This Friday, December 3rd, 2021, The Well and Inspired Word Café (IWC) are teaming up to host an Open Mic for students to come hang out, have fun, and read some poetry or short fiction from 7:00-9:00 pm PDT. There will also be an Open Slam, a poetry competition for cash prizes sponsored by the SUO. Poets will be asked to compete in two rounds with original poems for audience members to score and determine who gets to move on to the next round. The poet who makes it to the end will win the cash prize and the coveted title of ‘Poet of the Night.’

All students of all faculties are welcome to watch, speak, or both regardless of experience writing and performing. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Erin Scott, an MFA alumni of UBCO who is now a Creative Writing professor here on campus. Alongside her job teaching, they are Co-Executive Director of Inspired Word Café. During our discussion, Scott emphasized just how special open mics are and why students–including those who may not have much experience in literary arts and performing–might enjoy checking the event out and maybe even take the opportunity to share some of their own works.

First created and founded by Rawle James in 2009, Inspired Word Café started as a pop-up open mic. Ever since, it has been growing and expanding exponentially. “Inspired Word Café is a literary arts community-based non-profit organization,” Scott explained. “We put on poetry readings and slam events, we do workshops, we have a podcast, and we have a really great program we just developed called ‘yoothspohk’.”

Scott emphasized that while many of Inspired Word Café’s speakers and performers come with more experience or are professional writers, “there is an equal amount of people who write because they love writing.”

“They may be classified as amateur but that is a big part of our demographic in our community,” Scott continued. “That is a big part of what we try to uphold is that art is for everyone.”

Reflecting on Inspired Word Café’s growth, Scott affirmed that while this has strengthened the community dynamics and interpersonal relationships within IWC, the doors for new and aspiring literary artists are always open. “Our hope is that as we grow, because we have been on an exponential growth over the last five years, we continue to keep these doors open,” she stated. “It is open and available to all who are willing to take it.”

Recognizing that times have been especially challenging to develop and build connections with others and the communities all around Kelowna, particularly for those from outside the city and the Okanagan, Scott explained how the Open Mic event this Friday will be a great opportunity to begin connecting with students at UBC again. “It has just been a couple of years since we have been back because of the pandemic,” they revealed. “We always find that doing things specifically on campus lends itself to a younger crowd and allows us to raise awareness that we have all of these other events, open mics, and more happening in town.” 

“It is really easy in the world to see bankers, accountants, insurance workers, and all of these necessary and great jobs, but if you are never exposed to a working artist or a collective of people who make because they love to make, you might not realize that that is possible and available to people as well,” Scott continued. “The science students, the engineering students, any of them, can spend time making art and there is an incredible life value that it gives you. That is a big part of it too, to connect with some of the younger people who are just establishing hobbies or friendships or community connections.”

While there are many exciting things about the upcoming Open Mic event, Scott shared that they are especially looking forward to seeing people come out to read who have not done so before. “The hope is always that people come out and they shock us and surprise us and there is this beautiful talent,” she affirmed. “You can watch people feel this incredible energy of sharing their own work or doing a cover of somebody’s song and that is really empowering.”

“Everybody who comes is upheld and that is in any state,” Scott continued. “You could be a well rehearsed veteran of performance or it could be the very first time you stepped on the stage. The energy and the atmosphere that we build is one of love and acceptance.”

“It is really liberating in a lot of ways to watch people overcome their fear of getting on stage because there is this community of people standing there looking at you going ‘you got this’, ‘I love you’, ‘you are going to be great’,” Scott added. “It [feels] really good to do something scary and know that there is a community of people who are going to catch you.”

If you or someone you know might be interested in this event or learning more about Inspired Word Café, visit the Inspired Word Café website to check out upcoming events, workshops, and more or stop by The Well this Friday, December 3rd, 2021 for the Open Mic Night event running from 7:00-9:00 pm PDT for everyone over the age of 19and for a $10 fee. At the event, you can watch amazing performances and readings by peers and if you wish to share a piece of your own, the sign-up for the Open Mic and Open Slam starts at 6:30 pm PDT.