I’m a writer with a day job, I don’t get out much.
Apart from occasional nights.
This was one of those occasions.
A couple of weeks ago I drove through to Dumfries after finishing work in Carlisle (30 miles, for those who don’t want to Google Map it) to attend the ‘Open Mouth‘ evening in the new building The Stove Network have on the High Street. Regular readers of this blog may remember this as the event I declined doing workshops at. It became apparent very quickly that, because of the high level of talent on show, I had made the right decision. I’d have been hopelessly out of my depth if I’d have ran alongside these guys. There would have been zero chance of talking my way out of that one. There was also the fact that it was more poetry based and script so not only would I have been up over my head I’d have been in the wrong pool to begin with.
Personally I don’t do poetry well. When I was doing a creative writing A-Level back in college I attempted some as part of the coursework but I just couldn’t grasp it. My stuff never flowed, always sounded juddering and fell into traps of trying to make words fit when they really shouldn’t have. I also had a strict refusal to tackle anything ‘heavy’ via poetry so I wrote stupid stuff like betting on Elvis still being alive and preachers in the street. It was described by my tutor at the time as ‘poetry lite’. I don’t use that phrase as something to hold against him, he was speaking the obvious truth and I agree.
I got to The Stove around 7pm and there was plenty people there. All the way during the drive there I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I’d seen the outside of the building last summer whilst my day job had stationed me in the town for a few weeks but I’d never seen inside. The building itself is a former retail premises bang in the middle of town. Dumfries, like many other town of its size, has suffered during the economic downturn and many shops have closed their doors. The theory The Stove have is that it’s time for a change. Rather than the local council attempt to woo large companies into a town centre they can instead prevent the slide of boarded up windows by having a hub for culture there instead. From the looks of it they’re doing something right.
There’s an exhibition in the room about Rock Against Racism with various posters and articles on the walls. I spent a few minutes looking around to get a feel for the place. It wasn’t long until everybody sat down for the performance part of the evening.
Now I’ve heard of poetry slams before but never looked into them that much. Tonight though we were in the presence of Bram E Gieben, the UK champion. It’s safe to say he blew my mind. Whilst I don’t have footage of the evening (I’m always worried I’d put performers off by taking out my phone and filming) he’s on YouTube so here’s a sample.
See? The words just pour out of the guy and he does it all ‘off page’ which is another thing I could never do.
We also had Emily Elver who was fantastic. At one point she asked if we wanted ‘a new poem about bingo or an old one about sex’. Of course everybody went for the sex option and the following piece about science fiction based fantasies was both touching and hilariously funny. I can’t find it one YouTube but here’s another.
There were other brilliant ones too, some who were performing for the very first time having attended the workshops during the day. There was a woman who did some excellent rap, another guy did one about his experiences growing up in care and somebody else forgot theirs completely halfway through and instead finished on the politest sounding ‘oh fuck’ I have ever heard in my life (and everybody still cheered). Sarah, the host of the evening, also had a brilliant one about visiting her doctor who turns out to be her cat.
I couldn’t stay the whole night, around 10pm I was reminded by my rumbling stomach that I’d come almost straight from work so hadn’t eaten anything since lunchtime so I walked back to my car and drove home for food. I had tiny blast of inspiration during the drive, not easy to contain at 60mph. Pulling up outside my house I could only recall one line though..
‘I’ll drink Pepsi through your final straw’.
It’s a start I suppose and a result of an evening that made me want to have a crack at spoken word again in the near future. You surely can’t have a greater legacy than that?