear about all sorts of different angles and views without judgment or defining a person by the life around them.
Hear hear. So… Mark Grist, how did that happen?
I’m a massive fan of Grist. I think there’s something quite interesting about a poet who shows up to rap battles in shirt and tie and proceeds to floor anyone who takes him on. There were some people who went a bit mad about his poem, Girls who Read, saying it objectifies women, which seemed intriguing because if you watch it, well, I think it’s the opposite of that. But that’s just one perspective and this is where the idea kicked in, so I sent an email and not only did Mark say yes, he offered a workshop in the afternoon for some of our students! So to be honest, I’m much more excited than I’m about to admit.
What else can we expect at the event?
Trevor Meaney’s poetry has a way of taking a seemingly mundane topic and turning it into comical splendour whilst really making a point. Meriel Malone is mesmerising. She has a fantastic way of spinning satire and creating poignant moments. The thing is, this event is not a seminar. It isn’t worth us trying to tell people how we think they should view the world because that flies in the face of us encouraging individuality. We simply have three fantastic spoken word artists who we hope will provide positive inspiration to everyone who attends.
Perspectives, featuring Mark Grist, is at Blackpool and The Fylde College University Centre on Tuesday 21 January, 6pm – 9pm. Tickets are £3 to the public or £1 for B&FC students. All proceeds go to the mental health charity MIND. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult. ID required for all alcohol purchases. To book email [email protected] or call B&FC Students’ Union on 01253 504374.
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