DOMINIC BERRY: GLASTONBURY POET IN RESIDENCE

A few words with the unparalleled ball of artistic energy Dominick Berry.
How did you get into spoken word? What has kept you writing?

IMG_7898 (2015_08_02 16_41_51 UTC) (2016_02_08 09_08_46 UTC)I got into poetry through experiencing live poetry performances.

I was 19. Seeing people doing something so emotional, intellectual and accessible was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
YouTube exists now, but live performance always has been and always will be in a different league to any telly; terrestrial, online or whatever. See the people doing their thing for real. For some that can a trek, but it’s incomparable to see the artist actually on stage in front of you. I see people in rural communities strive to bring artists out to them, and that is amazing.
Gerry Potter, Jackie Hagan, Avaes Mohammad, Thick Richard, Rosie Garland, Lemn Sissay – these were among the first to inspire me, back in my early twenties. And how it has all grown. For me, for the poetry communities, for the whole world.

Many people across the planet are currently getting a great deal from the work of a previous Glastonbury poet-in-residence Tony Walsh. Following the devastating Manchester tragedy, Tony’s poem ‘this is the place’, has gone viral. A great number of folks are connecting to it, and it is helping those people through this impossibly difficult time. This is getting a lot of people realising the potential of spoken word to heal and unify. Let’s see this transfer into even higher attendance at gigs.
I got into poetry from seeing and listening to poets perform, not through writing workshops. I don’t attend a great deal of writing workshops and, although I am asked near-daily to do them, I run few writing workshops. When I do, I give them my all, but that’s not my preference. If you like workshops, they are ace. Good for you. They are one approach. There are other approaches. We often hear people say workshops is the only way to get folks into poetry, and the only way to make a living from it. This is not true. It is possible to be a performer. It is possible to do gigs. It is possible, if you have the skill and desire, for this to be a job. Teachers are amazing, I have the highest of respect for teachers, but you do not have to be a conventional educator to be a poet, nor should you have to be.
People who want to be in music bands rarely do so from attending music band workshops. They experience excellent live music and then try it themselves. They can learn from doing bad gigs, maybe asking those they respect for their thoughts, but mostly just getting immersed in the best work they can find. Go to gigs! Support poets being poets! Don’t just study them in a class – go see them on stage!
My goal is to continue to do the best I can to use this art as a vehicle to attempt to inspire and unite in difficult times, to make folks laugh, and to generate discussion and understanding. Through doing, not describing how to do it.
I am angry about arts funding cuts. Time and time again we are shown examples, tony walsh’s being one of the more recent, of what experiencing art can do. Art is not some airy-fairy, extra curricular activity. Art is up there with the best ways many people can find their voice, develop self confidence and the ability to speak their minds in front of others. It needs to be funded. Poets cannot produce work without the time away from other employment to create and often those who would benefit most from the work are not in a position to pay for a ticket. Art is invaluable and without it, our voice is reduced to a whisper. Support the arts! Gigs gigs gigs gigs gigs!
Give us your Desert Island Discs – Poem Version:

This list would change every day, no, several times a day, but given my current mood and what I have experienced lately, here’s where I’m at right at this moment:

I am proud to be an adopted northerner. Kieren’s celebration of a city so maligned and neglected is awe inspiring. Sublime. A fantastic performer with words of steel.
As the right wing so successfully turn poor people against poor people, blame the vulnerable for every ill happening under the sun, and achieve a seemingly ever growing culture of mistrust and hate, Gerry’s empathic, no-punches-pulled work is more vital than ever. A battle cry. Every teenager should see this poem.
Words with great strength so gently recited, Keisha understands the subtleties of theatre and tiniest nuances of language. An incredible stage presence from a person who speaks with well informed clarity and arty spark whose every atom seems to burst with poetry. A highlight of 2016 Glasto.
I was saying all northern UK poets, so here is one from Canada – they write about trans life and subjects I have no personal experience of in a way which touches and educates. This poem is about the simultaneous glamorisation and demonising of prostitution, and has provided me with a response to many well meant but ill informed comments I’ve heard made on this topic.
 
I first saw AntiPoet at Edinburgh fringe and was overjoyed when they were on at last year’s Glastonbury – life affirming, awesome, fantastically entertaining wordplay, humour and courage – undiluted love. That’s what we all need, right, undiluted love.
Hopes for Glasto? 

To have the best time! To experience lots of gigs! To be good at being poet-in-residence!

Last year was my first Glastonbury festival and I spend a great amount of my time sat watching poets on the Poetry and Words stage in the circus area. The circus performers were also magic. I’m excited by the headline acts, I mean, Chic? Wow. The community. The awesome people being at Glastonbury gives us the chance to meet and spend time with. Unforgettable time. Lots of dancing, singing, listening and cheering. All the cheering!
I am going to see what is happening from left wing political speakers, to listen to what they have to say. In this time of terrifying vilifying of the already oppressed, to listen to the opinions of others on how best I can do my part to positively react to growing money and power lust, racist attacks, the persecution of the underclass – I hope to engage with lefty gatherings, and think about how I can contribute to nurturing a kinder, fairer society.
I will eat lots of falafel.
Yeah, that’s it, my hope is to go, enjoy every moment of it, do the most and the best that I can. I am so excited about it all, as always, it’s going to be fantastic!
Yeah, that’s it, my hope is to go, enjoy every moment of it, do the most and the best that I can. I am so excited about it all, as always, it’s going to be fantastic!
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