Last night was the Launch of Worcester Lit Fest at The Guildhall. It was such a rainy, muggy day, the only thing missing was the forecast storm. I had my hair cut* in the morning and by the afternoon it was ruined with the humidity and had been straightened 3x by the time I left for the city! Strangely no-one mentioned the metre I had chopped off!
* I have a phobia when it comes to Hair Salons! My last cut was so long ago, you have seen photos, the condition of my hair wasn’t brilliant and let’s face it when you’re entering some major competition you need to be armed with every confidence boosting trick.
It hasn’t stopped raining since, it was so torrential last night we heard things coming down the chimney, things that sounded like falling bits of chimney and I didn’t think the conservatory roof was going to take the constant pressure.
It was a rainy evening which is not good for attracting audiences or poets, what a shame all brollied and waterproofed up, at least I had bought a new ‘holiday mac’ so I looked fresh in the rain. Mum came as my +1 and kindly drove as I was not in any fit state with nerves, it gave me a chance to just sit, cool down and chat, almost took my mind off the night. I had spent the day with raging butterflies, despite trying all sorts of calming techniques my heart was racing. In the end (and due to a late night) I decided sleep was the best avoidance technique and had a siesta.
I practised my poems, I was up against stiff competition and decided to go for it 100%. To be honest I hadn’t envisaged going for Poet Laureate yet and with such well known and talented poets in the back of my mind I never won it, despite all my positive thinking. The one thing I did want to do was my best. Apart from mixing a couple of words up, I did.
We had the air con on and when I stepped out of the car the heat hit me. I had already struggled with flustering getting ready so by the time I arrived at the Guildhall I was a mess (physically). Mum is a great calming influence as I don’t recognise the ‘hyper’ bit myself.
It was lovely to see everyone, especially Tessa Lowe who stuck around before catching her train to wish me luck and will be very glad that she didn’t stay as it was a late finish!
The rest of this review is how it honestly felt as a participant, it is no reflection on the WLF team who work incredibly hard programming and organising events for the festival. Every volunteer and committee member did their best, it is just the nature of an evening where so much is packed in before the final of the poets.
I found it difficult to cope with friends in judging roles – who all had to be very distant with us, but were relaxed (thank goodness) after the results. Proceedings were started at times different to advertised, which when you are sitting in a hot room with fully charged adrenaline, nerves and a stadium’s worth of butterflies is not good.
Finally we started and some of the evening was brilliant, like the Children’s Story Writing Competition, they all performed their stories brilliantly. The Mayors and Town Council Reps were all in attendance – there was a certain element of ceremony about proceedings. Flash Fiction Prize winners were announced and some awards for local students at Worcester University, none whom could attend as they were all sitting exams. Finally, at I didn’t even look at the time – it was the 6 Finalists for WPL, our turn.
Names had been drawn from a hat and I was to perform last, which scared me so much I verbalised my disappointment. I quite liked getting to see all the other performances first but I felt by the time my turn came the audience were wiped out. Hot, tired and poeted out on the previous 10 poems! So I kept my introductions very short and possibly lost some scores for this. But it was difficult performing to a group of people who appeared so tired. Let’s not blame the audience – it was difficult full stop. I was a wreck, attempting to remember 2 poems I hadn’t practised for over 4 hours and had only managed to get perfected the day before.
I don’t think the outcome would have been different no matter what I did and the person I thought would win, did. So afterwards I felt silly for having all that nervous energy, for taking the day off work in an attempt to remain calm etc. etc. but the flipside of all that mental preparation and rehearsing was I DID DO my best.
The judges took forever with the tough decision, which order to place the top 3. I think at one point we probably each sat in poll position in the discussion. A page width apart – which is a sliver. They meant the edge of the paper not the width of the sheet!
I am delighted to share the news that I came 3rd place! When my name was called I didn’t know if I was meant to go up to the stage or not. On the way up the steps, one of my new pink shoes came off (MY TRUE CINDERELLA MOMENT) – the people on stage congratulating and presenting awards couldn’t see my shoe on the step and wondered why I was running away so soon! Unfortunately, my mum couldn’t see me, once I was on the stage for the LITFEST banner on stage. I never got to see her face.
2nd place went to Suz Winspear and the winner this year was Heather Wastie, who will be a great Poet Laureate.
All six finalists were brilliant and competition was tough, especially for non-competitive poetry types. Looking back it was a fun night, I can honestly say I didn’t start enjoying it until the judges had disappeared for their ruling, which was about 3.5hrs after we started. Even then there was a edge of a flurry of butterflies constantly raving as we had no firm idea of the results. It was exciting.
It was the most highly anxious occasion I have ever attended. I have not felt such tension since waiting for graduation/ degree results and that is done from the comfort of your own home and you know the day and rough time so you don’t rinse yourself out for 24 hours beforehand! My heart was younger then too!
I need to give it some recovery time (my heart). It has 3 hours before I am off out for the final WWM session of this year. Actually it has a 5 day break before I perform again! It was almost as if I have booked a holiday!