Wrexham poet Evrah hopes to change the image of her hometown
As our cover story this month, we are lucky enough to feature Evrah Rose. She is, in her Facebook followers’ words, ‘an exquisite spoken-word artist and incredibly relatable’, ‘a truly wonderful Welsh wordsmith’ and ‘powerful, thought-provoking and beautiful’. We found out a little more about her.
Hi, Evrah Rose. Where’ve you just come from and what were you doing there?
I’ve been at Ty Pawb meeting a young girl who’s really into writing poetry, but doesn’t know where to go with it. Her writing is so powerful and mature – she’s only 17, but she could be really good. I’m hoping to take her to a Voicebox event and to Testify Poetry in Chester at Hanky Panky Pancakes. I’m hoping that seeing me up there will inspire her.
How do you approach a live performance?
Well, it’s me who usually decides what to do. I figure out beforehand what the audience and venue are going to be like and take it from there. When I do a set, I want it to have the maximum impact and to raise awareness of an issue, be it rape or mental illness. If you’ve got the privilege of speaking in public, you should use it for good.
I get messages from people saying my writing’s helped them come to terms with something or talk about it themselves. I just think… ‘job done’!
How do you decide whether to add a musical score to your work or leave just your voice to convey the message?
It’s just instinct. I have a thought in my head and it comes with music or it doesn’t. I decided not to add anything to the one I did on Wrexham because that piece was a retaliation. I was going to do a film of me walking around the centre, but I’d seen something negative about the town online and I just thought right, that’s it, I’ve had enough. I did it with no gimmicks, just me, in my pyjamas (laughs). With God Is A Woman, I thought it needed something extra to push it forward and make it more approachable and not so filled with angst.
‘Who We Are’ is an epic (she laughs). With those strings at the end, it’s more than a poem, it’s an opus and it has examples of all those amazing women…
I wanted to write a piece dedicated to women and when I heard this track by We Are All Astronauts, I thought ‘I have to write something for this’ and as soon as I put it to the music, I was like: ‘yeah!’; it just fitted perfectly.
For the video, I had these ideas of women defying stereotypes going about their everyday life: I had women in the gym, at work, protesting. I wanted it to be something visual as well as audio and I think I accomplished that.
I’ve had so many people come up to me and mention other women that I should’ve put in the poem…
Yeah, but come on Evrah, you name-check so many! Robin Williams left his mum out of his Oscar speech and she was sitting in the front row! Who you were talking about in the section after the instrumental break?
‘It was the first time she’d been called beautiful, not for her skin, but for her mind? Is that what you mean?
Yeah, that was it. Was that quite personal?
Yeah, it’s quite personal to be honest.
I thought it was. You don’t mention the person’s name which is why I was curious
[Long pause] Do I divulge this? No, I’ll keep it as a mystery.
You’ve done a poem about the 2019 Grand Slam and you mention your experiences of playing football as a child in one of your poems so I take it you’re a big sports fan?
I love sport! I watch football for the sake of watching it! If there’s a game on, be it (Manchester) United, Man City or Tottenham, I’ll watch it just because I love the game. I’m a United supporter…
Oh, come on, don’t tell us that. Do you not support Wrexham?
I do follow Wrexham, but I’m a United supporter because when I was a kid, I must’ve been about two or three years old, I had this obsession with Ryan Giggs. I knew about Ryan Giggs before I really knew what football was, I think. My parents bought me loads of Man United stuff and that’s where it began with me. It wasn’t because they won trophies, it was just… Ryan Giggs.
Was he on your bedroom wall, then?
He was, yeah! Along with Peter Schmeichel and David Beckham.
And what about rugby? I suppose in the Six Nations you were a big Wales fan?
Yeah, my mum’s a big rugby fan so it’s always on and to be asked to do a poem for the Grand Slam was just amazing. BBC Wales got in touch and said: ‘we’ve got this deadline and you have to do it within a week. If we win the Grand Slam, we’ll show this poem on the telly. I was, like, OK, I’ll have to write it quickly so it’s all a bit of a blur to be honest. I haven’t performed it anywhere yet; I just did it for Scrum V and they put it on the end of that. Seeing myself on TV, I was like ‘well, this is weird!’
How old were you when you finished your first piece of work Evrah?
It started when I was about eight or nine years old. It was therapeutic because I was going through a lot as a child and I just couldn’t express myself so writing about it helped immensely.
Have you seen Eight Mile when Eminem’s character is killing time by rapping in the line at the takeaway food van by the factory? Did you do something similar in the school dinner queue?
No! I was always writing about something like in the back of a schoolbook, but I always kept it hidden. I think the first substantial thing I wrote was when I was about 13. I remember finding an old notebook and it struck me how mature my writing was. I think because of the experiences I went through, I’d matured a lot and I was quite old before my time.
It was one of the most poignant pieces I’ll ever write, but I’ll never ever release it. It’s that private… it was one of
those things that helped me get closure on something rather than putting it out publicly.
When did you make your first public appearance? Not counting in front of your dad or gran!
I’ve never performed in front of my family! It was at Voicebox when a mate of mine had posted something on the internet and they asked him to bring me along. That was about two years ago. I was shaking! I’d never performed in front of an audience before; it had only ever been a few select people.
Only two years ago? I thought you’d been performing for ages Evrah Rose!
No, no. it’s only two years. I did something called ‘Mirrors’, a piece called ‘My Nurse’ and a rap at the end. I got a standing ovation! It was amazing! I was, like, I’m not crap! People actually like it, I’ll do that again! I just kept going to Voicebox and more opportunities and gigs came my way. The BBC got in touch and asked me if I wanted to do some stuff for BBC Sesh.
I was, like, ‘yeah, I’ll do that! That’s dead good!’ That was two years ago this month.
Are you from around here?
Yes, I’m from Wrexham… we’re all from Queen’s Park, Caia Park. I grew up in Spring Lodge on Hullah Lane. My parents ran the social club that was next to the Queensway Stadium for a bit.
My nan and grandad live by the Queensway and I also lived in Kingsley Circle. I had some great experiences and my family’s still based there so that area is dear to me. People talk a lot of garbage about that area, but there’s a real sense of community that I haven’t found elsewhere.
I did a piece about coming from a council estate and I got so much abuse for it! Things like I was from a ‘Clampett’ community, taking too much coke, I was a skank… I was like, my God! On the flip side, however, the positivity I’ve had
from other people saying they grew up on council estates and that’s exactly how they feel about it and that they’re proud of their roots. It’s had tons of shares and four million hits… it’s done really well.
There’s always something looking to have a go: if it’s not about the way I look, it’s about my community.
OK Evrah, we’re up to half an hour already! I just wanted to end by saying that anyone who can rhyme ‘Cleopatra’ with ‘stature’ gets my vote
(she laughs) Thank you very much. I’m very proud of that one.