Performed Poetry Communities and Digital Media

This research investigates London performed poetry communities, the role of digital media and the influence of inclusivity in these communities. Digital media has played a prevalent role in performed poetry communities and has become more important during the COVID-19 lockdown. This project examines how digital media acts as a supplementary extension to offline communities and digital technology's effect on the community’s inclusivity. Preliminary data shows that during lockdown poetry events embraced technology by live streaming poetry nights. It is suggested that digital media increases community inclusivity due to its accessibility, however, the technology required can also add a barrier to entry. It is also indicated that online events are complementary to offline events rather than replacements for them.

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This novel research is work-in-progress as part of the researcher’s PhD thesis. This research investigates contemporary performed poetry communities in London, their use of digital media and the role inclusivity plays in these communities. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, it draws on literature from cultural studies, community studies and performance studies. This research aims to answer the following questions: How are contemporary performed poetry communities formed and maintained? What influence does digital media have on contemporary performed poetry communities? And how does inclusivity impact the formation and development of performed poetry communities?

This research uses multi-sited ethnography; the main research methods are semi-structured interviews with members of the performed poetry community and participant observation at online and offline poetry events. The project is currently in the preliminary data collection stage that has so far consisted of six online interviews and observation at over seven online events. The data is coded and analysed using thematic analysis. The research views performed poetry through the lens of community and will be drawing on Sense of Community (McMillan and Chavis 9) and Community of Practice (Wenger 72–85) as key concepts. Online and offline communities are viewed as a continuum rather than a dichotomy, so the research draws on literature from both offline and online community studies.

This poster focuses on the digital media strand of the research. The use of digital media in the formation, development and maintenance of performed poetry communities plays a central role in this research. Digital media has played an important role in performed poetry and COVID-19 lockdown this year has resulted in the art form embracing these technologies in new ways. Notably, performed poetry events changed from being face-to-face to predominantly live online events instead. As face-to-face events have begun to re-emerge online events have remained in many cases. Preliminary findings suggest that online events are complementary to face-to-face events, however, they do not appear to be successful replacements for them. Therefore, it is expected that online and offline formats will work alongside each other rather than one being favoured over the other. Performed poetry is often seen as an inclusive art form. In some ways, digital media can increase its inclusivity for people to participate who may not have had access previously, such as due to accessibility difficulties or geographical boundaries. This can, in turn, grow the community and art form. However, digital media can also add barriers to entry when poets lack video quality, internet quality, or technological knowledge and access to participate. A commonly used platform for poetry live streams is Instagram, which is a free platform, therefore where most offline poetry events would charge an entry fee, those events have now become free in many cases. This could suggest a sense of altruism of event organisers that prioritised connection with the community over finances. However, free events are likely to be unsustainable and there have been some cases of community investment where viewers of the live streams donate to pay towards the event costs. Performed poetry is an established art form but has received little academic attention in the UK, this research helps to address that gap. Furthermore, the results of this research will help performed poetry event organisers to understand the relationship between their community, digital media and inclusivity.

McMillan, David W., and David M. Chavis. ‘Sense of Community: A Definition and Theory’. Journal of Community Psychology, vol. 14, no. 1, 1986, pp. 6–23. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1002/1520-6629(198601)14:13.0.CO;2-I.
Wenger, Etienne. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Erica Fletcher


Erica Fletcher is a second-year PhD student based in the Institute of Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University London. Erica’s research is on contemporary performed poetry communities, their use of digital media and the influence inclusivity has on the communities. This research is fully funded by Techne. Erica’s personal and professional interest in performance poetry sparked her interest to research the performed poetry communities in London. Erica began writing and performing poetry herself in 2013 which led her to research this art form for her MA dissertation. Erica was awarded her MA in Human Geography at Queen Mary’s University of London in 2017. Her passion and curiosity on the topic of performed poetry motivated her to continue researching this for her PhD.



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