Introducing: Brian McMahon Gallagher

Brian McMahon Gallaher from thejournal.ie

Photo courtesy of thejournal.ie

Performing for the first time with us is Brian McMahon Gallagher, 16:05-16:30 Friday; hosting slam 17:00-19:00 Sunday . If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In his own words:

“Brian McMahon Gallagher is a Dublin Based poet and Slam Sunday co-host. As a poet, Brian has performed at the First Fortnight, Electric Picnic, Latitude, and Cuirt International Literary Festivals, and has performed with the Arts Group ‘Outstraight’ at festivals and shows throughout Britain and Ireland. He is also the host of LemmeTalk, a monthly open mic that takes place in ‘Poetry Ireland’.”

Fay’s words:

Another new poet to me, so back to the magic ot the internet to track down the sparse few examples of his wordcraft, YouTube doing me fewer favours than the Near FM Podcast. And it’s through this that I’ve discovered a gloriously sweary, young, Irish poet with pieces that take on some of the more egregious elements of Irish/ Dublin culture, from the personal to the political (and where that intersects, naturally). He rams a machine-gun clatter of words into short spaces, and none of them wasted. And he’s sweary as hell, which I loved (sometimes you only get to see/ hear the most sanitised, expurgated versions of people online); his passion is undeniable, and it’s wonderful to see it in service to some of the most important issues facing Ireland (and humanity), from the small to the crushingly broad. I’m really looking forward to see that febrile energy let loose in the Poetry&Words tent next month!

He’ll also be hosting the slam on Sunday with Thunderclap Murphy, about which more later.

Sneak preview:

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Introducing: Paula Varjack

Paula Varjack by hannes frueh 02
Back to perform with us is Paula Varjack, 15:35-16:00 Friday . If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Paula Varjack is an artist working in video, performance and participation. Her work explores identity, community, and making the invisible visible. Her latest show ‘The Cult of K*NZO’, a playful critique of consumer culture and high fashion is currently touring. She is also in early stages of developing #thebabyquestion with performers Luca Rutherford & Catriona James & dramaturg Maddy Costa, exploring the inevitability of ‘the baby question’ on women, regardless of age. Born in Washington D.C. to a Ghanaian mother and a British father, out of many cities she has lived she considers east London to be ‘home’.”

Fay’s words:

Like many of the artists I know, the first time I saw Paula perform was at Edinburgh Fringe, taking part in the BBC EdFringe Slam and competing with her now-classic “Dear Straight Girl” piece. Since then I’ve shared a few stages with her, from Other Voices, pretty much every year we’ve had it, to her glorious import from Germany – notorious competition/ showcase/ much-needed balm for the soul and uniter of spoken word scenes: The Anti-Slam, where the worst poet “wins”. Paula has a talent for bringing the cringe, the things people think but don’t want to say, the horrible anecdotes of microaggression, and leaning right into that discomfort. I’m probably not explaining this very well. Okay. She uses incredible delivery and stagecraft along with a wicked precision of language to simultaneously lampoon and decry power structures in our society. I’ve seen her take on racism, sexism, homophobia, the complex nuances of chosen and bestowed identity, and the way art is valued and devalued in one breath by those with the money. Everything that is wrong with our consumerist kyriarchy gets ruthlessly highlighted and deconstructed, and she’s still managing to make you laugh even as you have one profound revelation after another. And she’s one of the most burlesque poets I know, still, using costume and prop and music and pose with finesse to highlight all of this. Will this encapsulation suffice? For the moment, it will have to…

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Dominic Berry, compere

Dominic Berry
Back to perform with us is Dominic Berry, compering 15:30-19:00 Friday; 11:50-15:30 Saturday; and 14:30-17:00 Sunday . If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In his own words:

“Dominic Berry is an internationally award-winning performance poet. He was 2017 Glastonbury Festival Poet in Residence, winner of 2017 Saboteur ‘Best Spoken Word Artist’ award and has toured his verse across USA, Canada, India, New Zealand, Australia, South America and Europe.

“His other awards include winning New York’s Nuyorican Poetry Cafe Slam, UK Superheroes of Slam and, as of 2019, seven Arts Council England Grants for the Arts awards.”

Fay’s words:

Dom is one of my favourite people in the world. And for once I’m going to get the very rare treat of getting to see him outside Edinburgh, and in a different month from August! We met as flatmates in 2013, my second year doing a full run at Edinburgh Fringe, and (I think) his first. He was performing a kids’ show first thing in the morning, so we didn’t cross paths as much as I would have liked. He was a caring, generous, and energetic flatmate, and then I discovered that all of this comes out in his poetry too. He is witty, passionate, committed, and clever, and knows when to go slow and allow his audience to absorb the challenging moments. Outside the children’s shows he talks articulately and devastatingly honestly about mental health, class, the queer community, sex, veganism, gaming, and how all of those things and more can intersect. Every show of his I’ve witnessed I’ve ended up astonished that it took a full hour as I’ll be absolutely suspended in whatever world he’s chosen to take us to, whether dragons and trolls, or a complex weave of gaming, anxiety, and sexuality.

I have no doubt he’ll bring that energy and commitment to his compering of this wildly talented stage, and I hope he gets a chance to slip a few of his own poems our way as he goes!

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Thunderclap Murphy

Thunderclap Murphy
Performing for the first time with us is Thunderclap Murphy, 15:05-15:30 Friday; hosting the slam 17:00-19:00 Sunday. If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In his own words:

“Thunderclap Murphy is a spoken word performer, songwriter and live looping multi-instrumentalist.

“For five years, he was the host of Dublin’s monthly poetry slam, Slam Sunday. He has been the host and organiser of many spoken word and music events in his home town of Dublin. The weekly open mic show, The Monday Echo, was a first performance venue for many Irish based poets.

“His live performance combines poetry, songwriting, live looping and hip-hop. With influences as diverse as welsh poet Alun Lewis to 90s rap legend Skee-lo, Thunderclap combines covers and original material in a high energy show.

“2018 saw the release of self-penned single “The Party’s Over”. He occasionally performs arrangements of his songs live with a string quartet. His arrangements of other songwriters material for string quartet were showcased in a regular event called the Bamboo Sessions featuring live string players.”

Fay’s words:

Thunderclap Murphy is likewise new to me, but here we see where my plan to post in chronological order of appearance on the stage might have some issues. See, I may have to admit my first research defeat on this one, as I can find video and audio of Mr. Murphy’s music – either intricately looped, multi-instrumental covers or original music – but no written or recorded versions of any poetry in his name. (What hasn’t helped is that there is a (much older) Irish poet called Aidan Murphy who, conversely, I have been able to hear. He is not our Aidan Murphy, though…) I have found a recorded version of an interview with him on Irish spoken word podcast Boundless & Bare in May 2018 about setting up and running spoken word events. All I can tell you at the moment is that he has a really beautiful speaking voice – deep and resonant and expressive. And his music is catchy (I’m still humming one of them), deceptively complex and moving, delivered in a light baritone/ tenor, just to throw me into more confusion (man has an impressive vocal range!). If I discover any more before I see him in action in June, I’ll update this article! 🙂

In addition, he’s hosting the slam on Sunday along with Brian McMahon Gallagher, about which more later!

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Ana Paz

Ana Paz
Performing for the first time with us is Ana Paz, 14:35-15:00 Friday; 12:05-12:30 Saturday. If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Ana Paz is a spoken word artist of African and Portuguese decent from south east London. With a background in theatre and performing arts, Ana trained at Identity Drama School as well as studying a degree in Performing Arts for Television, Film and Stage at Buckinghamshire New University, graduating in 2011. Her work includes themes such as mental health and well being, female empowerment, Blackness, racism, discrimination and the importance of perspectives within working class communities.

“These narratives are brought to life by the spoken word poetry, the mechanism for therapy, often influenced by Hip Hop. Through this writing, Ana has devised three short theatre pieces: August 5th (2014), Linhas (2014), FlyButterfly (2017). This was featured and performed at venues such as The Place, Richmix, Attenborough Arts Centre, The Cookie, The Y Theatre and Canada Water Space. Overseas, Ana has featured and delivered workshops for Bankstown Poetry Slam, Australian Poetry Slam, Spoken Word Adelaide. In 2015, Ana was the runner up at the first ever Poetry Olympics held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and subsequently won an Arts residency there. In 2017, she released her first spoken word EP titled Talking Therapy, which aired on BBC Radio Leicester introducing and Demon FM the same year. Most recently, Ana has worked as a guest speaker for a variety of organisations across Europe, including The Economist, SheDecides, Global Citizen, Swedish Institute and Women Deliver, reinforcing the issues she addresses through her work in these performances.”

Fay’s words:

Ana’s work is new to me. Well, I think it is – there’s something powerfully familiar about her voice, but that may just be the incredible immediacy she brings with her presence and her words. She reminds me of the both the liminal drift, and the preacher-like rhythms and inspirational, fist-pumping visions of Kate Tempest, Lauren Hill, and Janelle Monáe, but with a style that is all her own. One minute you’re dreamily lost at sea with her, the next nodding emphatically, wanting to shout “Hell, yes!” and bring everyone else along with you. It’s rare to find a poet you want to dance to, but she’s definitely one of them! Really looking forward to seeing her live and feeling that rush of recognition and vision.

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Liv Torc

Liv Torc Pic 6 by Kieren Sibley (c)
Performing for the first time with us is Liv Torc, 14:05-14:30 Friday; hosting open mic 13:00-14:00 Saturday . If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Liv Torc is a razor blade skating performance poet, who plunges the vast caverns and dormant volcanoes of the human condition, armed with a box of matches and a sense of lyrical wonder. A Radio 4 Slam Winner, a former Bard of Exeter and current co-host of The Hip Yak Poetry Shack. Liv also runs the mental health and poetry night The Rainbow Fish Speak Easy in Yeovil and produces and hosts the hugely successful Hip Yak Poetry Stage at WOMAD festival. She is also the brains and brawn behind the Hip Yak Poetry School, an ACE funded project aimed at supporting the South West spoken word poetry scene.

“Over her career in spoken word Liv has appeared all over the UK and a bit in Europe, performing at the Roundhouse in London, Cheltenham Literary Festival, WOMAD and the Edinburgh Fringe.

“She has delivered workshops and long running poetry projects in schools, colleges, libraries, art centres, doctor’s surgeries and theatres, culminated in performances at, among others, the House of Commons and the 2012 Paralympics.

“Liv is currently Lead Artist for the Somerset wide mental health project Word/Play (recently featured on Apples and Snakes 30th anniversary podcast series), which places performance poets within GP surgeries to help adults re-discover their self worth and learn to communicate their feelings.

“Her first published book ‘Show Me Life’ was released by Burning Eye in 2015.”

Fay’s words:

Liv is another poet who’s new to me, so I’ve gone YouTube surfing again. What I’ve discovered so far is that she’s passionate and articulate, particularly brilliant at building a tangible picture involving multiple senses within a handful of lines. I feel myself immersed in each scene immediately. She then leads you by the hand through that earth-rooted corporeality into more liminal places and shows you the grace of humanity and what we could be. (She’s also ridiculously witty and slips a gorgeous vocabulary into some hysterically funny stanzas.)

She’ll also be the host of the open mic, no mean task, and we’ll be telling you all about that in a few days’ time.

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Demi Anter

Demi Anter
Performing for the first time with us is Demi Anter, 13:35-14:00 Friday; 14:35-15:00 Saturday . If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Demi Anter is a multidisciplinary artist from California’s Coachella Valley. She has produced poetry showcases and workshops throughout the U.S., and opened for artists such as Beau Sia, Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye, Kip Fulbeck, Mayda del Valle and Anis Mojgani. Her work has been published internationally by Spectrum, Almost Real Things, ROPES and Hedgehog Press, and was featured on Belfast’s Poetry Jukebox this spring. She lives in Berlin.”

Fay’s words:

Demi Anter is new to me but, from what I’ve gleaned so far from the sparse, slightly out-of-date footage I’ve managed to track down so far, I’m really looking forward to seeing her. She has that fresh, fast-talking style I’ve come to admire in quite a few poets from the current Glaswegian scene – mixing the personal with the political, blending what looks like acute nervousness with an underlying frustration/ anger at the way life isn’t (though it should be). Demi’s words come machine-gun fast, precise, and mesmerising; it could be easy to mistake her style for the much-derided (in certain parts of the UK scene) Generic American Slam-style, but, if it is American Slam Poetry, it showcases the best of that, as far as I’m concerned. I want to know more about this wide-eyed cynic, and I’m dying to see what she’s written in the years since the most recent clips I’ve found…

Sneak preview:

Half – at Words With Friends from Demi Anter on Vimeo.

Introducing: Desree

Desree Photo Credit Moses Baako
Performing for the first time with us is Desree, 13:05-13:30 Friday; 16:05-16:30 Saturday . If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Desree is a spoken word artist, writer and facilitator based in both London and Slough.

“Having graduated with a 2:1 BA (Hons) in Drama Studies from De Montfort University, Desree is no stranger to the stage. An advocate for community arts and youth projects, Desree began a night called #OMN in 2014 in her home town of Slough. It was started with the aim of giving individuals of all ages and skills, opportunities and essentially encouragement. It was at #OMN that Desree performed spoken word on stage for the first time.

“Currently Artist in Residence for poetry collective EMPOWORD, and an Ambassador for MQ; Mental Health Research Charity, Desree explores intersectionality, justice and social commentary, occasionally throwing in a f*ckboy poem.

“In January 2018, Desree earned the honour of competing at the prestigious Hammer and Tongue National Finals at the one and only Royal Albert Hall. Having missed out on first place with a 9.6 compared to the winner’s 9.7, Desree is proud to have represented women of colour as one of the only two in the competition, with her poems highlighting the #BlackLivesMatter movement and Black Girl Magic.

“Desree has featured at events all over the UK and internationally, including Bowery Poetry Club, Bestival, WOMAD, Heaux Noire, Word On The Street, Sofar Sounds, Folked Up, Sunday Assembly and Greenbelt Festival alongside World Poetry Slam Champion Harry Baker, Young People’s Laureate for London Caleb Femi, award winning British poet and playwright Toby Campion and habitual slam winner Vanessa Kissuule, and supported rapper, poet, and political activist Akala at It’s In Your Head in September 2017, to name a few.

“Desree has regularly appeared as a guest alongside Bridgitte Tetteh on BBC Radio Berkshire to discuss current affairs and had her work published in Spoken Word London Anti-Hate Anthology, Mindful Seasoning Magazine and broadcasted on the television channel London Live.

“Desree has delivered a TEDx talk at Bath University titled Poetry and Self-Esteem; Finding Truth with Words, and is also, a spoken word educator and facilitator. She uses her art to engage with young people and adults in schools, youth groups, offices and organisations – anywhere with people who have a story.

“Having been commissioned alongside two other spoken word artists, to develop and write a new show with Apples & Snakes, Desree, Laura Rae and The Slam Poet, will be touring the show CROWDED, across London as part of the SPINE Festival 2019.
Following a max-capacity launch night, Desree’s self-published collection, titled I Find My Strength In Simple Things, was released in 2017 and she has her sights set on a second collection to be released in 2019 alongside a few music based projects.”

Fay’s words:

As with Toby, the first time I saw Desree perform was at Edinburgh Fringe, where she qualified (in the exact same dingy, rowdy, haunted space as where I first saw him!) in 2017 for the 2018 Hammer & Tongue National Final, much to her surprise (I got the strong impression that her triumphantly grinning friend prodded her into it!). She was streets ahead of the rest of the competitors that night, and it was really exciting to watch her rise rapidly through the two day competition of the National Final to be beaten in the very final round by only 0.1 by the eventual National Slam Champion. Every time I’ve seen her perform – either as a slammer or a featured artist at Hammer & Tongue Cambridge, she’s devastated me with her words and stage presence. She combines accessibility and gorgeous language with a strong political voice about some very important topics, and manages also to be hilariously funny when necessary. I’m really looking forward to seeing her and the blast of energy she’ll bring with her to the Festival this year.

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Toby Campion

Toby Campion
Back to perform with us is Toby Campion, 12:35-13:00 Friday; 17:40-18:05 Sunday. If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In his own words:

“Toby Campion is a UK Poetry Slam Champion and a World Poetry Slam finalist. His debut short collection, Through your Blood, was longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and his poetry was Highly Commended in the Forward Poetry Prizes 2019. Having toured the UK extensively, Toby has performed around the world, from South Korea and Albania, and his work has been featured on the BBC Radio 2 Arts Show with Jonathan Ross, BBC iPlayer, Channel 4 and more. Artistic Director of UniSlam and founder of the National Youth Poetry Showcase, Toby was one of the first resident poets of the River Thames.”

Fay’s words:

The first time I saw Toby perform was at Other Voices Spoken Word Cabaret, Edinburgh Fringe 2013. He’d stepped up to our accidentally extended open mic, a seemingly very nervous, slightly fragile young man with ice-blonde hair, a student in Edinburgh who looked incredibly young to my eyes (especially in the uncertain light of our murky venue). He then proceeded to blow everyone’s minds with the sheer power and beauty of his words (including the ThreeWeeks reviewer, who gave us five stars – I can’t imagine that was a coincidence!). Since then I’ve seen him repeatedly wow audiences in slams and features, mostly at Edinburgh Fringe, but also – happily for me – as a recent feature touring at Hammer & Tongue Cambridge. His stagecraft is immaculate, and he’s a generous and powerful performer who touches on a wide range of topics – only growing stronger in writing and performance over the past six years. I’m really looking forward to seeing him, and watching new audiences enjoy his work at the Festival!

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Courtney Conrad

Courtney Conrad
Performing for the first time with us is Courtney Conrad, 12:05-12:30 Friday; 13:45-15:10 Sunday. If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Courtney Conrad is a 23-year-old poet born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She discovered poetry whilst doing her undergraduate degree at the University of Birmingham. There she became Vice President of the Speak Out poetry society and created the Share Your Piece event, a monthly event focused around new poets sharing their stories. Whilst doing her Masters at the University of Leeds she competed at UniSlam 2018 event in Philadelphia, where she and her team received the CUPSI prize.

“She is UniSlam’s 2019 Coaches Slam Champion and Roundhouse Poetry Slam Runner-Up in 2018 and a featured performer at the UKYA City Takeover in Nottingham earlier this year. Courtney is also a member of the Poets in the City Producers programme. She has been the supporting act for American poets Buddy Wakefield and Alysia Harris. She has been mentored by Vanessa Kisuule, Toby Campion and LionHeart. Her poetry is an intricate construction of her lived experience, drawing on her hard-learned lessons with heritage, womanhood, family and race. Also, she allows her feelings to go skinny dipping offering very vulnerable and raw personal experiences on love, heartbreak and self-love.”

Fay’s words:

I confess: I’d not heard of Courtney before now, so I’ve been devouring as many YouTube videos as I can get my hands on. What I can find so far has me very excited – she has a way of drawing you into difficult, dark subjects via the everyday, and deceptively sweet or cheerful delivery. Her voice is absolutely gorgeous, whether accompanied by music or standing solo, and I urge you to experience her work in as many ways as you can. I’m really looking forward to seeing her live!

Sneak preview:

Courtney Conrad2