For this month’s foray into Sheffield’s literary scene, Mollie Bland speaks to up-and-coming spoken word artist Dominic Heslop AKA The1Devotion.
When did you first start performing spoken word?
I wasn’t always passionate about spoken word. Growing up, I was mainly surrounded by grime and hip-hop influences. Especially through my teenage years, my interest was in these genres. It wasn’t until 2016 that I became aware of spoken word and the opportunities it gave for self-expression. So, it was around this time that I began to translate my experiences and thoughts into spoken word pieces. I was drawn to the genre because it allows me to talk about issues that are important to me, and I have been working with it ever since.
What message do you want to give to people through your pieces?
In essence, the message I aim to give revolves around everyday issues. I observe people’s behaviours and emotions and translate them into pieces of art, whether these are issues of self-esteem, crime or mundane life experiences. They are all important to articulate because they affect every person in some way. My most recent piece addresses the issue of knife crime. I tragically lost a friend to knife crime in March last year, and crimes of this nature have spiralled out of control in Sheffield and the rest of the country. In writing about these crimes, I have found a platform to grieve this loss and normalise the feelings of loss in general. People can relate to this and address these emotions. For me, it is important to bring to light the mindlessness of knife crime, to highlight the acts of impulse that have become so common in the present day, which then have everlasting effects to the family and friends of the victim.
Which other artists inspire you?
Akala and Wretch 32. What inspires me most about these artists is how they write and portray their message. Modern issues are translated into such an approachable medium. They articulate important topics and reach a lot of people with their work. There is a great value in not being superficial and focusing on substance, it is important to look to other things and find what is really important in life. Addressing this through art, like they do, has a positive effect on the general listener, and it is what I aim to achieve.
How do you mainly share your work?
I currently don’t have a lot of material out there. Previous self-esteem issues prevented me from sharing a lot of my work. This, however, is an obstacle that I have now overcome. I am now confident in my work and I feel that it is important to share it. A lot of my work already has been/will be shared through various social media sites, this is my main platform for releasing content as it reaches a lot of people and brings me exposure. I do also occasionally do live performances, and my next one will be at the Folk Festival in Endcliffe Park before playing the Speaker’s Corner Stage at Tramlines Festival on the Sunday.
What are your plans for the future/the next year?
I am excited to be releasing a lot of new content in the near future. Although, I can’t say much about it, it will have to be left as a surprise! I am also planning to do some more live shows in the next year. I like how this gives people a different experience to seeing my material on social media. Live performances also help me get my name known more, and have a greater influence.
Also, I am planning to run more of my events with kids in the future. In these events, I help kids become confident in expressing themselves. I provide a space where they are free to express their feelings and experiences through poetry, spoken word and song. This is an exciting and rewarding part of my work, as it is so important to encourage this kind of expression from a young age.
Why is spoken word important?
Whether it is spoken word, poetry, art, it is all important! Personally, I am extremely passionate about language, which then led to my passion for spoken word. Spoken word is important because it is a means of bridging communication between people. Even complete strangers or the least likely of people can find a common ground. It is a way to discuss important and relevant topics and transform them into an accessible format. There is a great importance in being able to articulate yourself and be aware of your own thoughts, which is exactly what spoken word encourages and celebrates. Whether these thoughts are good, upsetting or hurtful ones, this process ultimately provides you with clarity of mind and self. I think it is very important to have this.
Suppressed in my sleep
Unsettled by the demons
Wrestled and I’m weak
Pressured by the streets
‘Cause deprivation makes a feral belly eat
– Verse taken from The1Devotion’s spoken word piece ‘Floetry’