What an event, this one…
I only knew Sarah L Dixon through 52, Jo Bell’s challenge (which I have blogged about before – 52 poems in a year – one a week) there must be many poets meeting or at least making connections virtually. I hope to ask Sarah L Dixon to tell us more about her Quiet Compere idea, when she is less busy.
Basically she runs an open mic night in Manchester, the difference from other event is the format. To allow the poet more time to share work she books 10 acts and gives them 10 minutes each.
She had the idea of taking this format on the road regionally, got Arts Council Funding for her idea (I slip that in as if it were easy – but I am fairly sure that was a process on its own!) then starting taking herself on tour. Each venue hosts 10 local poets who are pre-booked and they each delight the audience for 10 minutes. She has ‘toured the North with a jaunt into Birmingham’ – luckily enough.
I saw the line up in late January/February and recognised many of the names. We heard the Manchester night sold out so we made sure (my poetry friends Claire Walker and Maggie Doyle) we had our tickets well in advance.
You would expect to pay more than a fiver to go and see many of these names. The tickets were an ASTONISHING £3.00! Entry to some open mic events is more than that!
The Birmingham night took place at the MAC – Midlands Arts Centre – recently reopened after a 15million pound facelift! It has been closed for a while. There is so much that has been built up around it since I went over 10 years ago! It sits nestled in Cannon Hill Park and is a great venue and just a few miles out of the city.
Gary Longden was one of the 10 performers and although I knew him, from other poetry friends and his wonderful blog (to which there is a link), I had never met him. He runs Poetry Alight – the night in Lichfield where Michelle Crosbie performed last month. Another great night I missed…. so frustrating when there is so much on and I still have to work!
I finally got to meet him, it was brief as he didn’t know who I am.
I hope to make it over to Lichfield soon, Andrea Shorrick (Swingerella) thinks they would like my poems!
In the 6 months I have been back on the performance circuit I have been lucky enough to perform alongside 7 out of 10 of these poets. I met Sarah James at her book launch for Beyond – the same evening I watched Jenny Hope perform and met Ruth Stacey. These are the first poets I met in Worcestershire (on this set list) and they have all given so much to me over the past 6 months, including welcoming me to their celebratory curry meal – where I met lots more poets.
Sarah has her next event this Tuesday for Poetry Bites and has headlined at SpeakEasy (she has done a million other things but these are the connections to me). We also all went to The Writers’ Toolkit together in the Autumn. Jenny Hope is a lead writer for Writing West Midlands and Ruth Stacey works alongside her as an Assistant Writer. I had already arranged to work for Writing West Midlands as an Assistant Writer, the same day I met them. They have all performed at SpeakEasy and also attend Stanza meetings, Sarah is the Poetry Society leader in our region.
As well as SpeakEasy, Ruth, along with Bobby Parker performed with me at the Kidderminster Creatives re-launch, BHG Gallery event. Bobby has also headlined SpeakEasy and I have also performed at the same Mouth & Music events – the open Mic in Kidderminster.
Charlie Jordan I met through events we attended at Birmingham Literature Festival in October. We first performed at the same event in October, at Jan Watts Phenomenal Women at Birmingham University for the Books of the Future UOB Festival. Since then we were at a Twilight Poetry Event at The Rep, organised by Joanna Skelt *Birmingham’s current poet laureate. We have been in the arena together at the amphitheatre at the Library of Birmingham performing for Jan Watt’s Poetry For Lunch. Charlie is also in the Decadent Divas although due to a top secret mission she was unable to make the latest Confab Cabaret event, this means the Decadent Divas have to come back and entertain us as the full 4 piece another time.
Laura Yates, one quarter of the Decadent Divas headlined at Mouth & Music, as well as performing at Confab Cabaret as a Decadent Diva.
Ddotti Bluebell runs Word Up at York’s Bakery and also performed at Najma Hush’s Dance Exhibition Gallery opening, which is where I met her and performed newly written Dance poems. I have seen her perform at Word Up too. She is another encourager on the scene and having only recently met her, feels like I have known her a lot longer.
There were 3 new to me poets to enjoy; Gary Longden, Matt Man Windle and Ian Bowkett. Sarah L Dixon treated us to some of her poems too. When you are an active poet you often hear the same poems being performed by people in different venues so it is great to come across new poets who have 100% unknown material. That’s not to say that I dislike hearing great poetry being repeated.
Everyone was incredible and the audience were blown away in quick succession by each performer.
The evening was kicked off by Sarah L Dixon – I enjoyed her poems, observations of her three old and the world children inhabit, touching and entertaining. She introduces each poet simply by name and lets their poetry speak for itself.
Ruth Stacey was the first to step up to the mic. I love Ruth’s poems and I know she doesn’t often perform. She is currently having great success in print and I look forward to reading her Foxboy collection when it comes out later this year.
It was a real treat to hear Ruth and she shared poetry I hadn’t heard before alongside some of my favourites of hers that I have heard before.
Laura Yates performed next and treated us to her Birmingham poem which I will never tire of. She is such a confident performer and we all enjoyed her work. Another poet that I could have spent all night listening to.
Sarah James performed next, I haven’t heard her for a while – as I missed her headline at SpeakEasy due to Mr G’s birthday. I love listening to anything she reads her play on words and intelligent understanding of linguistics makes much more sense when it comes from her voice.
Gary Longden performed next and treated us to some cheeky poems, none of which I had heard as this was the first time I met him, I liked what I heard and hope to listen to some more of his witty poetry soon.
Bobby Parker in complete contrast took us all deep inside of him and shared some extremely raw poems which he performed confidently and then he shared one of my favourite poems about a friend who encouraged him to go to a special event, I won’t say more – you will have to buy his books or hear him perform.
Charlie Jordan kicked off the second half with her wonderful performance. A true performance poet. She has been a Poet Laureate for Birmingham and the first poem she performed, I had heard before. The second one was new to me and absolutely adorable. She took us with us every step of the journey when she performed that.
Ian Bowkett came next with his PHD and humour – he would have helped me understand Maths if I had met him earlier in my life for sure, he makes numbers fun, very entertaining and for his final piece he performed from heart and completed a Rubix Cube at the same time! COMPLETED! WOW – WOW – WOW! The Brian Cox of poetry (I mean that as a huge compliment) he is much younger of course.
He said he didn’t want to follow Charlie, I have been there and it is a hard act to follow – he did brilliantly!
In fact that was something special about the Quiet Compere tour – these 10 Poets were all top class, there was no judgement on my part but you couldn’t have judged them apart if you’d had to… good job!
Jenny Hope and her beautifully quiet voice, soft and metred came next. Again I love hearing Jenny perform and it had been a while since I last saw her. I loved her set. Could have listened all night. She hooked me in and I didn’t want the bubble to burst.
Ddotti Bluebell came next sharing dynamic poetry, some I had the pleasure of catching at York’s Bakery, it was brilliant – she must have had to use at least 4 voices and entertained us all with memories of her childhood and her brothers and being the only girl. Something I can empathise with.
Matt Man Windle finished the night, great emotive performance he again was another natural born performer and I have since found out a boxer – well his poetry was certainly punchy!
It was an AWESOME evening (in the true – yes, wow at the universe and it’s awesome expanse) type way and my Birmingham poetry friends met and saw my Worcestershire friends perform. Everyone had time to mingle afterwards, it was great having so many friends at this event.
And the bit I can’t get my head around… Sarah L Dixon (coming from Manchester) had not seen these poets perform before – the evening was slick and each poet brought something special to the event.
Here are the shots from my seat – I really need to upgrade my mobile! © 2014 N Lewis
Check out Gary’s review – through the eyes of a performer.
And Claire Walker’s review here
Sarah L Dixon’s next event can be seen as part of Cheltenham Poetry Festival which starts this week for a week.
A Matter of Life, Death and Poetry
Friday 28 March 2014 at 8:00pm
A touring poetry show.
The Quiet Compere presents A Matter of Life, Death and Poetry
The legendary Quiet Compere events enlist established poets and emerging voices.
The Quiet Compere introduces them with little fanfare, so that the poems (and not the poets’ track records)
tell you all you need to know.
This festival special features a stellar line-up – Rosie Garland, Samir
Guglani, Sarah Maxwell, Bethany W Pope, Stephanie Portersmith, Rod Tame, Avril Staple and
of course the compere herself, Sarah Dixon.
Let poetry show you what really matters! Join us for a selection of darkly funny, thought-provoking and life-changing poetry
Tickets are £5.00/ £4.00 and can be bought here
You can also catch Bobby Parker at the festival