Quiet Compere End of Year Blog – Part 1 (of 3)

Featuring Blackpool/Kendal/Newcastle and Birmingham round-ups 4 dates on the tour sold out: Out of these, two were co-hosted by regular nights (Ann Wilson of Verbalise in Kendal and Jenni Pascoe of Jibba Jabba in Newcastle). Another was the first date of the tour and on home turf. Blackpool – a raucousness of poets The fourth was Blackpool, with only 5 tickets sold in advance and one poet travelling from Spain (Reuben Woolley) to be there, the nerves were jangling. This was the first event where there was going to be a press presence. It was August Bank Holiday Friday. Had all the poets gone away? Would there be more performers than audience? My way of thinking has always been that if the audience numbers match the number of performers or are higher you have yourself an event. In the afternoon Joy France led a few of us as Feral Poets on the Comedy Carpet in front on the tower. I downed a swift whisky and pint of ale and ventured onto the carpet in a pink wig to read my poetry to complete and unsuspecting strangers and in the process met Colin Davies and Reuben. I had also checked out the venue on arrival. The Churchill Room at The Imperial Hotel was imposing and the best on the tour that wasn’t set up as a gig venue (with lighting and tech). At the door I was pleased as there were a dozen audience seated before official doors. Then they kept coming until every seat was taken. As well as the number of audience being a triumph the enthusiasm was tangible. Steve Stroud kicked us off with his machine-gun style wordplay. The crowd were respectful and silent when the poems aimed to elicit this response, but delightfully raucous when called upon. Colin had mentioned he was going to perform his masturbation poem, so I took the challenge and performed mine (possibly for the only time ever), a poem written from a prompt to write erotic poetry (from Jo Bell’s excellent 52 group). The poetry highlights for me were: Laura Alice Nation: she rarely performs and her poem about anorexia was raw and honest and I love the hope and control in the line “I am not the brittle one you last saw”. Big Charlie Poet: It’s the grit that makes the pearl poem – for the first time with that t-shirt. The non-poetry highlight: Joy managed to magically get the section of illuminations in front of The Imperial lit for the end of the event! The line that stuck with me: Christopher James Heyworth: “Loneliness in crowded places is a seaside specialty”   Newcastle – a dark amusement of poets Jenni Pascoe co-hosted in Quiet Compere style throughout and exploded at the end to everyone’s amusement. She really reined in her usual compere style and kindly let me take charge of Jibba Jabba for a couple of hours. The poetry highlights for me were: Sky Hawkins: Who made me laugh out loud several times by catching me off-guard. Ettrick Scott: Partly because of his performance style and partly because he explained all the slang terms to me after!   The non-poetry highlight: On my first trip to Newcastle: The Quayside Seaside and a dashed pint in The Crown Posada. The line that stuck with me: Steve Urwin performed an “in my box” poem and mixed the abstract with the concrete: “clutter hidden behind a screen/leaving silent space/in which to dream.”   Kendal – a respect of poets  Ann Wilson is a poetic force in Kendal. She was on chatty form and an excellent hostess. The audience at The Brewery Arts Centre were so respectfully silent I paused a couple of times in the night to hold the tension in the room for a few seconds. The Poetry Highlights for me were: Kim Moore surprised laughter from me with her rant about Brass Band students: She was putting a curse on the parents of these children that would: “involve marching and outdoors and coldness”. Mark Mace Smith: Mainly for his sideways “Can I get away with this?” glance and then a shrug “Well, I’m going to do it anyway!” Non-poetry Highlights: Meeting Geraldine Green and Susan Deer Cloud the night before and Geraldine’s Write to Roam workshop. Staying on Jane’s farm and witnessing newly born lambs twice in one day (tups and gimmers). The line that stuck with me: Polly Atkin: “Tonight we are full with species of madness”.   Birmingham – an encouragement of poets Birmingham, happily, sneaked into the tour of the North, partly because my geography of the UK is sketchy and partly because I feel an affinity with it, even though I’ve only been there twice. This event was particularly scary to me as I had not met any of the performers until six weeks before (when I met Sarah James briefly) when flyering. Both the Worcester and the Birmingham contingent were brimming with welcome. The Midland Arts Centre had a Green Room and was the poshest and most expensive on the tour. Well worth it to have experienced this, but a little over budget for hire fees of this level to be sustainable across the tour. The Poetry Highlights for me were: Bobby Parker: His pieces were raw, but tempered with a delicate, dark humour. Ddotti Bluebell: Her style was expressive and entertaining and action photos I got of her amused me! Matt Man Windle: Birmingham’s Boxing Poet. The first poet to make me cry on the tour with “Awe of us.” A poem about overcoming bullying. Ruth Stacey: Weaved delicate verse and then stunned us with “the bear who brings white roses that smell of other girls”. Non-poetry highlights: The Brummie welcome and the wealth of regional accents strong and subtle among the performers. Three blog reviews of the event were posted within 24 hours. Sarah James expertise of the local poets and styles which was essential to me in pulling this event together. The lines that stayed with me: Ian Bowkett: “Tomorrow we wake up better people with longer hair and a lesson learnt.” Charlie Jordan: “Bridges are where I feel small.” The Quiet Compere is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

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