Students versed in festival performance

Sumayyah Siddiqui

Students from Rooty Hill High School stole the show at the recent Sydney Writers' Festival, performing their poetry in front of 400 people at the festival's popular Saturday night Spoken Word event.

The event was the culmination of a series of workshops and performances coordinated by WestWords (the Western Sydney Young People's Literature Project) and Word Travels, Australia's leading spoken word and performance poetry organisation.

Poets from Word Travels conducted a workshop with the school's drama students, several of whom went on to perform at the first Poetry Slam event held in Blacktown - The Rumble - with Year 11 student Sumayyah Siddiqui taking out the audience-voted first prize.

Their nerves eased by the enthusiastic crowd, the students delivered their writing with passion, solid timing and confidence.

 - Word Travels director Miles Merrill

Ms Siddiqui and two other students, Gavin Newman and Imraan Daniels, were then invited to appear at the Sydney Writers' Festival event.

Word Travels director Miles Merrill, who worked directly with the students to prepare them for their Sydney Writers' Festival appearance, said at first the students intended only to be part of the festival audience.

"The Word Travels artists prodded them for almost an hour before the kids relented," Mr Merrill said.

"[The audience] gave them a roar of applause and cheering as they each jumped on to stage for their turn at the mic. Their nerves eased by the enthusiastic crowd, the students delivered their writing with passion, solid timing and confidence."

Rooty Hill High School drama teacher Angelica Najal said the poetry slam gave the students the opportunity to engage with "language in action".

"As opposed to responding to texts and other people's ideas, the students had the opportunity to express their own ideas and have other people respond to them," Ms Najal said.

WestWords and Word Travels plan to continue working with Rooty Hill HS to further develop the poetry slam as an art form for young people across western Sydney.

Photo: Sumayyah Siddiqui in performance. Photo by Nicola Bailey.

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