Birmingham Quiet Compere Review

983605_10152682619357388_1781399691_n Suburban Tourist Magnolia and laburnum weigh down Selly Park roads Everywhere seems to be a Road around here. Do they hide their avenues and crescents behind huge deciduous lawn decorations that gleefully break up the sun? I wouldn’t want to meet these branches in moonlight.   A sign for Kidderminster, I play the word across my tongue but know nothing of it’s people and buildings.   The people I ask for directions are surprised that anyone would choose to walk into town – no-one walks and if they do, they are on their way to catch a bus!   Walking in other people’s suburbs I am more awake to the things they would miss: The hand-painted friezes on Nursery windows, an attractive balcony, graffiti so old it has become a blind spot for them.   Belgrave Interchange. The sky-scrapers approach only at the speed I let them. Stalling and with time I nurse monkey-bar calluses on my right hand from the wheeled suitcase’s adventure of cobbles, tarmac, paving stones, the occasional pull of sand or soft relief of soil.   Holloway Circus Subway signals the end to my suburban tourism.   Ruth Stacey: Weaved delicate verse and then hit us with “the bear who brings white roses that smell of other girls”. Laura Yates: “Whatever we say it always feels like saying Goodbye.” was a line that felt as if it had been lived by everyone in the room. Birmingham poem. No webpage. Sarah James: “Vases I have known” addressed the suggested Volume theme and her poem about a born organiser who had Alzheimer’s was difficult to listen to. Gary Longden: As well as providing a comprehensive blog of the event within 24 hours, Gary also amused us with his adultery poem “Her mind might have been elsewhere, but her clothes were straight”. Bobby Parker: His pieces were raw, but tempered with a delicate dark humour. Charlie Jordan: The lines: “hand-drawn maps to the bridge are no use” and“Bridges are where I feel small.”Charlie was so easy at the mic it didn’t surprise me to find out she has taken up a drivetime DJ slot for Smooth FM this week. Ian Bowkett: Cool Rubik’s cube prop and: “Tomorrow we wake up better people with longer hair and a lesson learnt.” Jenny Hope: The assured gentleness of Jenny contrasted well after Ian’s set. Sound effects “brrrrrtchhhh brrrttcccccch! I meant to ask to see how it was written. ‘satin ribbons from remnant skies’ stunning imagery. “In winter I dress in icy armour, it keeps my heart soft.” Ddotti Bluebell: I took dozens of photos in this set as Ddotti was expressive and entertaining. Happily managed to capture her kicking arse. Loving the fact the white hairdressers didn’t know what to do with the Dreads, but neither did the black ones! Matt “Man” Windle: Matt had invested ‘Awe of Us’ with passion. The line that stood out was:”I refuse to belittle… I’m just half as tall.” I asked for a copy of this so I can absorb it, a poem you want to hear a dozen times! And he made me cry!   Massive Brummie Welcome – I was delighted that there was a generous amount of the Brum accent in the performances – in contrast to not one native of York in the previous event. Birmingham Surprises: 1) I had only met one person in the room for a couple of hours, but the Brummie welcome was so warm I felt I was among friends before I even stepped up the mic! 2) No performer needed nudging about timings 3) The audience were as friendly and enthusiastic about the tour as the performers! 4) Taxi drivers said “How much do you want to pay?” This was especially useful when one took me on a 6 mile round detour by taking me back to Serpentine Road in Harbourne rather than Serpentine Road in Selly Park! 5) Pershore Road goes on forever! Well I never found the end! 6) Akram’s Curry house was excellent. 7) Misfitted Dance (where I bought a bookmark, a badge and a fabric mother’s day gift. 8) I am being interviewed by a member of the audience for a guest blog (not something I had thought was an option).   Hexagon Surprises: 1) The performers, though I knew there was a good mix of performance and more page-based poets I never believed it could go that well. 2) Venue was amazing and we had green rooms and performer’s toilet! 3) This venue had proper tickets! 4) They did a doors open announcement for The Quiet Compere!   OOOOH! 5) The panic of having sold 14 tickets before the event dissipated as there were over forty of us in the end! 6) It was fun to have a lanyard again, just under a year after I handed back my last NHS one. (ALL EXCLAMATION MARKS ARE DEEMED NECESSARY BY THE AUTHOR!)   Learning Curve 3 1) I am trying to get into the habit of posting review within a week of the event, so it feels fresher and I do not over-analyse it. 2) People do not like to fill out questionnaires unless you stand there and wait for your pen back. 3) There will ALWAYS be walk-up! 4) I found I was the not-so Quiet Compere and performed seven poems here, I decided I am still The Quiet Compere because these poems were mostly quiet contemplative pieces rather than all-out performance pieces. 5) It is well worth a small extra fee from venues to have the logo projected on a screen (if the option is available) and to plan this further in advance next time. 6) That I should NEVER get my hopes up about the T-shirts! Still not arrived – were supposed to be ready for Manchester event on 31st January! 7) Ask someone to review each time (in advance if possible – offer a free ticket to known local reviewer). Three reviews posted within 3 days of the event. 8) Next time stay with friends – sharing the poetry buzz is always better – felt a little bereft, but every awake when everyone else left. 9) Superb venues are often worth double the hire cost. 10) I get the impression poets and audience would be happy to pay £5 for this format and this would not reduce audience numbers significantly and may make future tours viable.   Please check out other blogs on this event here: The Quiet Compere, MAC, Birmingham The Quiet Compere (21/3/14)   The Quiet Compere Tour is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.      

York event review

York Blog


Shared Earth, York  – My destination


As a claustrophobe

who is 30% control freak

the prospect

of  living within walls appeals.


The Minster

where the sceptical are converted

The wavering of faith

compelled to return


Sharp-edged houses

a book-width at the corners


natural single volume bookshelves


I discover 13 year old me

loitering in Shared Earth

in a blanket weaved of sandalwood

and whale sounds.


She wears a burgundy hooded top

I still wear now.

Colours of Autumn it says on the front,

But it always reminds her of York in Spring.


She carries her prizes to the checkout:

A dream-catcher,

worry dolls

and a treasure chest sparkling with false gems.


I echo these purchases

with equal enthusiasm,

but am sent to Paperchase

for the animal-themed writing paper.


York Poets


I loved Tanya Nightingale’s “The world where no-one lies”. I encountered and enjoyed the unforgettable performance styles of Rose Drew and Miles Salter. Chris Singleton’s T’was the night before pay day went down well. Amina Rose stood in for Kate Fox and her set was both gentle and musical. Pat Borthwick and Carole Bromley’s poems were packed with exquisite details. John Gilham provided us with a  ‘miserabalist catalogue’, his phrase, not mine, but the misery was so eloquent. Will Kemp’s poem about a family falling into water and keeping tally was touching and spare. Oz Hardwick joined in with the film noir theme, echoing one of my pieces and he and his partner led me circuitous way home to avoid drunk people and hen and stag dos, via the pasty shop, of course. 


York Stuff


Ok, things about York. The gig went well and as it was the first with a Box Office, I was panicking a bit when only 25 tickets had sold in advance – an audience of 55 filled the place up and more chairs had to be found!


Tony and Chantelle, from Liverpool, who sat opposite me on the train, all head-phones and nudging until our service was diverted by a fatality on the line. This rerouting meant headphones came off and stayed off and we talked of death, life, work and poetry.


Caroline, in property sales for 16 years, still feels the loss five years later.

The fact that no-one in York was from York. None of my performers were originally from York either. Hard to find anyone with the accent. I enjoy being cloaked in vowel sounds and colloquialisms. This felt like a pivotal character missing completely from an episode of a series.


To the girls in The Cornish Pasty Bakery and that local accent at last at 11pm at night, served up with a smile and a warm cheese scone.


The niece and aunt at breakfast who had come to York for the shops and did a sterling job of not selling Sunderland to me.


The lady in the Holgate Hill Hotel who is away from her dementia-suffering husband

To “recharge and hopefully get a bit lost!”. Nothing like getting lost with the luxury of having time to find your way and yourself again.


Meeting people further along the tour:


In the last month I have met up with a Birmingham performer and a Newcastle performer and the bonds being forged through The Quiet Compere Tour are strong. I am making some great connections and even though it is strange to meet virtual friends in reality, this has been such a positive experience on Quiet Compere Tour so far, I am hoping this vibe continues.  


Learning Curve


1)      No matter how many times you mention that the tour is Arts Council funded people will tick that they weren’t aware on the questionnaire.

2)      T-shirts are still not ready. Should be for Birmingham.

3)      Flyering/postering Birmingham may have made some new contacts, but not sure investment in time and train ticket is going to show in ticket sales. All York Questionnaires said heard by word of mouth or social media. However, if I can combine the promotional visit with an event, this may make travel over worthwhile.

4)      Get in a better position to take photos of guests.

5)      I am feeling a little sad that I am half way through the tour for promotion purposes. Each new flyer designed sends a shiver through me. Will just have to start planning the next venture!

PS The Leeds and Liverpool flyers/posters are on their way! T-shirts should arrive by Thursday. I have seen the designs and the excitement at seeing these has kept me from being to cross I haven’t got the real things yet. I will be sporting one in Birmingham on Friday!