Spoken Word & Talks

Hear from existing and emerging LGBTQ+ and ally authors, poets and inspirational speakers.

For 2024 Open Mic will also be back on the Friday night at the Festival and we will also have creative writing workshops during the long weekend.

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Joelle Taylor

Joelle Taylor is the author of 4 collections of poetry. Her most recent collection C+NTO & Othered Poems won the 2021 T.S Eliot Prize, and the 2022 Polari Book Prize for LGBT authors. 

C+NTO is currently being adapted for theatre with a view to touring. She is a co-curator and host of Out-Spoken Live at the Southbank Centre, and tours her work nationally and internationally in a diverse range of venues, from Australia to Brazil. 

She is also a Poetry Fellow of University of East Anglia and the curator of the Koestler Awards 2023. She has judged several poetry and literary prizes including Jerwood Fellowship, the Forward Prize, and the Ondaatje Prize. Her novel of interconnecting stories The Night Alphabet will be published by Riverrun in Spring of 2024. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and the 2022 Saboteur Spoken Word Artist of the Year. Her most recent acting role was in Blue by Derek Jarman, which was directed by Neil Bartlett and featured Russell Tovey, Jay Bernard, and Travis Alabanza. Blue sold out its run across the UK and more dates are expected for the future.

Molly Naylor

Molly Naylor is an award-winning writer, performer and director. She is the co-writer and creator of Sky One comedy After Hours. Her plays have been toured nationally and broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and she has performed her poetry at festivals and events all over the world. Her third collection Whatever You've Got is published by Bad Betty Press. She directed Grace Petrie’s sell-out comedy show Butch Ado About Nothing.

'Naylor writes with a poet’s ear for rhythm and metaphor, and delivers with a stand-up’s comic timing' - Irish Times

Hunter

Hunter (she/her) is an LGBTQ+ poet, storyteller and activist from East London. Her writing explores themes of social justice, identity, and her experience of navigating the world as a masculine-presenting lesbian.

As well as performing live on BBC Radio London, and at venues such as The Vagina Museum and Soho House, Hunter has headlined multiple UK shows including: Process Productions, Shxts & Scribbles, and Word Slags. She also won the Fervor Festival Poetry Slam 2022.

Hunter recently co-founded The Big Queer Poetry Show in partnership with Stonewall Housing, a LGBTQ+ homelessness charity for which she is a proud Ambassador for. The first show raised over £7000 for the charity, as well as providing a platform to 14 established and emerging LGBTQ+ poets.

Raga D'silva

Raga will be talking about her autobiography Untold Lies.

Untold Lies was originally published in India in September 2019. It brought along its own Tsunami for Raga - with the media in India going crazy about a middle-aged, mother of adult kids coming out gay.  It was a turning point in Raga's life. 

This book was a subtle coming out for Raga, and for the first time she publicly wrote about her gayness. The book is written in third person (Raga will share why during her session), and takes the readers on a journey with a little girl, who grows into a young woman struggling to keep up with the labels the world seems to have given to her.  

Each story is about an experience which makes her reflect, and slowly unlearn all the things that were put forward to her but did not serve her any longer.

There are questions asked in the book which provokes thinking. 

Raga will use Untold Lies as a base to share her powerful story – to provoke some thought about who we are as a society, and where we are going as humans!

 

Untold Lies will be available to buy on the day.

Leilah King

Leilah King is a half-Iranian queer footballer, mental health advocate, and stand-up poet. Her debut poetry collection Midnight Picnics in Tehran was published by Burning Eye Books and her new book We are Hungry For Androgyny is recently out with Polari Press" She is the co-founder and host of Time of the Month Open Mic, a nurturing and supportive performance space for female/ trans/nonbinary/GNC performers in Bristol. Leilah grew up in Wales and started writing poetry in her teens as an escape from her feelings of alienation. Football has been part of her life since she was six. Attending Bristol Academy, Leilah has played for various teams including Brighton and Hove Albion as well as in the Welsh Premier League. She is now an FA-accredited coach.  Leilah featured in Rosemary Baker’s Channel 4 film showcasing Lisa Luxx’s poem ‘Lesbian’. She was commissioned to write poems about football for Nationwide’s Voices campaign. Headline performances include Bristol Old Vic, Poetry Café in London, Leeds Poetry Festival, WOMAD Festival and Cheltenham Literature Festival. Leilah’s poetry is inspired by her Iranian heritage. Leilah’s mum is from Shiraz. Her grandfather was a notable Ayatollah, writer and poet. Leilah spent many childhood summers in bustling Tehran and wandering the beautiful parks in the city of poets, Shiraz. Today, Leilah’s work interweaves themes of patriarchy, discrimination and mental health, in reference to her experience as a gender non-conforming queer woman.

Karen Mcleod

Karen Mcleod is a writer, performer and creative wriring tutor. Her debut novel, In Search of the Missing Eyelash was published by Jonathan Cape, won the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Best First Novel Award. Since then she has widely published in mileus of fiction and non-fiction.

Asma Ashraf

Asma identifies as a queer Muslim of Pakistani heritage. 

 Asma lives in London with wife, step children and family pets.

 Asma is a nurse and has moved into nursing academia at City University of London.

 Asma is very passionate about social justice. Working with two charities firstly as a Chair of Trustees for Naz and Matt Foundation a charity working to tackle homophobia triggered by religion and culture.  Asma is also very proud to volunteer on the Survivor Ambassador Panel for Karma Nirvana, a charity supporting people experiencing honour-based abuse.

Asma adores books and wishes there was more time to read!  Asma likes cold water swimming.  Asma loves the idea of keeping fit and trying new sports, which led to joining a football team in 2023.

Kayleigh Llewellyn

Kayleigh Llewellyn is the creator of the critically acclaimed series IN MY SKIN, a coming-of-age story based on Kayleigh’s own experiences navigating sexuality and familial mental health.

IN MY SKIN ran for two series on BBC Three and Hulu. It garnered BAFTA Awards for Best Drama Writer and Best Drama Series; BAFTA Cymru Awards for Best Writer, Best Television Drama and Best Director in 2020 and 2022; and the RTS Award for Best Drama Series in 2021 and 2022.

Kayleigh is now adapting Rosa Rankin-Gee’s novel, DREAMLAND, as a 6 x 60 minute drama series for BBC One. In the US, she is adapting Jen Beagin’s, BIG SWISS, for HBO, A24 and Adam McKay's HyperObject, starring Jodie Comer in the titular role. She is serving as an executive producer across both projects.

Her previous credits include writing 3 episodes of the final series of KILLING EVE, for which she also served as a Consultant Producer, as well as writing an episode of CHLOE, Alice Seabright’s drama for BBC One and Amazon.

Kayleigh was named a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit 2019 and is also a Broadcast Hotshot, a BFI Flare Mentee and was the recipient of the BAFTA Rocliffe New Comedy Writing Award.

Lena Mattheis

Lena Mattheis (they/she) is a lecturer in queer literature, host ofthe Queer Lit podcast and currently obsessed with the literary historyof gendernonconforming pronouns. 

Lena has published both academic andcreative work and is particularly interested in sharing her researchin unconventional formats. To make LGBTQIA2S+ history and literatureavailable (and fun) for everyone, Lena has recently developed anaccessible queer history app, and has been hosting the Queer Litpodcast since early 2021. 

Former guests include Sara Ahmed, DianaSouhami, Jack Halberstam, Susan Stryker and many other formidablethinkers and writers.

Talk: The They of it AllDid you know that the use of singular they dates back to (at least)the 14th century? And that genderneutral pronouns have been used inliterature for many centuries? In this talk, Lena will take you on awhistle stop-tour of literary history to explore queer, trans andnonbinary pronoun use from Sappho, to Aphra Behn, to Virginia Woolf,and many other great queer authors. We may even venture intocontemporary literature to explore the power of pronouns in tellingLGBTQIA+ stories, in our histories and right now.

Kate Rowe

June 1978 changed the lives and LGBT politics in Australia culminating four years ago in same sex marriage  into federal legislation.

1000 men and women (almost 50% women) marched through the gay and red light districts in Sydney which turned in to a violent riot with 53 being arrested and a couple bashed.  

Kate Rowe was one of those women and it was her awakening to injustice.

Come along to hear Kate's story, as one of our NEW firside chats, ask questions and hear from a LGBTQ+ history maker.  There are parallels between Australia and the UK.

Jacs Gurderley

Jacquelyn Guderley is an author and mental health advocate and speaker. Her first book, ‘The No Bullshit*t Depression Sketches: a guide to overcoming depression and low mood’ is due for international publication in 2025. 

Most recently, Jacquelyn has created a womxn’s mental health zine, focusing on womxn of all backgrounds’ mental health experiences.

Today, Jacquelyn is a Product Manager, working in Tech at OVO, a sustainable energy company.

Previously, Jacquelyn co-founded Stemettes, a social enterprise inspiring girls and young women into Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) careers. A thought leader in this space, she spoke at national and international conferences, and was commissioned to write articles about how we can plug the gender gap in STEM fields. As a woman working in tech, she was nominated one of the top Women in Tech by numerous highly acclaimed awards. 

She also founded Salomé, a literary magazine for emerging female writers, to address the gender imbalance in publishing. She has appeared in the news and media, campaigning for gender equality (including a campaign to prevent Feminism being removed from the A Level Politics syllabus), and was part of the first cohort of political candidates that stood for the Women’s Equality Party.

She also ran an event series, MNTL HLTH, exploring the lived experiences of those who have struggled with their mental health in various forms.

Jacquelyn continues to speak on mental health, in the workplace and at conferences and festivals. She also gives seminars on “mental health and work” at a charity that supports those who are struggling to find employment.

Lisa Power

Lisa Power has been a noisy lesbian since the 1970s. She spent 14 years on Switchboard and 17 with Terrence Higgins Trust, creating their Policy team. She was one of the founders of Stonewall and as Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, the first openly queer person to speak for our rights at the United Nations. 

Currently a Trustee of Queer Britain and one of the creators of Fast Track Cymru, a coalition to end HIV in Wales, she is often an advisor to historical and drama programmes about queer life in the 20th century, most notably Its A Sin. Her motto is, history is for interfering with. 

Hazel Mehmet

Hazel Mehmet has been using their voice to speak on all things political, all things parenting, and all things queer, since October 2019.

They have headlined a number of incredible UK stages, such as London Pride, The Big Queer Poetry Show, BYOB, Trouble Tongues, Big Trouble Poetry, Brixton Says and Moetry, and have been interviewed for several radio shows. Hazel has also appeared on season 2’s Life & Rhymes alongside Benjamin Zephaniah in 2021 and has told Rishi Sunak off on Channel 4 and LBC Radio more times than he’d care to admit to.

Hazel’s art includes a celebration of sexuality, normalising mental illness, and as a platform to fight systemic oppression.

When not parenting, writing, working, correcting people on the pronunciation of their name, or calling people out on their bullshit, Hazel also works to help the homeless communities, both personally, and via their global platform Shxts & Scribbles.

Rosie

Rosie with Words 

Rosie feels words like others feel touch. 

Resident spoken word poet, Rosie can be found performing most weeks, at The Globe in Hay on Wye, where the launch of her debut collection ‘A Year of Lovers’ recently took place. 

Rosie layers sensual visuals with a combination of audio clips and music, to accompany poems for performance. 

Rosie’s work has been described as “refreshing…..  seductive….  mesmerising… arresting…. magical… “

Rosie falls for a moment like others fall for a person, and she’d love to share a moment with you at Open & Wild. 

If you are a poet and you enjoy Rosie’s work she’d love to hear from you. 

@rosiewithwords