Nice cake…

Stirchley Speaks 2

I have been trying to get to Stirchley Speaks for a few months now, but the alignment of the planets, car problems, a clashing diary and a whole load of other stuff always seemed to get in the way. But last night I was able to jump on the train to Bourneville and make it for their 2nd Birthday celebrations…

The evening epitomised the thing I really love about spoken word events. It’s all about bringing people together in a shared space, chewing the fat, reading and listening to poetry, supporting a local small business and feeling like a part of some kind of movement for good. Last night was a special night for Stirchley Speaks, because it was celebrating it’s 2nd Birthday, but there seemed to be more to it than just a date in time. Callum summed it up in the way that he thanked those previously involved, as well as those now involved in putting the night on and keeping it running. It has a real sense of inclusion and community that some other events lack and I felt a part of that, even though it was my first time there. So great atmosphere to start with and great cake to finish it off!

The format was simple. A series of open mic performances around two headline acts. A couple of breaks to recharge the glasses and have a chat with new friends and Callum holding it all together in between things. They started a new initiative of having a pronto poet – a poem written on the night by a chosen poet based on shout outs from the crowd. Callum took up the challenge very nicely, but one of the open mic performers also jumped in with a poem on the topics too – great stuff! I have seen this at one other open mic event, so perhaps it is going to be the next big thing. You saw it here first ladies and gentlemen!

The headliners were Joe Cook and Aliyah Hasinah. I really liked both poets in equal measure. There was a nice relaxed feeling to both sets, almost like being in a conversation, but with poems thrown in for fun. Different styles of course – Joe is very much about the direct message, the easily accessible narrative of his words, with humour and hip hop influences at the fore. Aliyah wraps up her stories in more traditional, crafted forms, the narrative lead through imagery and imagination to get to the source of her poems. Both bring beautiful examples of the use of language and speech to get distinct messages out there, asking you to question the world around you or just soak up the visual pictures being delivered through their verse. Two young and inspirational poets that are well worth seeing time and time again.

I will definitely be back to Strichley Speaks. Great venue, atmosphere, spirit, poetry and cake.

Did someone mention a banner…?


The 3 Ps popped up in Walsall last night for a new spoken word evening at the Pretty Bricks in John Street. Open mics, featured poets, poetry competition, upcoming event listing and their very own banner made it a night to remember…

The 3 Ps are Steve Pottinger, Emma Purshouse and Dave Pitt who have started collaborating on some very entertaining spoken word events across the Black Country. Renowned poets in their own right, when you add them together, you get a collective powerhouse of creativity and that certainly showed at last night’s opener.

The format was fairly traditional in that there were open mic slots performed either side of a break with a featured poet ending the first half and a headline poet rounding off the event. What was different was the poetry competition – advertised prior to the evening, but also open on the night, where you had the opportunity to win a book and a scratch card with your go at an 8 line poem. Good fun to take part in and local legend Mogs came up with the winning poem. Also different was the ethos of spreading the word on up and coming events in the local area, or events further afield that are featuring local poets. It’s a great idea and showed the depth and breadth of poetry on offer in the region.

The featured poet at the end of the first half was Paul Francis. I had heard Paul read very briefly before at a poetry slam in Wolverhampton, but having the opportunity to hear a fuller set from him was a treat. As well as being an active performer on the Midlands poetry scene, Paul has written a collection of poems about migration, entitled “Breaking Point”. He performed most of his set from that collection and his insight into the topic and his beautifully crafted poetry reminded us all how poetry can be a very effective force in highlighting social and political issues. Paul examined the Brexit vote and the short-sighted damage it has done with regards to the plight of migrants in the UK and his poems were a moving and emotional examination of contemporary Britain. The sale of Paul’s collection supports the work of City of Sanctuary in Wolverhampton and listening to his work last night, we were reminded of the need to come together in communities to help those in need; a very timely call out for humanity to come to the fore.

Finishing off the evening as headliner was Jonny Fluffypunk, who stormed the building in true performance poet style. Jonny is a well established poet on the UK circuit and it’s easy to see why he draws a crowd whenever he performs. He is richly verbose, warmly endearing and very funny, combining poetry and prose in a Monty Pythonesque delivery that barely allows you to draw breath between the laughter. My jaw ached after his set from the sheer joyous workout it had been subjected to. Jonny’s work is part autobiographical, part escapism drawn together in a narrative that is uniquely imaginative and utterly compelling. He is one of those performers that can take a seemingly innocent topic and turn it inside out with acerbic detailing and the application of a ridiculous sense of humour – absolutely brilliant!

And it was an absolutely brilliant way to close the show. As Jonny pointed out, the purchase of a very expensive looking banner suggests that Yes We Cant is here to stay and I for one am very much looking forward to the next instalement…



Vintage uncorked…

Uncorked June

The second edition of Uncorked took place last night in Bottles Wine bar in Worcester. It was an evening mixing spoken word and poetry with a real feeling of excitement instilled by the 3 headline acts. Here’s how the night unfolded…

Holly Duffurn’s approach to Uncorked is to tease her audience into wanting more. More headline action, more open mic action and more wine!  It’s a clever approach that sees the evening open with each headliner giving us a glimpse of things to come, as they each take to the mic for a 5 minute taster.

Then each time Holly comes to the mic, she has a glass of wine in hand. It’s a bit like watching the file Sideways and realising about a third of the way into the film that you need to open a bottle of Rioja and reach for the cheese plate! But as well as wine, Holly brings infectious enthusiasm that welcomes each open mic performer on and off and makes the evening flow.

The other thing I like about Uncorked is that the headliners come on right at the end of two sets of open mic performances. So you get a range of talent on display throughout the evening, but you finish an an absolute high, which works perfectly.

The headliners last night were Charley Barnes, Hannah Teasdale and Spoz. 3 wildly different poets, bringing different styles, different topics and unique perspectives.

Charley Barnes started by offering us a reading from her recently published book “The Women You Were Warned About”, which tells a series of stories, through one sided interviews, about the most disreputable, low-life, nasty women that you could think of. They are however, all remarkably recognisable and this is the point of Charley’s book, in that we see these women every day, but somehow their behaviour is seen as acceptable. It’s a great read and I would highly recommend it. Charley finished her extended set with poetry and it’s poetry of the highest quality. Having seen her read just the night before, the imagery and narrative from her work was still fresh in my mind, but I was still moved by the sheer weight of emotion and fragility that Charley commands in her writing. Her “Peanut” series of poems are perhaps the best three poems in a linked sequence that I have ever heard and her engaging style and honesty really are something worth experiencing.

Hannah Teasdale bought raw emotion to the stage as well. Different subject matter, but still drawing on her personal experiences of separation, coping, and relationships, Hannah was really able to take the audience on the narrative journey she was weaving. Hannah mixed her set in part reaction to the material that had gone before and this was well done, despite her uncertainty that it was working. But it absolutely did and I love it when an artist uses that flexibility to work on the spur of the moment. Hannah’s poetry wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and you can relate instantly to her positioning of feelings, desires and emotions as she takes you through each poem. Again, well worth seeing and listening to if you can.

Spoz is a local legend and is a real tour de force when it comes to stand up performance poetry. He is funny, engaging, utterly filthy and not afraid to call it as he sees it and all of that makes up a very entertaining set of spoken word. I’ll not even try to describe Spoz’s topic list, but when it finishes on a poem about bowel movements, you know you have been through the proverbial mill with his material! I loved his poem, at first spoken in Italian and then translated to English, which I assume is equally as funny in both tongues! I also enjoyed his John Cooper Clarkesque rant through the political shit-storm of Tory government, which left us in no doubt on Spoz’s opinion of one Michael Gove – brilliant satirical writing.

And Spoz rounded things off nicely. The hat was passed round, the wine glasses drained and we all wandered off into the warm Worcester evening with a glow of vino, verse and jour de vivre.



No, not the one in Poland…

Walsall Poetry Society.jpg

Whenever I say I’m going across to Walsall to read poetry, someone always quips “Poland’s a long way to go for a poetry reading!” in that hilarious way that never, ever wears thin or grates on the very core of your soul. “No, not the one in Poland”, I sigh, “the one by IKEA”…

Anyway, I went to Southcart Books today, a lovely independent bookshop in Walsall, to read out at the launch of Diverse Verse 2, a poetry anthology put together by Richard Archer. Richard is part of the Walsall Poetry Society and he has collated this book for sale to raise money for cancer charity.

I have a couple of poems in the collection; one about the dark arts of Snooker and the other a reworking of the Goldilocks tale. So I took the opportunity to read these out in between readings from others involved in the book and those there to read at the regular open mic that takes place in the bookshop on the last Saturday of each month.

It is always nice to read to new audiences and in new venues. There is something exciting about sharing your work with fresh victims and also hearing poets that you have not come across before. Fresh perspectives are increasingly relevant in this day and age and there were certainly plenty on display today.

It was also nice to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. The books will be on sale shortly and I will place a post on my fb page when the details come through.

Big thanks and well done to Richard and Southcart Books for a great book launch and I look forward to now reading through all the poems in the collection.





We got 6 of the best in Audlem…

Last night I went out as Willis the Poet to slam-a-dingdong-a-doodle with some beautiful people in the 6th Audlem Poetry Slam Competition. Here’s what happened…

The slam is part of a weekend of cultural events run in Audlem, a sleepy hollow between Market Drayton and Nantwich in Cheshire. The Bridge pub nestles sweetly alongside the canal, with some lovely real ales and charming country pub vibes and then it’s invaded once a year by Emma Purshouse and Dave Pitt with a clip-board and a duck whistle, getting all poetry slam on your arse and giving it large!

But the locals love it and why not! It’s a great little event, more about the fun of spoken word than serious competition, but where there’s a slam there’s an edge to proceedings and it wasn’t long before it got proper serious. But the seriousness was provided by the quality of the poets that turned out to compete, quality that was evident right from the get go.

Personally the lure of a bottle of wine and a box of chocs is enough to get my competitive juices flowing, but when there’s £50 up for grabs as well, then that’s a real incentive. Unfortunately, I got placed in the first round with Nick Degg who had come across from Stoke to share his work. Cripplingly funny, great topic choice and perfect timing left me dead in the water. But to go out to the eventual joint second placed poet was in some ways honourable.

The rounds flowed, the beer flowed, the audience got louder, the poetry more intense and by the time that Nick Degg, Nick Lovell and Gabriella Gay had propelled themselves to the final three slots, it was game on. All three were fabulous poets and performers, each one worthy of their place in the final and each a reflection of the different style, approach and connection with spoken word.

There can only be one winner though and that was Nick Lovell. Great in all three rounds Nick really knows his way round a slam event and people respond to his genuine nature and his obvious love of his artform. Well done Nick for taking the 1st place, the cash prize and the accolades.

Good work by MCs Purshouse and Pitt too, although slightly strange to see them out in public without Steve Pottinger in tow – like seeing a three-legged dog and knowing that something is missing!

Oh Solihull, where have you been?…

Solihull Writers

I got a lovely invite from Ray Bradnock to come and read poetry with the Solihull Writers this week and I couldn’t help but wonder where they have been hiding themselves all this time….

Music (piano, guitar), readings, poetry, even stand-up were all on the menu at Ebb & Flow on Herbert Road. Ray compered the evening’s activity and it was a classic mix of new and old. I have become so accustomed to full on poetry nights, that it was a nice change to get a real smorgersboard of different arts all in the one room.

The atmosphere was relaxed, very welcoming (I even got to read twice on the basis that I had traveled from the far reaches of the Black Country to be there) and highly entertaining. The book readings were particularly powerful pieces. I had to suck up a spider in the hoover today and it bought back some unwanted imagery from one of the stories read out last night!

There was also time to stand and chat and put the world to rights as poets and writers like to do. It was great to meet new artists and my only regret about the whole evening was that it only runs twice a year! This cannot be right. Surely there is a space and an appetite for more Solihull….

Thanks to Ray and the gang for making it a thoroughly enjoyable night…

It set the place alight…..

poetry alight

In Lichfield, the place was lit up by spoken word on Tuesday as I managed to get along to do a bit and listen to the Nine Arches Press Editor and poet, Jane Commane and Roy Marshall at Poetry Alight…

Poetry Alight is hosted by Gary Longden and brings together two headliners and a space for open mics to thrive in the limelight. There is also a raffle, with some great literary prizes, so it’s a real mix of page poetry, performance poets and good old fashioned fun.

It was Jane Commane’s debut appearance at Poetry Alight. We are more used to seeing her introducing poets and running Q&A sessions as their publisher, but this time she was up front and centre to read her own poetry. Touching on her memories of growing up in Coventry and being inspired by her family, work and trade, Jane’s poems drew evocative images to the fore. Lyrical poems with a real narrative thread woven throughout, Jane’s reading was a delight to listen to and get lost in as well. I hope this is not the last time she ventures out on to the stage in her own right.

Roy Marshall was making a welcome and much anticipated return to promote his book, The Great Animator, which is published this February. Roy’s poems explore a plethora of topics and two sets book-ending the open mics gave us plenty of opportunity to get to know Roy’s work more deeply. Reading from The Great Animator and also other published work, Roy was able to perfectly translate the complex world around us by taking the minute detail and distilling it into descriptive verse, which was both beautiful and wholly accessible. His observation of nature was particularly well captured and Roy very cleverly adapted his set on the fly in reaction to other work being read out, which was great to see.

I would recommend both headliners if you get a chance and judging by the schedule below, there are some more treats in store from Poetry Alight over the course of the year:-

All Tuesdays at the George IV, Bore Street, Lichfield – 7.30pm start.

July 4th James Sheard/ Deborah Alma
Oct 3rd Gregory Leadbetter/ John Mills/ Bert Flitcroft
Dec 5th Special Guests!