I thoroughly enjoyed this event organised by Anna Saunders as part of Cheltenham Music Festival. I liked the idea of starting late, it certainly makes arriving on time easier!
Chapel Arts is an amazing renovated Baptist Chapel. The gallery space has been organised flexibly to allow for various events.
Arriving early gave me a chance to have a good look around.
The space was set up perfectly for Poetry and complete with pews. The tables had fairy lights in vases, there was a bar and plenty of seating.
There was a good number of people who turned up for this FREE night of poetic entertainment and I daresay for the Headliners: Tyler Keevil and Bohdan Piasecki. I know that Bohdan does not perform as often as anyone would like him too (although he performs internationally & at Festivals), when there is a rare chance to enjoy the man in action it causes quite a stir. Having missed his final Hit the Ode as MC for Apples & Snakes, it was good to catch up.
Tyler Keevil started the evening. Tyler Keevil is a novelist, screenwriter, and short story writer from Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of three award-winning books: Fireball, The Drive, and Burrard Inlet.
I know that performing at Spoken Word events falls slightly outside of his comfort zone, but anyone not privy to this would never have guessed. It is hard reading lengthy extracts and flash fiction, I have tried it! It was a captivating set and I could have listened for longer. Check out his website in related links.
There were lots of booked Open Mic-ers, the standard was high (which did not surprise me having attended the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and other events in the town), I know this to be a place of talent. We all missed the memo about it being a music themed evening, had I been on later I may have changed my set. There is one poem in Fragile Houses that I rarely perform which is really about something other than music but is all about music above the sub-text.
However, I had timed my set and knowing there were a number of readers was hesitant to make changes. My final poem fitted the theme and once I realised that none of us had realised there was a theme, I felt better.
Other performers included: Annie Ellis, Belinda Rimmer, John G., Dan Cooper, Neil Richards, Peter McDade, James Cornish in the first half.
I took the photos on my camera until the batteries let me down and will add these when I have uploaded them.
Poems which have stayed with me include Annie’s Young Deer poem, Belinda’s poem about the news story teenage boys protest about No Shorts policy by wearing skirts*, John performed an incredibly moving poem about carers, ‘Bricks’, Dan was unique with a mix between song lyrics and styles ‘I Hate Sunday Nights’ was amusing and entertaining, Neil performed his Grenfell poem and delivered a powerful set, Peter’s translated vocabulary super model poem hit all the funny buttons – he likes playing with language and dialect/ accents, I also enjoyed his ‘Everything is a Festival in Cheltenham’ – made more amusing by the fact that we were part of the Music Festival organised by Anna who is the founder and Leader of the Poetry Festival.
James completed the first half opening with the confession he had consumed an espresso, red wine and gin to calm his pre-performance nerves AND he still managed to get all the words out! I remember the lines… ‘It’s all gone a bit Spike Milligan… what are you going to do now? Aerobics?’ his work was suitably dark.
After the interval we heard a set from Willis the Poet (a.k.a Rick Sanders) followed by the next Headliner, Bohdan Piasecki.
Rick Sanders/ Willis the Poet
I always enjoy Rick’s sets and delight in a new audience discovering the humour bound in his collection of notebooks. Especially his fake commissions, an idea I like to remember as being conceived at Wolverhampton Arts Festival in my very presence! His Cheltenham SPAR poem deserves a mention too.
Bohdan’s set was incredibly moving and sparked lots of ideas that I needed to scribble into my notebook. He is a dynamic performer who plays with language and manages to stretch emotions. Nursing our hearts with his gentle humour between poems. Grounding us once more.
Bohdan Piasecki is a poet from Poland based in Birmingham. A committed performer, he has taken his poems to venues ranging from the upstairs room in an Eastbourne pub to the main stage of the Birmingham Rep, from an underground Tokyo club to a tramway in Paris, from a bookshop in Beijing to an airfield in Germany, from niche podcasts to BBC Radio 3 and 4. In the UK, he regularly features at the country’s most exciting spoken word nights, festivals, and readings. He enjoys the creative chaos of big field festivals just as much as the composed concentration of literary events.
He’s completed three international tours (with stops in over twenty countries and counting); working with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project to engage people living with dementia; devising and delivering Palimpsest City, an ACE-funded live/digital spoken word show; and writing for the Spalding Suite dance/theatre/basketball crossover show produced by Fuel.
Bohdan founded the first poetry slam in Poland before moving to the UK to get a doctorate in poetry translation theory. He works as a Lead Tutor for the Roundhouse Poetry Collective in London and Bellows Poetry Collective in Birmingham. Bohdan worked as Director of Education on the Spoken Word in Education MA course at Goldsmiths University, and since 2012 has been a regular Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. He also holds the post of Midlands Producer for Apples and Snakes, England’s leading spoken word organisation.
A busy man who has a lot of time for performers.
The evening was concluded with a few more open mic-ers: Chris Hemmingway, Fran Smith, Jonny Precious, Rod Griffiths and finished with Chloe the Storyteller outside the chapel in the graveyard.
Chris performed his political Gove Cam poem, Fran is a healer and she treated us to some poetry spiritual in nature, Jonny performed a moving poem about a letter sent home from a soldier
and Rod performed an amusing story about a serial killer. The punchline of which recently resurfaced in my head.
Chloe the Storyteller was dramatic, her story was spooky… chilling in fact, which set me up for the drive home alone!
Thanks, Anna for such a fantastic evening!