Tuesday, 14 June 2016

TUESDAY NIGHT NEWS - Southwell Festival


I know that I'm prone to the odd superlative on this blog (Give or take about a  million!) but I really genuinely mean it when I say that I've just had one of the best weekends of my year so far!

In fact, I'm still beaming inanely even now, after a full two days back in the office - which is almost unheard of for me!

So, what on earth was I getting up to last weekend that was so bloody brilliant? In a word: Festival. In a longer series of words: I was hosting and organising the spoken word at the Gate to Southwell Festival. And it was so much fun!

We are part of  'And Many More' I think

It was actually my first time organising a group of performers at a festival, and the very lovely people at Gate to Southwell had given me two slots in which to do some spoken word. So I gathered up some excellent local poets, and we headed off to the Nottinghamshire countryside!

It was also the first time that there had been more than one poet on the bill at this particular festival, and the organisers were unsure if the punters would be willing to put up with poetry on a larger scale.

In short, it was all a bit of an unknown quantity. But nowt ventured nowt gained - as they say up in the Midlands - so we all pulled together and gave it our best shot!

Our first performance was on Saturday afternoon, in one of the small tents at the back of the site. I was a little bit worried that the audience wouldn't be able to spot us tucked away at the back there without any signposting, so as the time for us to start approached, I warned the poets that we may end up performing to a very very intimate crowd.

i.e. No one

The other problem was the rain. It wasn't just spitting either - it was more like a mini maelstrom. You know, the kind of weather that only ever happens when you have outdoor plans in June. Classic British Summer time stuff.

Glorious Mud (and pretty glorious trousers too, if I do say so myself!)

But, five minutes before we stepped on stage, the clouds parted and the sun came out! And once the sun was out, the crowds came in the their droves, and we ended up with a pretty full tent! We had to go out and get more chairs, for goodness sake!

We had ten poets on stage during the showcase, with performances from Andy Szpuk, Richard C Bower, Lytisha Tunbridge, Martin Dean, Shaun Moore, Di Slaney, Kevin Jackson, Hazel Warren and Trevor Wright (Plus a cheeky couple of poems from yours truly!) and everyone was absolutely brilliant!

We also managed to keep to time and sell a couple of pamphlets after the gig too! What self-respecting poet could ask for more?!

A 'stanza' of poets (is that the right collective noun?)

By the time we'd finished, the skies were bright and clear, and the poets all got a chance to chill out, see some bands and do a bit of socialising.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, we moved the show into the (much bigger and more intimidating) alternative stage for the first ever Southwell Slam!

I hosted the proceedings, which saw poets and members of the public performing their stuff, competing for the title of Bard of Southwell 2016!  We picked three judges from the (impressively sizeable) crowd, and they delivered their verdict after the end of each short performance.

The competition, as I'm sure you can imagine, was pretty intense, but in the end a worthy champion was chosen. Congratulations to Hazel Monaghan, the Bard of Southwell 2016!

And thanks to everyone who performed during the slam - it was a really close-run thing, with only a point between our first and second place performers! Thank you as well to everyone who came along to see us perform - you really made our day!

Our lovely big crowd for the Southwell Slam!

And it wasn't all hard work and poetry: I also got the chance to catch the Moulettes - who were incredible by the way - and sit at the back of a Hurdy Gurdy workshop too! And there's not many times in my life you'll ever hear me say that!

Hurdy Gurdys

I've already got some ideas for next year's festival; fingers crossed that they'll have us back!

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