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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Joy Adeogun: Performing Poetry in Manchester

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    02 Feb
    Joy stands with three other poetry performers looking directly into camera. The group is stood under railway arches in Manchester. Joy is wearing a white top and has red braids.

    In summer of 2021, I used the Gateway fund and the Murray Edwards Travel Bursary to travel to Manchester as part of an all female production of literary materials. The show covered topics ranging from menstrual cycles, to struggling with the identity of a female body, gender, trans-women and so much more. The funding received covered my train, accommodation in Manchester as well as food for the duration of the run. 

    The show I rehearsed for and performed in was under the company ‘GirlsWithGuile.’ Developing my spoken word poetry piece to be featured in their show was the main purpose of my trip. During term, we had just finished studying and looking at work such as Zadie Smith’s 'Changing My Mind', a black female Cambridge alumna’s collection of essays on identity. I felt compelled to produce my own work from my personal perspective. I was therefore able to draw upon the quality of the literature and emotion I had read and used it to develop my skills as a poet and writer.  

    During the performance dates, I enjoyed getting to know the other poets and performers. I particularly enjoyed learning about the lived experience of a trans-woman. She has written a piece titled ‘Wo-man’ and broke down what it meant to exist in relation to  her previous body. Similar to our college’s acceptance of all marginalised genders, it felt like our pieces of literature all were in dialogue with each other in a really unique and exciting way. 

    My accommodation was located just outside Manchester City Central in a youth hostel. Although it was far away from the theatre, I was excited by little daily activities like using the tram to travel. I was also able to meet a variety of people from all walks of life. Some who were travelling around the UK as well independently living on their own. The trip helped me learn more than just about myself but also about the different ways people shape their lives. 

    As this was my first trip outside of my hometown and university to somewhere else in the UK, I took the opportunity to do some sight-seeing. Manchester is typically regarded as the city of Literature, and so I visited The Portico Library and Gallery using some of my spending allowance to grab a coffee and read. It was a serene and inspiring place holding so many radical and pivotal books across the nineteenth century. As I was unable to take out a book, I frequently visited over the duration of my stay to read a poetry anthology. I found it inspiring, and although I didn’t know at the time, it was one of the books I will study later in the year. 

    The trip allowed me to not only refine and expand on my creative writing skills outside of my study of English Literature, thereby putting what I usually analyse into practice, but also develop my independence. Although travelling to Manchester may not seem very far, it was daunting for me to travel by myself as well as live alone without the safety of friends. I realised I could do it, and that my creative work has the potential to take me to many more places! I am extremely grateful for Gateway’s support in helping me pursue my poetry as well as funding the trip. 

    Joy Adeogun 
    Undergraduate student, English