This is just a quick note about 2 very exciting, and very different, gigs I did recently.
The first was Word-Up, a relatively new night at the charming 6/8 Kafe in the centre of Birmingham (incidentally, the home of the best hot chocolate in the West Midlands, no lie). This was the fourth edition of the monthly open-mic evening run by Mark Watson and Ro Caldwell, who have been kind enough to continually invite me to read there throughout the summer. Festival after festival after festival after insert-other-commitment-here always seemed to get in the way, but on Friday 21st Sept. I was finally free. The downstairs basement space they use is somehow simultaneously both barren and industrial, and homely, and rather suited the eclectic mix of performers on show. Personal favourites were James Dolton, Jenna Clake (whose spoken-word debut was bewitching and marks her out as one to watch) and Elisha Owen, plus some hilarious guitar-accompanied satire from Joe Sale. All of these guys are on Twitter and elsewhere online, and are well worth your time. Unbeknownst to me, I’d been given the final slot of the night so ended up serving as a kind of accidental head-liner This was a fantastic experience, and I really felt at home with my own poems (including the awkward bits in between), in front of a very generous audience.
Sunday 30th Sept. saw me make my Apples & Snakes debut proper (discounting the innumerable times I’ve annoyed the Hit The Ode audience on the open-mic!). I was the West Midlands contingent in the Next Generation Slam at the Arnolfini in Bristol. I was delighted when I found out about this gig, and wasn’t disappointed when it came round, as it was without doubt the highest quality poetry slam I’ve ever been in (in terms of the poetry at least, and not necessarily the seamlessness of the score-keeping! Thankfully the poetry is what matters).
Although I’ve seen them read before, it was the first time I’ve seen Vanessa Kisuule, Harry Baker and Jack Dean in a slam. Sunday was a great day generally, as (alongside finishing 19th and 1st U23 in Bristol Half Marathon that morning) I, and the rest of the A&S team, had a performance workshop prior to the gig with Anna Freeman, whose set at Shambala was a festival highlight. Meeting the other A&S poets, only one of which I’d previously heard of (I’m ashamed to say) was also fantastic, and although we’d workshopped earlier in the day, hearing the work a second time with the brakes off was bloody brilliant. Hats off to Indigo Williams, Rowan McCabe, Ben Lawrence, and Carrie Wilde. In all honesty I did not expect to beat an all-star Bristol team containing the respective World, European and UK festival-wide slam champions mentioned above, as well as the talents of Lydia Beardmore and Emma Ward, both of whom featured in the 3-strong Brizzle team who won silver at Jack’s UK Slam Champs in June. But beat them we did! And after several slightly shambolic recounts, I was also awarded joint bronze with Lydia! Indigo duly took the individual win (she was great) but I’d also like to show my particular appreciation for Vanessa (whose opening 4-minute-long poem served as something of a fuck-you to the whole slam conceit anyway!), Rowan (whose dulcet Geordie accent did nothing but make beautiful words beautiful-er) and Jack.
Mr. Dean’s second offering was definitely my poem of the night. I’m told that there’s a recording of Sunday’s slam, but since I don’t have it yet, you’ll have to make do with this video of him @ Farrago: