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Byron Shire
October 4, 2022

Gran Slammers premier at Byron Writers Festival

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Julie Crow, Ruth Savage, Lyn Thompson, David Stavanger, Margaret Sparks, Sheron Young. Photo supplied.

Slam poetry competitions might bring youth to mind but there are plenty in the Northern Rivers who enjoying their second youth who took to the stage for the Gran Slam. Performers, aged 70 to 98, were filmed for a screening at yesterdays Byron Writers Festival, followed by some live Gran Slam performances.

Under the guidance of expert poet David Stavanger, from performance company Everybody NOW! 20 Gold Coast and Northern Rivers seniors answered a call-out to write and perform.

Stavanger said the participant’s passion and powerful performances were inspiring.

‘There might be a perception that the only writing older people do is their will and letters to the editor of their local newspaper, but Gran Slam has challenged those tropes, the stereotypes, the ideas, the limitations that people put on older people,’ he said.

‘I’ve learned that desire is sustained throughout a lifetime – whether it’s to keep moving; to stay on one’s feet; for companionship; to turn and see the back of another’s head on a pillow – the passion that came through the poets writing was palatable.

‘These beautiful breaths, these beautiful pauses, and this willingness to push yourself outside your comfort zone at any age, has me totally inspired.’

The Gran Slam is a collaboration between Everybody NOW! and aged-care provider, Feros Care who both share a commitment to smash stereotypes and support communities to live bolder lives.

One participant Aaron Bromley, who is 78 years young, said that just ‘A few years ago when I was in high school, I remember the English teaching telling me to sit down and write some poetry. Well I sat down and after a long while I'd come up with four lines and I decided I’d never do poetry again.

‘Coming to the slam workshop, it was like cleaning a window in your brain and suddenly you realise, that poetry can work – so thank you, it’s obliterated a lifetime fear of poetry.’

Feros Care’s Tarnya Sim said Gran Slam was designed to give seniors a voice.

‘One of the things that seniors often comment about is that they feel invisible,’ she said.

‘We’re hoping this project really puts them on the map and allows their voices, which are so important, to be heard.’

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