Spoken Word Adventures – Hammer and Tongue

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Been a bit snowed under this last week, what with one of my deadlines being quietly moved forward by three days without anyone telling me (hahahahahaha I survived), but something awesome happened this weekend – Team Edinburgh won another slam! Me, Catherine, Joe and Doug (those talented bastards) went to down to London to compete in the Hammer and Tongue National Slam Final, having qualified at Unislam. We went up against some incredible teams from the various different branches of Hammer and Tongue in two rounds of group pieces, and we won!

It was a great weekend. It was also exhausting – it ran for around 8 hours on the Saturday and 4 on the Sunday – but it was jam-packed with some incredible talent: Theresa Lola (who won the singles competition) and Kat Francois, to name just two. There were some familiar faces from the Edinburgh scene – Matthew Macdonald and Iona Lee – and a whole host of incredible performers. It was kickass.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sleep forever.

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I’m off to sleep forever.

 

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Edinburgh Horror Festival & Hocus Poets

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Its no secret that I like horror. A lot. Probably too much. Welcome to Night Vale, Coraline, Darkest Dungeon, Until Dawn… Alright, not many of those things are scary in the same sense that Paranormal Activity and the Blair Witch Project are scary. But they have such an unsettling vibe to them. I love it.

That’s why I was pretty hyped when I found out about the existence of the Edinburgh Horror Festival, happening this weekend. There’s film, comedy, cabaret and most importantly (to me, anyway) spoken word – featuring prominently one of my all-time favourite poets – Matthew Macdonald. His standout show Something Wicked This Way Comes is running again, as is a new show in collaboration with Richard Partridge-Hickes. Its called Book of the Jubilation, and promises to include occult horror, hideous truths and sanity-eroding books from beyond the ken of human minds. Sounds right up my street (-:

And not only do I get to soak up the Edinburgh Horror Festival, I’m also performing this weekend! I’m performing this Saturday as part of Loud Poets’ Halloween event Hocus Poets which has to be the best (read: most shameless) pun title they’ve done yet. I’m really looking forward to performing in Edinburgh again, and catching up with the whole scene. Happy Halloween!

Top image: Richard Partridge-Hickes (left), Matthew Macdonald (right)

Spoken Word Adventures

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This’ll be old news to some people, but it happened during a time when I was snowed under with coursework and all sorts of other nonsense so I haven’t had a chance to write about it until now. Long story short – Edinburgh University won Unislam 2016! Unislam is a nationwide student poetry slam (i.e. uni-slam, rather than un-Islam as google search suggestions keeps insisting). I went down to Leicester with the amazingly talented Doug GarryCatherine WilsonJyothis Padmanabhan and Rachel Rankin to represent our university, and we won!

It was a brilliant night, with the highlights being feature set from Hollie McNish and the wealth of great student contributions Manchester Metropolitan and Goldsmiths University of London especially. Every time I think back to the quality and excitement of that final, I find it harder to remind myself that we won. But we had a great team, and we pulled it off! What’s more, Edinburgh as won Unislam for the third year in a row now, which I think stands as a testament to the quality and life of the Scottish spoken word scene at the minute.

But wait, there’s more! Not only did Edinburgh get to keep the shiny trophy for another year, but we as a team got the chance to represent our university at the 2016 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational in Austin, Texas! This turned out to be both a great opportunity and no small undertaking, and the next few months were spent frantically fundraising. In the end we managed it, with the kind help of the university, the City Cafe, the Writing Squad, the Widdrington Trust and many more people.

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So we headed out again, this time with the inspirational Toby Campion as our coach and quite a lot further to travel. But we arrived in Texas, and spent the best part of a week getting to know the city and the university. It really was something to immerse ourselves in a totally different kind of poetry scene – a different culture altogether, really – and see some wonderful performers too. Other highlights included the Nerd Slam (Pokemon + Steven Universe + Poetry = so much yes) and getting to hang out with Jesse Parent. It was a lot of fun.

We didn’t make it past our first heat, but we did have the pleasure of supporting the University of California, Los Angeles team in the subsequent heats (they were robbed!). And we didn’t go home empty handed – we won Spirit of the Slam award! So, through it all, despite the nerves and the deadlines and the jet-lag and the distinctly un-Scottish sweltering heat, we survived. And it was incredible.

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Meeting the Makar

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This was meant to be a catch-up post, but yesterday evening I stumbled across this even in the Culture Lab by pure chance, and it was great, so we’re talking about that instead. The event that I stumbled across was ‘What’s a Makar?’, hosted by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts at the Culture Lab. The event was a talk, with poetry readings, with Jackie Kay (National Makar of Scotland), Bill Herbert (Makar for Dundee) and Asif Khan (Director of the Scottish Poetry Library). The topic of discussion was what it means to be a Makar, how Makar-ship differs from the equivalent English role of Poet Laureate, and generally how the three of them do their work and make it relevant to the public.

There was a general feeling that, compared to the Poet Laureate, the Makar was a role that belonged more to the people than the literary establishment, and one that allowed for a little more freedom. Kay talked about her plans to visit the different Scottish isles, and her experience reading a poem for the opening of the Scottish Parliament. She also talked more broadly about her engagement with politics, reading her poem Extinction on the topic of the closing of the borders in the UK, lamenting that she couldn’t read it in Nigel Farage’s voice.

Bill Herbert was also brilliant to hear from, especially his poems Whose English is it Anyway?, ‘Dundee Dreaming’ and ‘The Silver Bridie’, the latter done in the style of William William McGonagall aka the (best) worst poet in the history of poetry.  I was interested to hear that spoken word and poetry slams came up in discussion, and there was a definite feeling that events like these are arguably where the celebrated tradition of folk poetry is most alive today.

Jackie Kay rounded off the night with the lovely poem A Lang Promise, and then it was time for questions. All-in-all it was great event, with a lot packed into just over and hour, and I’m glad to have stumbled across it. I’ll definitely be checking out more NCLA events in the future (-:

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Curiouser and Curiouser

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I didn’t know what to expect when Miko Berry asked me to do a ‘scary story or two’ at a ‘secret gig’ a few days ago. Curious, nervous and excited, I trekked all the way down to the bottom of Leith Walk, where a trail of glitter lead me to a flight of stairs… and at the top I found myself in one of the fanciest and most strangely-decorated studio flats I’ve ever seen. Top hats hung from the ceiling. A statue lurked in a purple-lit corner. Fancy cocktail menus and sushi were arranged on tables. I had no idea what was about to happen.

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The venue was almost empty at first, but I recognised familiar face – painter and fellow poet Suky Goodfellow, who told me she had been booked to do ‘live painting’ for the event. We hid together in the corner for a bit, her setting up her paints and me frantically practicing a poem, and people slowly began to arrive. Some of them were wearing masks, two of them were wearing crowns, and one person even had what looked like a ringmaster’s coat. At this point, my thoughts were something along the lines of ‘shit, this party is too cool for me’ and ‘what have I gotten myself into?’

But I needn’t have worried.

As it turned out, the evening was to be the experimental premier of a new artistic showcase night called Curiouser and Curiouser, hosted by Jody Bowen and curated by Miko. As the guests arrived – and it really did feel that we were less like audience members and more like guests at a live art exhibition/swanky party – funky live music began to fill the room, followed by some exquisite singing backed by the same band. After that it was my turn – I stood up and performed the Tall Man’s Coat and after that something new, with more music and Miko belting out some of his killer performance pieces in-between, backed by the band. After that I could finally relax because my part was over, and the music struck up again as the night began to draw to a close.

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It certainly felt like no other gig I had performed at or attended – partly because of the unique venue, partly because of the atmosphere, but especially because of the unique mix of artists. Curiouser and Curiouser wasn’t the first night I’ve been to that combined live music and spoken word in interesting ways, but it certainly did it very well. The thing that impressed and interested me the most, though, was the inclusion of live artists. Not only was there face-painting, but Suky and sketch-artist Ekaterina Sedykh (Kat) were sat throughout the night, painting and drawing the faces and groups of people around them. It was intriguing to watch them, and they put their work on sale at the end of the night – I even picked up this awesome portrait of me, courtesy of Suky!

All in all, it was a great first night! I wholeheartedly hope that Curiouser and Curiouser takes off and gets the attention it deserves. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it, and any other similar events that come my way. Over and out (-:
-Lewis

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Photo credit to Yelp Edinburgh, painting by Suky Goodfellow.

UniSlam and Updates

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Its been a little while since I’ve posted anything much, partly because I’ve been busy with essays, but I haven’t been idle as far as writing and poetry is concerned:

Last night was UniSlam 2014, with teams from Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester Metropolitan, Edinburgh and St Andrews, all here in Teviot competing for the coveted UniSlam trophy. Having won the first ever UniSlam last year down in Birmingham, the Edinburgh team defended their title and won again! It was a great night, with poems from twenty brilliant student poets. I’ve shared work by Lucy, Doug and Jess (who were all on the winning team) in the past, but with any luck I’ll soon be sharing work from Joe and some of the representatives of other universities too. There was a lot of great talent that night.

All that also gave me the motivation to sit down and do some proper writing for the first time in a while, leading to two new poems, some progress on a third and small edits to two others. I’ll be posting the new poems soon, but for now here are the updates:
Write Hungry: https://fallingpiano.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/write-hungry/
Was it you?: https://fallingpiano.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/was-it-you/

Enjoy!

The Carpenter, Doug Garry

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How do you introduce a piece like this? The answer is probably that I don’t need to – it speaks for itself, in brilliant, soaring imagery and flawless production. Enjoy!

Credit to Doug Garry, for his writing and performance:

and to Perry Jonsson for his slick filming and production:

Follow them up on them both if you enjoyed this piece – they’re both well worth checking out.