Monday, 4 August 2014


This weekend, I was invited down to the south coast to take part in the festivities at Camp Bestival, at Lulworth in Dorset.

In case you've never heard of it before, let me tell you that Camp Bestival is a multi-disciplinary arts and entertainment festival, set in the grounds of Lulworth Castle, about ten miles north west of Poole. It's a fairly new festival, with a very family-orientated feel and an incredible range of stalls, shows and events going on throughout the weekend. The full line-up includes musicians, theatre acts, storytellers, bands, poets, circus acts, lectures, a pop-up cinema, a Bollywood tent, fairground rides, a skate park, and an inflatable church, so there really is something for everyone!

Lulworth Castle - small but perfectly formed

This year, I was really pleased to be asked to perform as part of the Soapbox poetry collective, alongside fellow East Anglian poets Andy Bennett and Rowan James, with Tom Butterworth as our excellent compère. This was a very exciting (and nerve-racking) opportunity, and I'm supremely grateful to Amy Wragg from Get on the Soapbox Events for inviting us to be part of the show!

We had a really good time slot - Sunday afternoon sandwiched in between a Q&A with Kate Tempest and a performance by London Based collective Chill Pill Poets - so there were plenty of people in the tent for our show. And I think it went pretty well too. The audience weren't sure what to expect, and there was a bit of stunned silence at the beginning, but once we all relaxed into it, the whole thing went very smoothly indeed.

Name in lights
After Tom had warmed up crowd with some jokes and games, I performed a few old favourites, and the audience responded well to Self-Service Seduction, Shaving Grace, and Bad Kisser. Rowan was next on stage, and gave a fantastic, engaging performance complete with excellent renditions of Norwich Road and Bordom and Me.

Photo courtesy of Carmina Masoliver
After Rowan, we had guest performances from Jack Rooke and Laurie Bolger, the hosts of London's Bang Said the Gun poetry nights. They were both brilliant, performing poems that satirised the London poetry scene to great effect. We ended the Soapbox Poets hour with some poems from Andy Bennett, who had the audience in stitches with his version of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. (Andy's version of the poem involves drinking fabric softener and hallucinating about badgers. You can listen to it here.)

As soon as our show was over, we charged across the festival site for our second gig of the afternoon: performing poetry to kids at the teen section of the festival.

To be honest, I didn't really know what to expect with this show. It can be hard to get young people to engage with poetry at the best of times, so I didn't think we'd get many of them interested in our performance. Sure enough, most of the teenagers made their excuses to leave when they heard that we would be doing poems. However, our small audience seemed pleasantly surprised by the quality of our material, and we actually ended up having a really good time with the two or three who stayed. I'm really hopeful that we might have converted one or two of them into the poets of the future - but we'll see.

Festival weather!

All in all, I had a really great time at Camp Bestival, and I really enjoyed working with the Soapbox poets too! Luckily, we don't have to wait until next year as we'll all be performing again later this summer at Bestival on the Isle of Wight. See you there!

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