Ooh Beehive in Swindon is going from strength to strength and the people are coming from all around to be involved and share in a great night of entertaining and stimulating spoken word. Last night was no exception and even though I got back in the wee small hours of the morning, it was absolutely worth it…
Ooh Beehive is hosted by Clive Oseman and Nick Lovell and has been going for just under a year in the Beehive pub in Swindon. Clive and Nick will be the first to admit that it has been a roller coaster of a first year in terms of attracting an audience and finding that critical mass of poets and punters, as well as getting the mix of headliners and features spot on. But the formula seems to be working for them now and the fine tuning of an event such as this and it’s establishment on the spoken word scene is starting to really take hold.
On the card last night were headline poet Damian O’Vitch, feature poets Heather Still and Jason N Smith and a raft of regulars and not so regular open mics. When you attract poets from as far a field as Southampton, Stoke on Trent, Birmingham, and Bradford on Avon then you are definitely doing something right and Ooh Beehive has that perfect balance of quality and freshness that all open mic events need. It’s a sweaty rampage through the styles and themes coming up from the grass-roots of spoken word today in the back rooms of pubs all over the country and long may it continue to be there to entertain us and challenge our perceptions.
Heather Still was the first of the featured poets, fresh off her second place in the Swindon Pride Slam. Her set was an almost continuous narrative, linking stories and poems with humour and deft performance. Heather was able to very expertly keep you guessing as to when a poem had started it’s journey out from the story linking the pieces, which meant you were constantly re-adjusting to the set pieces, connecting the dots in your mind as the poems flowed through – this made for a completely engaging performance. Heather will be performing at the next “Uncorked” in Worcester on 7th September and I for one will be there to hear more from this emerging Swindon based poet.
I have seen Jason N Smith on a regular basis over the past few months, our paths crossing at various events throughout the Midlands. Stoke based, yet travelling far and wide to read out, this performance at Ooh Beehive was his first invited feature set and he made the most of his opportunity. He has an electric style of spoken word delivery, talking about his experiences of prison life, mental health and social issues. He delivers his poetry at a fire-brand pace and you have to commit wholeheartedly to follow your way through Jason’s set. But it is worth that commitment, because he is telling the most compelling stories from the heart and that is always worth listening to. He is also starting to refine his style, confident in his material and it’s value to an audience and he is going to develop into a class act over the coming months for sure.
Damian O’Vitch closed out the evening with a tour-de-force of comic poetry, mixing a range of diverse topics with a very special delivery style. He is all about the stand-up performance and has the quality of verse to match it, keeping you second guessing on the direction of his pieces while at the same time slaying you with perfect comic timing and linguistic gymnastics. There is no subject matter too safe from Damian’s forensic examination under the poetry microscope and once he gets his claws into a piece, there is definitely no escape. Damian has that rare ability to mix contemporary political viewpoints with sometimes very subtle humour as well as delivering the full-frontal comic assault. He reminded me a lot of Steve Pottinger in his approach to using humour to question the current state of the nation and that puts his performance in very strong company indeed. I would watch Damian again at the drop of a hat and I am sure he will feature in an upcoming Willis the Poet Comedy Extravaganza in the future.
Great night Ooh Beehive. Put the date in your diary for next month as they will be celebrating their 1st Birthday with some fantastic poets – it is going to be a very special night…