Poetry, zeal, and love for live performances whether that be spoken word or good soulful music; Benjamin Bennett became inspired by these influential factors so decided to create and establish five years running sold out performances by talented individuals – Vocals and Verses.
Hannah – You launched five years ago and still attract more and more lovers of poetry. What do you think is the driving force behind Vocals & Verses?
Benjamin – I think the driving force of Vocals & Verses is a few things if I’m completely honest. One of which is the ambition to grow. To become the biggest and most renown spoken word and live music event brands in the UK. We are consistent in curating showcases as we want our audience to become broader, and we’ve been fortunate that when it comes to marketing, our strongest tool has probably been word of mouth. A lot of people have come to our shows upon the recommendation of someone else, so that is something we are always building on. It’s one thing to see Vocals & Verses plastered all over social networks, but another thing altogether when a friend or acquaintance co-signs the brand, based on their experience with the show.
Ultimately, though, the driving force has and always will be God. I don’t care how cliché that sounds. It’s the truth. He is the reason the brand exists and has given myself and my team the strength and perseverance to keep it going, regardless of how difficult things have been. Without Him, I doubt I would be here answering these questions.
H – Have you always been a lover of poetry? When did you discover it?
Benjamin – I’ve loved poetry from the moment I took an interest, which was back when I was in year 7. Before that, I was really into writing and reading fictional stories. Once poetry had my attention, I spent a lot of time in my teens writing poems (mainly romantic), and started performing in poetry slams at sixth form, inspired by spending endless hours on YouTube watching videos of Def Poetry Jam. Once I got to university, poetry/spoken word was only just starting to become well received in the UK, but it very quickly became ‘cool’. I’m very happy to see how much the poetry scene has grown, as it has produced some amazingly talented individuals who deserve to be heard by the masses. People finally understand the depth and uniqueness poetry has as an art form.
H – What makes a great performer?
Benjamin – For me, a great performer is someone who makes us, the audience, believe in what they’re performing. I’ve seen too many artists get on a stage, and seem detached from what they’re performing. The best performers captivate their audience by proverbially leaving their heart on the stage. It doesn’t even matter if we can’t relate to the topic. As long as the topic is articulated impeccably through the performance, we will do our utmost best to understand what is being performed. When an artist believes in what they’re performing, it shows, and leaves a long-lasting impression, usually broadening their fan base instantly. To add to that, the best performers are those who inspire others with their time on stage. Usually, if I see an incredible poet perform, I want to run home and start writing myself.
Benjamin – There’s two. The main one is Jill Scott at Brixton Academy in November 2011. She was phenomenal. Not just because of the fact that I’m a huge Jilly fan, but the fact that she took us on a journey through her music. I remember the gig wasn’t long after the release of her album, ‘Light Of The Sun,’ which I’d been listening to for weeks beforehand, and her performance made me like tracks that I usually skipped when listening. She showed us all why she’s such a well-seasoned singer, poet, and performer.
The second one is JP Cooper when he first performed at Vocals & Verses in August 2012. He was relatively unknown at that point, but I put him as the headliner because I’d seen how talented he was previously. Most people didn’t know what to expect, so as soon as he opened his mouth, he had the crowd in the palm of his hands. Especially when singing ‘The Only Reason.’ I specifically recall him singing one of the lyrics, the only reason God gave me eyes is to see you, and someone in the crowd shouted ‘JESUS!” It was hilarious and awesome all at the same time because it encapsulated what Vocals & Verses is all about.
H – What makes V&V different to other open mic/live music events?
Benjamin – Quite simply, Vocals & Verses is about showcasing quality artistry in the underground scene. Whether an artist has 5 or 5000 followers on social networks, if they’re great at what they do, we want them on our stage, because they deserve to be heard. Our motto, “Feed the mind, feed the soul” refers to the fact that our shows are not just for entertainment, like others, but also about edification – audience members leaving the event feeling like the were actually ‘fed’ creatively.
H – Poetry/spoken word and live music have the power to travel worldwide. Have you every thought of taking V&V across the globe?
100%. That is part of the ultimate plan. I want to take it to Africa, and then America and Europe. I’m confident that will happen in due course. But for now, we have to conquer our back yard.
H – Five years later; thousands of Twitter followers, sold out shows, talented live guests and more; can you imagine this happening at the start?
Benjamin – I wasn’t sure how long Vocals & Verses would go on for. It was something I came up with at university, which I figured may have some longevity, but I don’t think I could have imagined how things have ended up going. Personally, though, five years is still young in the grand scheme of things, and while myself and my team have achieved some great things, there is still loads and loads of work to do for the brand to end up where I want it to be.
H – What is one of your ultimate personal goals?
Benjamin – I want my career to be centred around running this brand, making it bigger and better with every show. I wrote a blog post back in October about leaving my full-time corporate role so I can fully focus on V&V, and it has been a difficult journey so far, but I’m confident that it is in God’s plan for this to be my ‘job’.
H – Do you feel free?
Benjamin – I’m finally spending most of my time doing what I love. I’ve spent years working full-time towards someone else’s vision, or a company’s goals, while my own had to take a back seat. I felt trapped, particularly last year because I was beginning to wonder whether I would ever have the ability to give my dreams the time they needed to flourish and become reality. Thankfully, I am no longer shackled to the concept of ‘doing what makes sense.’ I’ve stepped out and began pursuing my passion properly. I feel free.
Follow @vocalandverses on Twitter to keep updated with their events.
Benjamin’s next event is on Sunday, 6th March 2016 – ‘Project 1957: THE SPRING SOIRÉE 2016’ – In celebration of Ghana independence, this is an elegant evening to Connect, Converse & Celebrate Ghanaian community, heritage, and culture – click here for more info
Writer – @Hannah Ajala