The British election through poetry (and music) videos

From time to time, it’s worth looking at major contemporary events through the window of poetry videos, to get a sense of the extent to which videopoetry and poetry film are taking part in the general zeitgeist. The just-concluded general election in the UK is a case in point. Commentators from all sides of the political spectrum are saying that the unexpected, unprecedented surge in support for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn may mark the beginning of the end of print media’s traditionally out-sized influence on British politics: all the tabloids came out strongly against Labour, but the youth don’t read the tabloids, and it was their turn-out on election day which appears to have tipped the balance. Where do they get their news? From YouTube and social media, apparently. Pro-Labour and anti-Conservative memes were rife on Facebook, including this Theresa May mashup from the inimitable Cassetteboy:

One of the last Labour ads released before the election features Corbyn reciting Shelley’s memorable lines from “The Masque of Anarchy” (Stanza XXXVIII):

At The Guardian today, Manchester-based spoken word poet Tony Walsh, A.K.A. Longfella, “performs his poem Net Worked about the young people who voted in the 2017 General Election on Friday”:


If the embed doesn’t work, watch it on their website.

The Guardian also posted a poem by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, in response to Theresa May’s disastrous campaign, though sadly it’s only available as text. For those who don’t understand the reference in the last line, once again here’s a videopoetic YouTube remix to get you up to speed:

That video by “Musician, Electronic Music Producer & DJ from Liverpool” Keeley Ray has been viewed 37,739 times — respectable, but nothing like the nearly 3 million views logged by Captain SKA‘s general-election remix of their song “Liar Liar,” which was downloaded 40,000 times and made it to No. 4 in the UK charts in the weeks leading up to the election despite a complete embargo by radio stations. This may not be a poetry video per se, but it’s a good reminder of the power of sung, chanted and spoken words to goad people into action — especially when yoked to visual images:

Perhaps if the song had been allowed on mainstream UK radio, the political punditocracy might not have been caught so completely off-guard by the election results.

Dave Bonta

Dave is the founder of Moving Poems, and posts videos for his own poems (along with lots of other stuff) at Via Negativa. Here's a bio.

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