Rewriting the Rulebook – Section 1

Posted: November 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

Time to jump in and see what we can do about making the Slam rules work better for our community.

1. The Canadian team slam championship will be held as a central feature of CFSW each year. The number of teams competing each year will be determined by the SpoCan Board of Directors. The process for gaining entrance to the national team slam championship will be governed by the SpoCan Constitution & Bylaws and by the SpoCan Slam Team Qualification Policy.

1a. These rules also cover the Youth Slam Tournament at YouthCanSlam.

Obviously there isn’t much to talk about here, since it mostly refers to other rules.

Let’s talk about that, then. What ARE the rules about who gets entrance into the slam championships?

In practical terms, if you pay the entrance fee and follow the basic tenets of slam, you can sign up. (You may have to become a SpoCan member, but that costs nothing and gives you two votes at the AGM.)

So, what would disallow you?

Not following those basic rules. This does not mean you have to follow the ‘standard slam rules’ (which is something we are looking at changing anyway), just that you need to have open and fair competition to create the team. No hand-picked poets. No closed sign-ups.

You also have to be a SERIES, not just a one-off event… but having said that, I have heard of series that don’t really run slams putting a slam together just to send a team. That has gone back years.

Basically, we aren’t in the business of trying to make it HARD for people to send teams.

Having said THAT, there was a thing that has come up a few times. One thing that would disallow you is if your slam is not open to anyone who wanted to sign up. This usually comes in the form of some sort of demographic limit. A Youth Slam that did not allow people over 25 to slam would be disallowed. A Slam that was only for people who identify as women would be disallowed. A Whites-Only Slam would be disallowed. (Wow… where would a slam like that be run? A KKK Rally?)

Now, you can run a show that mostly appeals to a certain group, but you can’t limit sign-up.

My opinion is that this is the right way to remain. Slam should be about inclusion and this is the way it manifests. I also included that ‘whites-only’ example intentionally to remind people that even if you are running a slam for positive reasons (like trying to get youth more involved), eliminating this rule opens the door to a lot more negative possibilities as well.

As for Rule 1a, there are people who really want to ensure that YouthCanSlam revives this year. I am down with that.

Obviously the rule about limiting competition has a specific waiver for YCS. I think the age limit is 22.

Also, in the early years of YCS the goal is to get people on stage, so the organizers have play fast and loose with the rules to get as many youth on the stage as they can. There are lots of Wild Card spots and other juggling to ensure that happens. As NSM, I am totally down with that.

In fact, that fits what I am trying to accomplish here. Make the rules work for us, not the other way around.

You may notice that there is no mention of CIPS. CIPS has been run separately from the start and have their own rules for participation.

So, discussion? Commenting here on my blog is the best place to ensure your comments are taken into account when we make any changes. (Though I will try to pay attention to conversations that happen elsewhere as well.)

  1. Steve Currie says:

    Great forum for this and I’m glad it’s going section by section to give everything room to breathe.
    As to what defines an open competition: there’s a lot of precedence in civil liberties law that allows for, say, a women’s bike repair night without allowing, say, a whites only hospital. I don’t think there’s any reason In Principle we couldn’t have dedicated slams for protected groups in our family.
    I don’t know where everyone stands on this but I think winnipeg could benefit from an indigenous slam and a francophone slam. I wouldnt be able to set them up but I would prefer, In Principle, if they could exist

  2. Tammy MacKenzie says:

    So, what about limitations by geography? LiPS always had a rule that anyone could slam, but you had to live in Lanark County to qualify for the team. The intent was specifically to protect the rural origins of the team, which meant excluding those who were from “the cities”.

    • rpriske says:

      That has never been challenged, but I think if it had, Lanark would have been allowed to do that.

      Originally, teams represented their city (or county, once Lanark joined). For example, the first 3 teams I was on were announced as Team Ottawa, not Capital Slam.

      I don’t think anyone would have complained that people who were repping that community should actually be from that community.

      It gets more muddy these days, since teams no longer rep a geographical area. They rep their ‘scene’ (as vague as that is).

      I am not sure that limiting team membership based on where you live would be allowed.

      Having said THAT, it has been well established that a scene is allowed to make ‘signing a contract’ a requirement of being on a team, so it is possible that the contract could require a certain number of team meetings etc. that would make NOT living in the immediate vicinity a problem.

      (Though my last 3 straight teams have included people who did not live in Ottawa full time… we worked around it.)

  3. […] musicalgiraffe on Rewriting the Rulebook –… […]

  4. To touch on geography and team make up. I want to bring up a scenario before it (if it ever) happens so we have a precedent in the rules. This is the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and I want to know if country of permeant residence would ever be an issue. To be clear, I don’t mean citizenship, I literally mean a team with some, many or all members who are residents of another country.

    Here’s an example. I just started the Windsor Poetry Slam, In terms of distance, Windsor might as well be Detroit. So it’s very conceivable that we will have a Detroit poet on the team at some point in the infinity I hope the slam runs. Many slams are close to the border so this scenario isn’t specific to Windsor.

    I think this should be fine and as the rules stand I don’t see anything that would specifically disallow that. I just think that there is an unlikely but not inconceivable scenario where a team of American poets representing a slam run in a Canadian city, wins the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and at least one person says in a grumpy voice in the heat of the moment “that shouldn’t be allowed to happen”. In this hypothetical scenario it’d be nice to point to a line in the rules that says, “Nope, totally fair play.”

    I don’t know how you’d like to add a rule or adjust an existing one or if this covered by the idea that slam teams are simply made up of people who came and participated in the event so because the event must have open sign up this rule is already covered. I just wanted to toss this out there as a preemptive scenario as preemptive problem solving is I assume the name of the game here.

    Love the open forum concept to discuss the rules. Super proactive.

    • rpriske says:

      At the moment, not only would it not be illegal to have non-residents on a team, it would actually be illegal to STOP them from being on your team.

      Does anyone want a rule to insist that only Canadians compete? (I don’t imagine so, but you never know…)

  5. Christopher says:

    Because of the series nature, rather than one-off event, I believe that the issue of residency is self-limiting. For those border cities; IF for example nobody in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario can beat the weakest poet from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, there is an issue beyond residency.

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