The last couple of weeks have been really hectic, and there are some really exciting things coming up on the horizon, but I’ll save those for a later post… (I am such a tease!)
So, what’s been happening over the last few weeks? Well, the first ever Nottingham Poetry Festival has been running in town over the past fortnight, and it’s been fantastic!
The main festival events were organised by Nottingham-born poet and TV producer Henry Normal, and featured some big name talent with the likes of Luke Wright, LemnSissay and Attila the Stockbroker all performing in the city. But the best part about the festival was that it publicised all the year-round grassroots spoken word nights as part of its programme, giving Black Drop, Poetry is Dead Good, Speech Therapy and others a chance to engage with a wider audience.
One of the first festival events was Book Off, on Sunday 22nd November, which took place in the awesome performance space upstairs at Rough Trade Records in the Creative Quarter.
The organisers, Ben and Sobhian, are aiming to start a monthly event to bring together local writers, performers and workshop facilitators to create a brilliant interactive programme based around literature in all its forms. And if they carry on like they did at the first event, they’ll have no problems at all! (Hint: it was awesome.)
As part of my evening with Book Off, I attended a song-writing workshop, performed in a poetry open mic, watched a Q&A with three novelists, and enjoyed a sketch show by a local all-female comedy troop called ‘Major Labia’. (And honestly, how can you not love them with a name like that?!) I also saw some brilliant poetry from the Mouthy Poets, Black Drop and the marvellous Ben Norris, as well as some amazing Hungarian folk music, and two poems about pubes!
Suffice to say it was an eclectic and incredible night, and I can’t wait for the next one!
On Tuesday 24th November, I performed a short set as part of the DIY Poets show at the Lofthouse in Hockley.
The Lofthouse is a really quirky little venue, accessed via a buzz release door and up four flights of stairs (Just one floor below a pole-dancing school!). Once you find your way to the right place, it’s a gorgeous little bar, all decked out with fairy lights, candles and plenty of rum!
And the DIY Poets had a trio of lovely ladies as their featured acts (A way to balance the lack of female poets in the main poetry festival line-up.) and Clare Stewart, Orla Shortall and Lytisha Tunbridge were all fantastic to watch! The shorter sets from other DIY poets were also really enjoyable and the whole night was completely free. You can’t say fairer than that really, can you?
On Thursday 26th November, I popped across to Bar Deux on Sherwood Rise, to take part in my first Speech Therapy open mic night. These events are hosted by local legend Miggy Angel, who’s a really fun and engaging compère, with a real honest and supportive hosting style.
And there were so many people on the open mic! I counted twenty four, but I don’t know how accurate that was (Everything started to go a bit blurry after 11 o’clock!) Still, the standard of poetry was incredible, and I don’t think I looked at my watch all evening. A sure sign of a good night out!
I particularly liked Miggy’s ode to poetry ‘this poem is for you’ and Andrew’s political parody of Bohemian Rhapsody, which had the whole audience dancing in their seats! There was sinister prose courtesy of DIY Poet’s very own Prince of Darkness, Chris Page, and some fantastically bitter breakup poetry from first time open mic-er Tom.
I really like the inclusive way Miggy operates these events, which felt really welcoming and supportive, while also allowing poets to do edgy and subversive stuff, no questions asked. It really is the best of both worlds, and I’d definitely recommend Speech Therapy if you ever find yourself at a lost in Nottingham on a cold and wintery Thursday evening!
So I’ve been to a lot of events as part of the poetry festival. But some other stuff has happened too.
I had a poem published by I Am Not A Silent Poet, the online magazine that speaks out against abuse in all its forms. There’s a lot of brilliant poetry on the website, and I’d encourage everyone in the world to check it out. You’ll be bowled away by the depth of feeling, and the quality of the writing. Trust me. (You can also check out my poem here.)
And, because the Nottingham Poetry Festival has been on for the last few weeks, the Nottingham press have been really interested in local poets. I’m not sure if I count as a local poet yet, but I’ve been here almost five months now, so I chanced it, and got myself invited along to film shoot with Notts TV, our local telly station.
The shoot was actually a really cool idea: the folks from Notts TV wanted to film local poets reciting their poems, then add these short films into the footage from various other poetry festival events.
And our poems were filmed in the caves under the Malt Cross Music Hall on St James’ street, so the whole ambience was proper spooky, and looked really good on camera!
Originally, I was hoping to recite my poem off by heart, but after six failed attempts, I admitted defeat and read it from the pamphlet instead. I was a bit disappointed, but I think it turned out ok in the end!
I have no idea if the finished clip will make it to air, but if you’re within the Notts TV aerial range, keep a look out, just in case!
Then, on Monday 30th November, I spoke to a lovely lady called Jennifer for an article about the DIY Poets for the Nottingham Post. I was more than happy to sing the praises of the DIY Poetry Collective, who have been so incredibly welcoming and generous to me over the past few months. I can’t wait to see the article in print – hopefully it will bring even more people into the DIY Poets fold!
And, if all that wasn’t enough, we’ve also just launched this year’s Fenland Poet Laureate competition! (Yes, I’ve still got my finger firmly wedged in that lovely poetic pie!)
So, if you live, work or study in the Fens, and fancy yourself a bit of a secret poet, please enter our lovely competition! You’ll be in with a chance to be crowned Fenland Poet Laureate 2016, plus it’s completely free to submit a poem. So there’s no excuse not to, really, is there?
For all the information about the competition (including details of eligibility) check out the Atelier East website here. And good luck!