Sunday, 19 March 2017

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Write Club, New Perspectives and Against the Grain Slam

Sorry for the enormous gap in between posts again this month, folks. But, don't worry! I totally have an excuse! I've been suer-busy this month doing some A-Grade poetry gallivanting, with gigs in Lincoln, Peterborough and Cambridge, as well as a brand new writing project in the East Midlands too! So strap in and I'll tell you a little bit about what I've been up to these last few weeks:

Back on 7th March, I took myself up the A46 to the lovely hilly city of Lincoln, for my first ever performance in the city.

Lincoln Cathedral, looking all majestic and that

After meeting the marvellous Gemma Baker at Word Wise in Derby last year and hearing all about her Lincoln-based collective, Mouth Piece Poets, I was keen to check out the scene in the city, so when Gemma posted about the Against the Grain Slam on her facebook page, I jumped at the chance to get involved!

Held in the Lincoln Centre of Performing Arts on the University of Lincoln city campus, the Against the Grain slam is a relatively new spoken word performance competition, which is already attracting  a great range of performers from across the city and across the country. (I'm not kidding there - on the night I was there, there were also performers from Suffolk and as far field as Hastings!)

The standard of performances on the night was really impressive, and what struck me most was the wide variety of content and poetic styles on show during the evening.

I decided (at the last minute) to perform two wildly different poems, 'Starstruck' and 'Shaving Grace' and luckily the audience responded really warmly to them both.

Here are some stars for starstruck (not pictured, Shaving Grace)

And, although I didn't manage to scoop the top prize, I did get some really positive feedback from a few people, which is always nice to receive! I also got the chance to plug Crosswords to a brand new audience, so I'm hoping we might have a few Lincoln poets joining us for our next event on 12th April!

Massive congratulations to Andrew Kerr and Martin Shaw, the first and second place winners respectively, and to everyone else who performed on the night!

On Wednesday 8th March, I was supposed to be down in Essex for a International Women's Day event, but unfortunately, that fell through at the last minute, which meant I wasn't able to go to some of the awesome International Women's Day events taking place in Nottingham either. Boo! But instead, I read a little bit of Rupi Kaur when I got home, which felt like the right thing to do in solidarity with everyone sharing creatively on the day!

Then, on Tuesday 14th March, I scurried down the A1 to take part in Write Club at the Stoneworks in Peterborough.

Write Club is this fantastic series of events hosted by the dream team of Peterborough poetry behemoths, Mark Grist, Charley Genever, Keely Mills and Lewis Tappenden.

Each month, these four team captains assemble armies of poets to battle it out for the Write Club championship title (and a free pint) by putting together work on a theme picked by a random member of the audience. The theme for March was "How the FUCK did I get this old?" which felt quite apt for me, because I'd just experienced an epic milestone birthday the week before!

The Write Club audience (Photo by Tony Nero)

And it was a brilliant night, with some genuinely incredible performances. One of my favourite things about the format was seeing all the different ways that each of the poets interpreted the theme.

I loved Keely's beautiful piece about swimming with her dad and Charley's bizarre and brilliant poem about the the ageing female body (playfully entitled Hairy Nipple).

Mark read out two poems from his most recent workshops in schools, and the piece by fourteen-year-old Olivia, a teenager articulating her life with autism, was so gut-wrenchingly visceral that it had most of the audience in tears by the end.

Keely Mills doing her thing!

I also really enjoyed Alex's hilarious tongue-in-cheek complaint about the future bearing little resemblance to the apocalypse-scarred, hoverboard-cruising world portrayed in those eighties movies we watched as kids. I wanted to jump up at one point and shout Amen, I was so totally in agreement with his sentiments. Like "Yeah! Where's my hoverboard, eh Michael J Fox?!"

It's probably the most I've ever agreed with the content of a poem, ever.

Anyway, I'd written a new poem especially for Write Club, and I was a bit nervous about reading it out on the night because A) I haven't written anything new for bloody ages and I was afraid that I'd forgotten how to be funny, and B) I'd resolved to write it in free verse (coz I don't do that often enough) and I actually feel really emotionally naked without a good rhyming couplet to fall back on.


So I was pretty elated when my poem went down well; the audience were super attentive and they even laughed in the right places, which is always a plus!

Here's me giving it some attitude!

In fact, our whole team did a superb job, unpacking the theme from so many different angles, it was hard to keep up with them all! In the end, the audience must've liked our stuff because they voted our team, the Lifegoats, the overall winners for the event! Yay!

Seriously though, I absolutely loved the good-natured rivalry of Write Club, with its rowdy but receptive audience, and the standard of poetry was excellent across the board. Thanks to Keely, Charley, Mark and Lewis for inviting me along, and definitely make sure you catch Write Club as soon as you can! 

Finally this week, I've started working with New Perspectives, a local theatre company based in Nottingham, on a project called Haunts.

Haunts is a brand new training project for five early career playwrights from the East Midlands. Between March and June we'll be working with dramaturg William Drew and playwright David Rudkin to create ten minute dramas based in specific locations around the East Midlands. These pieces will then be professionally recorded and turned into downloadable audio walks to be experienced in the locations where they are based.

It's a really exciting project, and completely unlike anything I've ever done before, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how it all develops.

Last Saturday, we spent the afternoon wandering around Nottingham city centre, writing short audio walks of the city, and despite the pouring rain, it was a really enjoyable experience. We drew circles on maps of the city, then tried to walk the route of the circle as best we could. For me, this meant diving in and out of shops, using pubs as thoroughfares, and ducking down dead-end alleys, only to find fire escapes and small spaces to squeeze through, back onto the main road.

Is this an adventure, or a mistake?

For our homework, we have to record a ten minute walk for our fellow participants to follow at next weeks' session - wish me luck with that one!

This evening, I'm off to my old stomping ground to take part in Sunday Night Lives at La Raza in Cambridge. They'll be poetry, music and even a bit of comedy, and all hosted by the fantastic Mark McGivern! And, best of all, it's free! Come check us out if you're in the area!

Oh, and one final thing before I go, do you remember at the end of last month when the lovely folks at Left Lion magazine gave me some space to write an article about the Nottingham spoken word scene? Well, you can now read that bit of writing on their website. Why not have a little look-see? You never know, you might even like it!