Thursday, 18 June 2015

REVIEW: My Last Fen Speak

Last night was a bit of a sad one for me, as it was my last time hosting the Fen Speak Spoken Word Open Mic Night.

My other half and I are moving away to Nottingham, so it was time for me to step down as host of Fen Speak, and give some of our other talented poets a chance to shine. Poppy Kleiser will be taking over our Wisbech events, while Jonathan Totman steps in as host in Ely. They will be aided and abetted by Elaine Ewart, my fenland poetry partner in crime!

I’m really going to miss the Fen Speak crew, but I’ve been so lucky to have met such amazing, talented and generous poets out here in the Fens.

And it was amazing to see how many people turned up for my Farewell show!

In fact, forty-three people joined us – our highest ever turnout! And our open mic was full to bursting with thirty writers and performers reading as part of the evening’s entertainment.

As usual, we had a good mix of poetry and storytelling, with a little bit of a cappella singing thrown in for good measure, and it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces. We also had quite a few first-timers, and I hope that I didn’t scare them off by crying at the end!

Poppy brought us all some cake, Elaine provided the balloons, and the whole evening had a real celebratory atmosphere!

Regular Fen Speaker Clive Semmens sung us a fantastic folk song to kick off the evening, and it was great to hear Russell J Turner’s poem ‘The Dead Start Fires’ again. (It’s one of my absolute favourites!)

Miriam Brown’s seasonal haikus were wonderfully observed, and Jonathan Totman gave us an exclusive first performance of his Ouse Washes Festival poem, which was filled with glorious fenland imagery.

Nigel Pamenter recited a really funny piece about a holiday romance, and his brilliant writing and flawless delivery belie the fact that this was only his second performance reading his poetry! I couldn’t believe it either!

Judy Sampson was another Fen Speak first-timer, and her hilarious account of the duties and responsibilities of a vicar’s wife had the audience in stitches throughout!

Then Sally Diss gave us food for thought, using her time at the mic to wonder about where the clouds are always going in such a hurry, while Alastair Woodruff read a brilliant poem, written by his father. Phil Hawtin’s powerful work about unrequited love put us all in a reflective mood, and Beth Hartley’s deeply personal poem about her daughter was incredibly moving too.

Dominic O’Sullivan lampooned the bedroom tax with his witty duologue, and Tony McCormack’s fantastic Irish a cappella singing rounded off the evening in style!

I was also surprised and incredibly flattered to find out that some of our performers had written poems about me, by way of a fond farewell! Can you imagine? 

Ashley Fox wrote a wonderful piece about our friendship, which also served to remind me of about all the crazy colours I've dyed my hair over the years! Meanwhile, Fay Roberts and Russell J Turner clubbed together to write a deliciously bizarre clerihew for me. The opening lines were: 

“Leanne Moden / Conqueror of Snowdon”

I liked it very much indeed.

Finally, Guy Pidsley wrote an epic poem about my move to Nottingham, called ‘The Lady Leanne (with apologies to Tennyson and Shalott)’. The homage was pitch-perfect, with clever jokes and references, and I absolutely love it! Guy was kind enough to give me a copy, and I think I might frame it! Would that be weird?

I also received so many lovely cards and presents, and I was overwhelmed by the generosity of our writers and performers! Elaine, Jonathan, and some of the Fen Speak regular had clubbed together to buy me a Poetry Book Society membership, a lovely moleskine notebook and a poetry book, and I’m so grateful. They really didn’t need to get me anything, because I already love them all so fucking much!

All in all, it was a pretty emotional night for me, and I might have shed a tear or two when reading my super cheesy goodbye poem (Hint: I very definitely did.) but honestly, I am so incredibly lucky to have met such an amazing group of talented and generous writers at Fen Speak over the last two years, and I am disgustingly proud of all of them. I have made friendships that I hope will last a lifetime, and I couldn’t have asked for better.

If you've ever been to Fen Speak, or retweeted a link to our events, or joined one of our mailing lists,  then you have helped to make Fen Speak what it is today, and you are excellent.

Thank you to everyone who made it to the Babylon Gallery last night. It was a fantastic night!

As I mentioned before, Poppy and Jonathan will be taking over now, helping Elaine with all the behind the scenes stuff, and taking it in turns to host Fen Speak! All three of them are brilliant poets and amazing human beings, so please do support them to make Fen Speak bigger and better for 2015 and beyond!

The next Fen Speak event is at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum on Wednesday 15th July, and the team will be back at the Babylon Gallery on Wednesday 19th August. Check out the facebook page for more information.


  1. We will really miss you Leanne! Thank you for everything you have done for fenland poetry over the past years. I should add that the gifts were not just from me, Jonathan and Poppy but from all of Fen Speak collectively!

    1. Aw thanks Elaine! I've amended the post to actually thank the right people now! :)

  2. Leanne Moden
    Conqueror of Snowden
    Keen angler on the side
    But no matter how far she goes, from our love she'll never hide.

    Or something like that. <3

    1. I am simultaneously overjoyed and pleasantly embarrassed to be the subject (rather than the narrator) of a poem! Thank you soo much for this! I might get it printed on a mug! -x-

  3. Thank you for your continued dedication to Poetry Leanne. I wanted to be there on Weds but could not make it. Wishing you all the best for the future and so glad to have met you and heard your poetry. Love and hugs xx

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Helen! It's been a pleasure to get to know you and here your poetry over the last few years. -x-

  4. Sounds like it was a beautiful evening!!! I want to read a copy of the poems everyone wrote you!!! Xxx