Anna Jordan on Modwordsfest

Anna Jordan & Modwordsfest.png

Anna Jordan, founder of Modwords, talks about how the festival began and where she wants to take it.

“It all started with an open mic”, says Anna Jordan founder of Modwords. Like so many spoken word events before have originated, in the back of a bar. Based in Waterford, Modwords has run for three years now and has increased in size with each year. It even has a second branch in Cork run by Alana Daly Mulligan and Nicola Cooney, called Modwords Cork.

When Jordan began Modwords, she was amazed at the talent Waterford seemed to be sitting on. “It just showed how many writers then were in Waterford and how many people had stuff to say and how oppressed people in Waterford really were”, she says.  

Modwords sprouted from a failed attempt at writing groups. “I was always a writer”, says Jordan. “I get bored really fast and I really really liked the spoken word things. I was trying to find other people that liked it. I started pushing it in different writing groups and getting people to call around to my house and just work off prompts. It's not for everyone because it is really really nerdy, and this was before the explosion. Then when people started to notice that it was a little bit cool and you could say what you wanted, they started to join in. What started out as the open mics just exploded!” 

“‘It just showed how many writers then were in Waterford and how many people had stuff to say’”

“It does organically happen,” she says, “but it takes a lot of work to keep it going, a lot of the work that maybe other people don't see. I've kind of found that you either choose to run things or write. Sometimes you can through little bits in between”. Just six months after establishing Modwords, Jordan ran an event for the Imagine Festival. “There was like over a hundred and something people there and I had to get through everyone. I was going 'Oh my God, I have to do something with this' so it was time for a festival”. 

That was in November 2015. By the following May, Jordan was still wondering whether or not she should start a festival. She posted on Facebook that she was thinking of doing a festival and in a couple of hours there were enough comments to convince her that she should do it. “So, I pulled it together in two months”, she says blithely. Because Modwords did spoken word nights in different places around the city, Jordan had built up a relationship with lots of venues and the foundation was already laid; “It was kind of nearly ready in a way”. 

Jordan’s expectations started modestly. “I never considered it anything apart from an amateur platform festival,” she says. “It was really nice; Stephen James Smith came down. He came down for nothing. He made an appearance at it and it was just like 'did that just happen?'”. For the following year of now called Modwordsfest, Jordan was awarded a small grant from Waterford City and County Council, which covered merchandise. She set up a GoFundMe page to cover the rest of her expenses. 

After the first festival, Jordan was determined to up her game. A huge amount of goodwill from around the city saw the second Modwordsfest expand to include films and plays. Garter Lane Theatre, galleries, as well as the Theatre Royale allowed the festival to use their space. “It gave me the opportunity to say to people 'you have three months to write a play or get together something and you will be on the Theatre Royale stage’ and it was just a wonderful opportunity”, Jordan says. “With this kind of thing you always have to be straight with things. You can't be like 'yeah yeah I'll promise you the sun, the moon and the stars', you have to be so direct and honest and respectful of all the businesses you go into because it is community development.” 

Jordan is clearly proud of what she has achieved with Modwords, not just the festival but the classes as well. She’s seen people who were not writers “who have now grown and flourished.” She promises that the next Modwords is going to be even bigger; “there's the theatre, spoken word music and dance, all of that is Modwords, then there's the fairy tales and folklore and then there's the Irish spoken culture and merge it all together”. 

Jordan is very aware that as spoken word changes, Modwords will have to change with it. “It’s starting to become bigger. Spoken word is becoming a show. Theatre is going to start hitting back in now but it's not going to come back as the two-act traditional play set in the west, it's going to have spoken word. Everything builds and evolves.”

This piece first appeared in BND Issue One.

For more information about Modwords you can visit them here

Attend the Sunshine Tantrum Tour x Modwords here