Morgan Purvis-Bellamano

Morgan Purvis-Bellamano

Inside Story of the Victoria Spoken Word Festival

Youth poet laureate on young talent in spoken word, festival offerings and the mayhem of Saturday's one-time collaboration

In the time since the Victoria youth poet laureate took on the role this winter, there have been ups, downs and other times the 20-year-old files under “hilarious and weird.”

Such was the case when Morgan Purvis-Bellamano, a former member of Esquimalt High’s Slam Club and one of the organizers of this week’s Victoria Spoken Word Festival, performed for Victoria city council.

I’m used to really interactive audiences where there’s snapping and cheering – heckling even,” she said.  “At city hall they don’t clap. They just stare blankly in their suits. It’s funny. I said vagina in city hall, which was awesome.”

Purvis-Bellamano is expecting a far higher degree of audience engagement at the fourth annual Victoria Spoken Word Festival, for which she has been heavily involved as the volunteer co-ordinator. The official mandate of the youth poet laureate is to support other youth artists, showcase youth art and advocate for youth issues through art. One step towards achieving those goals could begin with Purvis-Bellamano’s hope to see young people take advantage of student pricing and participate in the festival, which this year includes an afternoon workshop with poet of honour, the folk-punk-accordion poet, Barbara Adler.

The poet is an alumnus of Victorious Voices, a youth spoken word program, facilitated by the Victoria Poetry Project that culminates in an annual slam competition.

“Hands down, every year there are people on that stage who are significantly better than the people end up on the Victoria slam team that competes nationally. The calibre of youth poets in this city is outstanding and often times better than the adults.”

That level of talent springs from high school slam clubs where students have created safe environments to take some serious creative risks. Purvis-Bellamano recalls an early experience she had at Esquimalt high with a young club member, whose father had just died. In preparation for delivering his eulogy, she turned to the club and read it for a group of about 25 students.

“That was a place she felt safe enough. Even to this day, I’m still shocked because high school can be such a horrible, vitriolic place, but in slam club, she felt safe.”

While the poet may have finessed her craft over the last few years, her subject matter has remained as bold as her first slam piece, a commentary on sexual objectification.

“I was kind of a rootin’ tootin’ feminist even back then,” she said. “I think I’ve gotten gentler over time. I used to yell on stage a lot more than I do now, which I think is good. I think I’ve matured as an artist and I hope I’ll continue to do so.”

Part of Purvis-Bellamano’s evolution dovetails nicely with the overarching theme of this year’s festival, Inside Story – which festival director Missie Peters describes as an opportunity for spoken word artists to explore their role as storyteller in our modern culture.

“They are the ones telling stories around the campfire. What does that mean and what does that do?” Peters said. “Often slam poetry comes from a very ‘I’ place. ‘I did this and I did that,’ so I’m trying to get inside – what happens when you talk from a character’s perspective? What happens when you tell a story that’s outside of yourself? There’s so much metaphor inside of story.”

Emerging spoken word artists from across the country perform Wednesday through Saturday at the Metro Studio Theatre (1411 Quadra), where the festival has moved after selling out last year at the smaller Intrepid Theatre Club location. They’ll also be working together at improv, theatre, storytelling, puppetry and physical theatre workshops throughout the week, all with the aim of delving deeper inside story. By Saturday, they’ll be ready to channel their new perspectives into a grand finale showcase, a collaborative one-time spoken word event to follow Adler’s latest offering. Purvis-Bellamano is enthused.

“It shocks me when there’s a single person in the world who doesn’t show up to that show,” she says. “It’s amazing. Last year there were Scrabble bits and playing cards and dominos being thrown into the audience and weird people with toilet brushes on our heads. It’s amazing, brilliant art.”

Victoria Spoken Word Festival

Storytime for Adults – March 5

RC Weslowski’s Victoria debut of his Fringe hit “The Cruelest Phone Book in the World.”

Poeteers! – March 6

Muppeteer Tim Gosley leads the festival ensemble and local puppeteers in a magical collaboration.

Festival Ensemble Showcase – March 7

Hosted by Mike McGee and Dave Morris, the festival ensemble poets perform their best poems.

Inside Story, featuring Barbara Adler – March 8

The finale of the festival features a brand new piece from the ensemble, crafted in only one day. Adler opens the show with new work.

Public Workshop with Barbara Adler –March 9

A one-on-one chance to learn the basics and try spoken word for the first time.

Tickets to the festival start at $10, with full passes at $40, available now through ticketrocket.org. The workshop with Adler comes at a cost of $25 and requires registration. All the details and full lineup available victoriaspokenwordfestival.com.

Just Posted

Swanwick Ranch in Metchosin, featuring an award-winning home on 67 acres of property overlooking the ocean, recently sold for a record-setting, yet undisclosed amount. (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada photo)
Sale of oceanfront property in Metchosin yields new record for Greater Victoria

Listed at $14.1 million, Swanwick Ranch sold to an undisclosed buyer

The price of gas is way up in many parts of Greater Victoria after a Monday afternoon surge sent it to 162.9 cents per litre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gas prices surge to 162.9 cents a litre at some Greater Victoria stations

Prices jumped up more than 10 cents Monday afternoon

Mieran Loira, who works at Moxie’s restaurant on Yates Street, was named a winner in the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association’s #StandUpForService campaign. (Courtesy Town Hall Brands)
Victoria Moxies server can’t hide her smile, earns provincial kudos for pandemic work

Personality, charisma shine despite masks, coronavirus challenges

The number of skilled trades workers available is not enough to fill the current construction boom in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Influx of skilled tradespeople falling behind Greater Victoria construction boom

Thousands of positions will be needed by 2030, despite flow of Camosun trades students

Colwood council is looking at potential summer weekend closures to traffic of a section of Ocean Boulevard at Esquimalt Lagoon, to allow for more of a park-like setting during summer events such as the popular Eats & Beats event, shown here in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor lobbying for summer weekend closures of beachfront Colwood roadway

Rob Martin to bring motion forward to June 28 council meeting

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Lincoln Mckoen. (YouTube)
Anglican bishop of the central Interior resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Lincoln Mckoen was elected as a bishop of the Territory of the People region last year

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve. (Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week)
Tk’emlups preparing for archaeological work at B.C. residential school site where remains found

The 215 graves are, to the band’s knowledge, undocumented deaths for which it is still collecting records

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

Most Read