A Dream Turned Reality: The Story of Hayati Open Mic

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed the poetry scene grow and blossom into something truly remarkable, with a great number of event initiatives being established across London, presenting poets from all over the city with a platform to share their truth on. Needless to say, London’s poetry scene is booming, and with endeavours like Sky Art’s ‘Life and Rhymes’ hosted by renowned poet, Benjamin Zepeniah, thrusting the spotlight onto some of the scene’s finest, it’s only right that we take a moment to embrace how bright the future looks for the poetry scene.

Having said that, London isn’t the only home for poetry in the UK, and it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge one of the most promising initiatives outside of the capital, just over 100 miles away in the city of Birmingham: Hayati Open Mic; a brand new enterprise founded in 2020 by author of ‘The World is Your Masjid’ and ‘Birmingham Boy’, Kate Rafiq.

Founders: Josie (left) and Kate (right)

After what she deems “an epic flu induced dream”, and concluding that there was something missing from Birmingham’s poetry scene, Kate decided to make Hayati a reality, taking what she had been inspired with in her sleep and turning it into safe space for poets across the West Midlands, all the while maintaining an Islamic ethos in order to create a spiritually welcoming space for Muslim artists. 

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Hayati held their first ever event in February 2020 at the Ort Gallery and it was a tremendous success, but unfortunately for Kate and the team, merely weeks removed from the event, the Coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a standstill, and threatened to derail Hayati’s momentum for good. Rather than throw in the towel and call it a day, Kate and Ort’s Artistic Director, Josie, came up with a way to keep things rolling throughout the pandemic, launching Zoom Hayati Nights where poets around the world could share their words, and due to Ort’s funding, be paid for it.

Hayati Open Mic is held at Ort Gallery

In late 2021, nearly two years after the first ever Hayati event, Kate and the team were finally able to host their second event with some of the scene’s most gifted poets, including Asim the Poet, Hafsa Rehman, and author of the poetry collection, ‘Mute Men’, Kamil Mahmood, performing on the night.

Now, with 2022 around the corner, two successful live events under its belt, and several transatlantic Zoom meets, Hayati Open Mic could very well be on its way to becoming one of the West Midland’s most prominent spoken word nights.

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