Journey to Justice

Using multi-voice poetry to promote human rights

Ten years ago I started writing material for the pupils in my school’s Amnesty International Youth Group to perform. The subject was domestic violence and I thought of using their voices in a way that would allow the sounds of the words to complement the actions in the poem. So when there was something bad happening, the joining of words and phrases would result in a cacophony. When there was resolution or peaceful thoughts, the voices would blend to produce a pleasant sound. Voices can also be used to create subtle rhythms that build up in the poem.

 It looks complicated but is all do-able. When doing first readings it helps to look through the column of words to be read and italicise or underline in coloured pen any words/phrases which are to be spoken at the same time as another performer/s, and underline those actor’s lines too. All parts of text at the same height are read at the same time. It helps to print the text in double space.

 The resulting sounds can be chaotic or melodic and used to amplify or reinforce an action or emotion. Each speaker must ensure their own lines are not overwhelmed by the other speaker/s.

 Multi-voice is an excellent way of showing different views of the same situation and you can choose how to position the speakers. They might face each other, stand in a circle or back to back or be scattered.

I invite anyone interested in human rights and poetry (or acting) to perform a multi-voice poem with a friend or a group of like-minded people. It requires as much rehearsal as any other “theatrical” form and can be enormous fun. I have performed multi-voice at numerous human rights events including for Amnesty International at the Scottish Parliament and on national radio. Audiences love it. The techniques are explained on my website and you will find a few poems there too: and

 For more information, please contact me at:

 Ashby McGowan, school technician


Please try out something new for your next human rights event: just give a credit to the author (me) and please do not use the poem as part of an event that exploits animals or humans. Then perform this poem to rapturous crowds. Then post to you tube.

The words are on my multi-voice website:


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