So you know when you like doing a thing but seem to end up not doing it, almost because you know you like it? Maybe it’s that. Or maybe I was just doing theatre stuff and stuck in the mindset, as I sometimes am, that I can only be one thing, despite being a fingers-in-pies jack-of-all-trades most of the time.
Well anyway, I’d got to a point last year where I was doing so few poetry gigs I wondered whether I even merited the title poet anymore.
But in the last few months there’s been a fair flurry. Them gigs they’re like buses! Walk in front of one without looking and you’ll get knocked flat by a captive audience. Or something. (I like it when poetry gigs knock you flat. My best one for that was doing a couple of poems in a big tent when I was camping with friends and extended friends of family a few years ago. I like those gigs).
So yeah, the flurry. Here’s a re-cap.
Back in May, I got the chance to perform in Montréal at an event called Words and Music. Having assumed I’d be able to do one or two poems, I then found out I had a 30 minute paid set, which was the longest set I’d had in monthsandmonthsandmonths, and left me feeling a little out of my depth for the first time in ages, which was a lovely feeling.
In a moment of serendipity, at said event, I also re-met the wonderful Rachel McCrum, who I’d first met at an impromptu poetry cipher halfway down Niddry Street during the 2016 Edinburgh Free Fringe, and who’s tour with the equally wonderful Caroline Bird, who’s been a tutor to me on several writing retreats, I went to see in Sheffield, with my friend from Canada, who also knows Rachel. Yup. Their show together was incredible. Two fantastic writers and performers.
So then I came back from Canada, won the Nottingham Poetry Society Slam on a visit to Nottingham in June, which given my connections to Notts felt like an honour, and then got the chance, in August, to support the irrepressible and candescent Neil Hilborn in Newcastle as part of his UK tour. That was an incredible show – there was intro music. There was a fan barrier. Everyone was standing up. The night before, I’d done another gig at Kith and Kin Café in Whitley Bay in which 50 people crammed into a small back room, with the audience’s knees a foot away from the performers.
I love both of these types of gigs. I probably find the big ones easier (despite what I said about the gig in the tent earlier, I never promise to be consistent), which I think is just a quirk of personality. I remember in uni I had two friends who played guitar – Dan was the front man of a 3-piece grunge band and would happily play to sold out concert halls. John would gladly belt his heart out to a roomful of five of us after a night out in the living room. Dan, the front man, told me he could never do what John, the living room serenader, could do, and vice versa. Horses for courses innit.
More recently, I also had the chance to perform in Alphabetti Theatre’s brand-spankin new venue for the first time, as part of a work-in-progress sharing of a new project called Underworlds by Tidy Carnage TheatreTidy Carnage Theatre – it sounds like a really interesting project. A large scale, immersive theatre experience focusing on memory and false memory, is the plan. Watch this space.
I’ll be back at Alphabetti tomorrow to host the superb variety night that is Alphabetti Soup, which I’m a tad nervous for – I’ve written, directed and acted for Soup before, but hosting feels like a different kettle of fish. I’m gonna be like in charge of making sure everyone has a good time and that. For the whole night! Should be fun.
Then the next gig sees me back at Alphabetti again for a fundraiser night called The Blind Busker. There may be more gigs in the meantime, keep an eye on the gigs page.
Meanwhile, Five Years with Neal Pike continues to go from strength to strength – we opened the Nottingham Playhouse Playground Festival on Tuesday and have our beady eyes on plenty more opportunities to develop and perform in the near future.
It feels nice to be busy again. Having got a second job earlier this year and temporarily thrown myself into working 50-hour weeks, getting more art work is good. It’s for and with other people, as well as me, and it keeps me in better shape mentally than anything else I’ve tried my hand at. So that’s good.
If you’ve read this, cheers. I don’t know who, if anyone, does. It’s been nice for me to recap on the last few months. If you liked it, let me know.