Break The Chains


Break The Chains: Bermuda’s National Youth Poetry & Spokenword Program

BTC_LogoFULLBreak The Chains (BTC) is a creative writing and performance program using spoken word and poetry to develop literacy, confidence, identity, creativity and collaborative skills. It achieves this through teamwork, directed projects and exposure to different disciplines of poetry, performance, creative writing and storytelling. The program is offered to local students ages 14-19 at the following schools; Berkeley Institute, BHS, Cedarbridge Academy, Saltus Grammar School, Somersfield Academy and Mount Saint Agnes Academy. Each school develops it’s own Poetry & Spokenword Club that will work on campus to develop a competing team to represent their school at the first annual Break The Chains Youth Poetry & Spokenword Competition, to be held in April 2014.

Each month The Chewstick Foundation hosts Poetry Summits (workshops and sharing opportunities) for program participants from all of the schools to develop their skills and become more familiar with poetry writing, performance and collaboration. The workshops supplement existing work within School Teams and provide further preparation and practice leading up to the Break The Chains Competition. Each School Team is assisted by the BTC Education Director, Yesha Townsend, for program development and specific workshops/requests to help Teams and Participants prepare as they work toward competing to become Bermuda’s Official National Youth Poetry & Spokenword Team.

Break The Chains – Bermuda’s National Youth Poetry & Spokenword Competition

The Break The Chains National Youth Poetry Competition will be held in April 2014 and will be the culminating event of the BTC Program. Break The Chains National Youth Poetry Competition will see School Teams and individuals aged 14 to 19 face each other in Bermuda’s first ever national youth poetry competition.

A group of outstanding poets will be selected by a panel of judges to become the Travel Envoy that will represent Bermuda at the Annual International Brave New Voices Poetry and Spokenword Festival (BNV). The winning School Team and top individual scorers from the remaining Teams will become the official Travel Envoy to represent Bermuda at BNV, taking place in Philadelphia, USA in July 2014.

Once the BTC competition is complete, the Travel Envoy will engage in an intense course of preparation for BNV. This preparation will include collaborating to form group performances, workshops on editing poetry and performance enhancement, as well as participating in fundraising activities and public performances. The Official Bermuda Competition Team will consist of 6 individuals selected from the Travel Envoy at a secondary event before the BNV Trip.

BTC Competition Objective:

Public & Private High Schools will prepare a four person team to compete in April 2014. This will be the culmination of the on-campus youth poetry program which will lead to the selection of the national team that will represent Bermuda at BNV in July. Each school will be partnered with a local cause/charity/organization to create a group Video Poem highlighting that issue. Participants will also be given the opportunity and safe spaces to explore personal and community issues that are simply not common in Bermuda for our young people.

The overall program will build:

  • Poetry & spoken word appreciation and capacity in young people and community
  • Develop a National Bermuda Poetry Team to perform locally and internationally
  • Develop the youth voice in public dialogue on social issues
  • Create positive experiences in young people’s lives
  • Increase personal confidence, literacy, identity
  • Personal and community archive of youth advocacy

Who’s involved?

Program Director

Gavin Djata Smith

Admin Team

Deidra-Lee Bean
Najib Chentouf

Education Director

Yesha Townsend

Fundraising Coordinator

Tiffany Paynter

Poet Mentors

Alan Smith
Kevina-Lorae Davis
Makeem “Haz” Bartley
Matthew Johnston
Stephan Johnstone
Vejay Steede
Wallace Lee

Schools (currently)
Berkeley Institute
Ms. Tonisha Key-Holmes
Ms. Monica Willcott
Cedarbridge Academy
Mrs. Patricia Nesbitt
Saltus Grammar School
Somersfield Academy
Mr. Charles Judd
Mount Saint Agnes Academy
Ms. Aaryn Cimino

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