This was kicking off in Bristol last night and apart from the excellent Chris Parkinson and Melanie Branton, there was some awesomeness on the slam front as well…….
I don’t know what it is about Bristol, but it seems to nurture some great talent and attract it from far and wide. The Hammer & Tongue Slam is no exception of course, because the stakes are high to get through to the regional finals and then a spot at the Albert Hall in that there London if you don’t mind for the national finals. So competition is hot and the quality of the performance poets is also hot.
Hannah Teasdale hosted last nights slam and I for one was grateful that the Smoke and Mirrors is right next to a brilliant chip shop. It has a quirky atmosphere in a great performance space, dimly lit to create ambiance and Hannah had the air-con turned off to create that authentic sweat-pit boxing club vibe. I believe Chris Parkinson would have melted entirely during his first set if it hadn’t have been for the donation of a pint of water.
Anyhow, the night kicked off with the sublime Melanie Branton, who mixed surreal with emotional, artistic with retrospective in a awesome 20 minutes of spoken word. She spoke for everyone in the room with her poem entitled the Artists Express, which used train travel analogy to great effect to chart the life of the performing artist – quite brilliant in concept and delivery. She hardly left a dry eye in the house to finish with her reflections of her mother’s life, which was poignant and moving in equal measure. Catch her perform if you can as she is brilliant.
Then Chris Parkinson set off on the first half of his roller coaster of a set, which created it’s own black hole in the space time continuum within the Smoke & Mirrors just by it’s sheer force of delivery. It’s hard to describe Chris’s style – it’s a full on bombardment of the senses, from his approach to delivery and the volume and the coursing pace at which he goes. And on top of that there’s the weird imaginative content that takes you wherever Chris feels like going to and in Chris’s head, that’s just about anywhere and everywhere. Vole Loves a Spreadsheet was my favourite of the evening, closely followed by The Grammar Nazis, which Chris did as part of his second set after the slam. Again, a poet that you definitely need to see just for the sheer enjoyment of his performance and if you have a penchant for seals, then you are in for a real treat.
The slam was 8 hardened slammers going head to head. 5 audience judges assessed and scored and the winner was Julie, who had come all the way from Torquay to amaze us with her brilliant poem about just the sort of poet she wanted to be – and she was just that poet too! A well deserved winner and through to the regional finals.
Willis didn’t fair too well in the heat of battle, but he lives to fight another day and thoroughly enjoyed being back in Bristol, which is starting to closely resemble a second holiday home in the South West of England for him……..