Alex Webb speaks with poet and performer Jo Po about her life, her work and inspirations in Manchester…
When I sat down with Jo Po, a Wythenshawe-born artist, it was obvious just how passionate she is about what she does. Jo Po is a lover of lyricism be it through spoken word, music – however you want to express yourself with words. Space for self-expression, and the ability to utilise it, is something very important to Jo.
When I asked her what advice she would give someone who is looking to enter the Manchester spoken word scene, she replied that if you’re already writing – embrace it! Work with your style and make it your own because spoken word is about putting out messages in interesting, individual ways. YouTube is a good place to start just to get a general idea of what spoken word is and Jo Po recommended the Manchester-based channel ETV to see how vast the talent in our city really is.
“Work with your style and make it your own”
Her spoken word career started just over a year ago at a One Mic Stand night and from there she carried on doing it because it gave her a way to express her thoughts. Passion is a commanding force in spoken word for Jo, who thinks without passion, any kind of art comes across as very two-dimensional and fails to get the attention it could deserve.
In terms of her writing, Jo Po addresses a lot of different ideas as her writing style and content changes with her emotions. However, she said that politics is a big focus of her work: coming from a working class background Jo Po is very concerned with addressing social difference and challenging unnecessarily negative views people hold in order to make a change.
A lot of her inspiration comes from her creative friends who all make content and put it out there with a message behind it. However, Jo Po notes that even for her the message of her work isn’t always clear, stating that she enjoys the cryptic nature of some of her pieces. “I can have two different people come up to me quoting the same line with completely different interpretations” Jo told me, saying this was one of the best things about her life as an artist.
“A lot of her inspiration comes from her creative friends”
In terms of what she is trying to achieve with her work, Jo spoke for her friends saying that they are looking to break the image people have of the young and the working class; something Manchester-born talent is very concerned with. Deprived areas often have an unjustifiably negative representation in media and her friends are looking to show just how inaccurate this really is. Some of the Manchester-based talent Jo suggested I check out were collectives such as Mothership Connection and acts like Levelz, Lyricalligraphy, Room2 and 8 Gold Rings. The latter’s name is a tribute to Salford John who very sadly passed away this year, showing just how personal all kinds of art can be. Jo Po cited her very talented friends as her motivation to carry on improving. She takes some of her inspiration from musicians and club nights as opposed to other spoken word artists and this shows in her very distinct style of work. Some nights that were recommended to me were Ballin On A Budget, Hit&Run and Project 13, all giving talented acts a platform to get their content out into the world.
Aside from her writing, Jo is an inspiration and possibly one of the most hardworking people I’ve met. I only spent a short amount of time with her but it was obvious just how motivated she was in life and in her work. When I asked her where she sees herself in a few years’ time she said that she’d love to be carrying on with her spoken word and was interested in collaborating with other artists, especially getting music involved in her pieces (something that she has started to experiment with recently). Jo isn’t trying to become “big and famous”. She just wants to have her voice heard and enjoys the responses her work receives. It is this that Jo Po and so many Manchester spoken word artists love most about what they do, and is just one of the reasons this artist is one to watch in the coming years.
For a taster of what Jo Po has to offer check out this video: ETV – Spoken Word – Jo Po (Session 3)
I asked Jo Po to give me some people to check out. She recommends these guys to anyone who is interested in Manchester-based acts and is looking for something new both musically and poetically.
Nights: Ballin On A Budget, Hit and Run, Swing Ting, Levelz, Red Eye Hi Fi, Project 13.
Artists: Mothership Connection, Lyricalligraphy, Skittles, Fox, Sparkz,Dubbul O, Kathika, Reuben, Bluntskins, Room2 Records, Bricky Mortar, 8 Gold Rings, The Mouse Outfit.
Subscribe to ETVs Youtube channel for a huge variety of Manchester artists: https://www.youtube.com/user/ETVMCR
– Alex Webb