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UniSlam Festival

The UK’s largest team poetry slam tournament, providing workshops, talks and fringe events to the next generation of British poetry talent.









Each year, we bring together groups of emerging poets from universities across the UK and Ireland to compete in our national poetry slam tournament. They participate in a 3-day programme of workshops, masterclasses, talks and fringe events, designed to help take their practice to the next level. Over the course of the tournament, all teams perform in prelimary heats, with the highest scoring 10 teams progressing to semi-finals rounds, until our Grand Finals see the highest scoring 4 teams go head-to-head for the UniSlam Champions title, trophy and prize package.

UniSlam prides itself on being a slam which, over competition, prioritizes quality, community and artist development. Each team is required to have a coach, all rounds are judged by panels of professional artists and industry experts, available for feedback, and an intensive workshop offer is carefully curated each year. Previous judges include Hollie McNish, Inua Ellams, Andrew McMillan, Dizraeli, Jacob Sam La-Rose, Kayo Chingonyi, Melissa Lozada Oliva and more.

If you would like to bring a team to UniSlam, please get in touch to find out more. Rules for the competition can be found below, as well as information on our previous festivals.


Previous festivals








UniSlam 2014

Hosted at the University of Edinburgh

Winning team: University of Edinburgh

Runners up: University of Bristol

UniSlam 2016

Hosted at the University of Leicester

Winning team: University of Edinburgh

Runners up: Goldsmiths University

UniSlam 2017

Hosted at DeMontfort University & Curve Theatre

Winning team: Goldsmiths University

Runners up: University of Manchester, University of Exeter,

University of Birmingham

UniSlam 2018

Hosted at DeMontfort University & Curve Theatre

Winning team: University of Birmingham

Runners up: Bath Spa University, University of Ken, University of Manchester


UniSlam 2019

Hosted at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham Hippodrome & The Old Rep Theatre

Winning team: University of Birmingham

Runners up: University of Strathclyde, University of Durham, University of University of Leeds



Teams must be made up of 4 or 5 students, all of whom must currently be studying at the same university.

Merger teams (teams made up for students from no more than 2 universities) are allowed where not enough students from a single university can make a team.

No more than 2 post-graduate level students are allowed on a team.

It is up to each university community how they select their team, however we strongly encourage you to host a slam to select the team to   create  as  transparent and  fair  a selection  process as possible.

We ask that you encourage diversity within your team, promoting the opportunity to all groups within your university community, particularly those who may have had barriers to accessing such events in the past.


All team members and coaches will be given UniSlam passes, giving them free access to all talks, workshops and master-classes as well as all rounds.

Teams may also bring non-competing poets or supporters, who will have access to any non-tickets rounds and workshops* (*on a space-dependent basis). However they must purchase tickets for paid-access rounds.













Each UniSlam team is required to have 1 coach. This can be a member of the team or an external individual (e.g. a faculty member, another student, a professional artist). The coach does not have to be affiliated with the university, unless they are a performing team member in which case they must be a current student.

The role of the coach is to help the team prepare themselves for the competition. It is up to each team to approach/select an appropriate coach, UniSlam is not responsible for assignment of coaches.

Each coach will receive full access to the UniSlam summit; they will be able to participate in the development workshops and receive a free ticket to all of the rounds, including the Grand Finals.

Each year, we endeavor to hold a Coaches’ Slam, though this is not guaranteed.


Rounds & poems

Each team will perform in 2 preliminary rounds and will be required to perform 4 poems in each (8 separate poems).

Teams progressing to semi-finals will be required to perform a further 4 poems, which were not performed during preliminaries (4 separate poems).

Those making the Grand Finals will then perform 4 more poems, which may be new or may be repeats from preliminary rounds BUT NOT repeats from semi-finals (no repeats in consecutive rounds). Therefore each team must have prepared a minimum of 12 poems for the competition. Any repeated poem will automatically receive a ‘0’ score.

Group pieces (poems performed by 2 or more students) are encouraged.

Each poem, group or individual, must have a named primary author. No two poems with the same primary author can be performed in one round.

Rounds are scored by a pre-selected judging panel and may also include audience judges.

Poems are scored from 0.0 to 10.0 based on both the quality of the writing and quality of the performance.

No props are allowed (e.g. instruments, costume etc).

There is a 3 minute time limit on all poems with 10 second grace period, following which points will be deducted per second the poet runs over.

Timer starts from the poet’s first interaction with the audience (this may not be their first word, for example if a poet makes facial or physical gestures towards the audience as a means of interaction, the timer will start).

Previous festivals

“Nurturing and discovering some of the best poetry talent across the UK”
The Poetry Society

“Without doubt one of the most impressively organised and supported slam projects I've been involved with over the last 16 years. It isn't simply poetry being shared on stage; UniSlam is a factory of dreams, ideologies, new philosophies and passions. It is the world re-written.'

Joelle Taylor

Inaugural year

UniSlam was founded at the University of Birmingham in 2013 by Ben Norris as part of Book to the Future festival. The inaugural UniSlam was a day-long event taking place at the university with judges Luke Kennard, Matt Windle, Helen Monks and Martin Glynn. The University of Edinburgh won the tournament (Agnes Torok, Freddie Alexander, Rachel Rankin, Toby Campion) to runners up Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Rounds & Poems
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