News: Roundhouse presents politically-charged The Last Word festival

News: Roundhouse presents politically-charged The Last Word festival

Sabrina Mahfouz and Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens are among the performers at this year’s The Last Word Festival at the Roundhouse.

Gig theatre is a key theme of this year’s The Last Word festival, which stretches the boundaries of spoken word with a vibrant mix of live literature, gig theatre and comedy, exploring themes of nightlife culture, mental health and identity. The festival is now in its fourth year and has attracted some of the biggest names in poetry and spoken word, with past performances from Kate Tempest, Harry Baker, Hollie McNeish, Mark Grist and Katie Bonna.

In response to the closing of iconic nightclub Passing Clouds in 2016 and the 50% decrease in the capital’s nightclubs in the last five years, band Benin City has kickstarted the Roundhouse’s annual festival of spoken word with Last Night, a snapshot of a fading scene interspersing rhythmic, brass-flavoured music, poetry and audio interviews with the barmen, the DJs, the property developers and of course, the ravers. The festival also includes a main-space performance of Sabrina Mahfouz’s 2016 sell-out show With a Little Bit of Luck, taking its audience back to 2001 when UK garage was at the top of the charts.

Mahfouz additionally hosts an evening of writing from young women of British Muslim heritage in The Things I Would Tell You, designed to challenge conventional perceptions of Muslim women. Continuing the themes of identity, British Nigerian artist ‘Yomi’ takes a humorous look at the joys and challenges of dual heritage in Coat, whilst Young Poet Laureate and last year’s Poetry Slam Champion Caleb Femi looks at the way we view ourselves and the way we view others.

Better known as one half of Rizzle Kicks, emerging spoken word artist Jordan Stephens uses the story of unwelcome pigeons on his windowsill to look at moving from a life of excess into the simplicity of yoga and minimalism in Rats With Wings, and comedian and CALM ambassador Jack Rooke tackles how the increasing pressures on underprivileged millennial men to ladder-climb is affecting their mental health in Happy Hour.

Rachel Nelken, The Last Word Producer said:

“I’m incredibly excited about this year’s The Last Word festival, which is fast becoming a key event in the UK arts calendar. The festival this year sees spoken word in all its forms; everything from one person stand up theatre shows, to a full on garage music rave in the Roundhouse’s iconic main space. It explores some really topical and important themes  – migration, identity, gentrification, truth in a post-truth world, grief, loss and mental health issues. Also this year, we’ll be featuring some great new ‘gig theatre’ – for those who like their music gigs with a theatre twist!”


The Roundhouse is a hub of inspiration where artists and emerging talent create extraordinary work and where young people can grow creatively as individuals. By giving young people the chance to engage with the arts through our music, media and performance projects, they are inspired to reach further, dream bigger, and achieve more.


The Last Word Festival plays the Roundhouse from 28 May – 10 June. For more information and to book tickets to the various shows, please see the website.