(James Webster, whose devastating poem about self-harm blew the audience away)
I cant remember the last time I was as nervous for an event as I was yesterday for our New Libertines show, the official fringe at Chipping Norton Literary Festival. It was great to be asked to be the festival’s fringe, but that also meant our publicity had been minimal, and I had serious worries that we might have spent the evening in the wonderful setting of the Chequers’ barn venue essentialy workshopping.
(Claire Trevien’s heart-stopping turns of phrase left the room breathless)
But half of me wondered if that might not be preferable to the alternative – an audience that wandered in expecting – well, who knows – and ending up offended, disturbed, and worst of all disappointed.
(Anna McCrory’s razor sharp delivery and vulnerability perfectly complement content that’s observant, poignant and true)
In the event, not only did we have an audience but it was the most wonderful, warm, receptive evening, lifted by some of the most extraordinary performances I can remember from our stars Claire Trevien, Fay Roberts, Paul Askew, Anna McCrory, Laila Sumpton, James Webster and Tina Sederholm (I won’t be so presumptuous as to comment on my own reading, though I was really touched by the response to my new piece Hungerford Bridge).
(Laila Sumpton delivers The Only Photo, a devastating poem about the aftermath of the conflict in Sarajevo)
But more than that, we had some great open mic from the resplendent Caroline Wills-Wright, the poetic landlord of The Chequers Jim Hopcraft who had done a fabulous job of hosting the festival’s open mic earlier in the day, and a stunning set from Pat Winslow. And we had the added bonus of reading the winning poems from the festival’s children’s poetry competition which had blown me a way earlier in the day – a lyrical piece from Daisy Stapleton, a fabulous scattershot piece read magnificently by Paul Askew from Daisy Thomas, and a genuinely brutal and brilliant piece from the winner Alba Skidmore-Lapueta.
(Paul Askew’s The Extremely Abridged History, Present & Future of Paul Askew in Five Dream Scenes is quite simply the best performance piece I’ve ever seen. But calling it just that would be a gross injustice to the fact that this may be the most emotionally devastating, real poem you will ever come across. I cried through the whole of the next set)
It’s been an incredible poetry year so far, and there’s so much to look forward to. What continues to inspire me every time I hear our wonderful poets is that there are still people dealing dazzlingly with every aspect of life, that the stereotypes I had of performance poetry being all slick and superficial and dealing with everything at its most general, whilst they apply to some poetry hide an incredibly vibrant, exciting world of poets whose stunning performance is more than matched in contents.
(Tina Sederholm’s wonderful words come alive with her energy and stage control, and we were treated to a preview of her forthcoming Edinburgh show)
There are still people calling out from the wilderness, from the heart, with passion and anger and joy and humour and despair, and a burning desire to change lives.
our fabulous poetic landlord, Jim Hopcraft
Pat Winslow gave us a stunning end to the evening