Interview with Dominic Berry

We sent interview forms out to our artists, and we’ll be sharing their stories here on the blog. Next up:

Dominic Berry by Scott Tyrrell

Dominic Berry by Scott Tyrrell

Your Name

Dominic Berry

Website

https://dominicberry.net/

Twitter handle

@thepoetdominic

Instagram handle

@thepoetdominic

Video

How did you get into poetry/ spoken word?

Seeing spoken word poetry being performed! Gerry Potter, Rosie Garland, Lemn Sissay … when I first moved to Manchester seeing these artists on stage.

Who are your influences/ idols?

The poets I previously mentioned, plus so many more…. The AntiPoet, Jackie Hagan, Louise Fazackerley, Thick Richard, Rosie Fleeshman, Matt Goodfellow, Matt Panesh, Keisha Thompson, Dave Viney, Avaes Mohammad, Rose Condo, Rob Auton, Scroobius Pip…. ahhhh too many to name! I’m gonna leave the list there, in the knowledge I will later kick myself at all the dozens of names I forgot to add!

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about your work?

I write about how I believe it is horrible to be horrible, and lovely to be lovely. All of my poems are about that.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in spoken word/ performance poetry?

Experience loads of performance poetry. Go to loads of events. See what other artists are doing. Its OK to dislike some stuff. Its OK to dislike stuff it seems like everyone else likes! Gain an awareness of the scene, and then be different. Influenced is cool, but different. Be true to your own voice. Don’t try to copy. Speak your truth. Write the poem that you would like to read because a poem like that would be of help to you and no one else has yet written it.

Who are you looking forward to seeing/ what are you looking forward to doing at the Festival?

All the poets on the Poetry&Words stage! I know that is an answer that sounds like what I am supposed to say, but in all sincerity, I have gained so much from sat quietly listening to the artists in that tent. It’s fantastic. How I first discovered The AntiPoet. I am a performance poet because I love performance poetry.

Have you been to Glastonbury Festival before?

Yes

What’s your stand-out memory of the Festival?

First time seeing The AntiPoet, sharing a poem I wrote about how much I loved Glastonbury Festival despite fears that big crowds wouldn’t be for me with my history of anxiety issues, dancing to Fatboy Slim, performing my vegan poem on BBC2, dancing in the mud with Sara Hirsh (a fantastic poet I want to add to my list of inspirations!), all those wonderful sculptures and the circus performers…. like the list of inspirations, I know I will read over this later and kick myself for obvious things I forgot to add!

What’s the one thing you simply must bring with you to the Festival?

Love

What advice would you give someone visiting the Festival for the first time?

Share all the fun you want, but also get all the rest you need – it’s all so amazing, but don’t burn yourself out!

Have you performed at Glastonbury Poetry&Words before?

Yes

What’s your standout memory of performing at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage?

I think I mentioned before my poem ‘Glastonbury Mud’, my poem about how loving I found it all when I was scared it’d trigger my panic being somewhere so massive and busy.

What advice would you give someone performing here for the first time?

Surround yourself with people who are lovely and share the fun. There is so much here from which to benefit, this is a festival unlike any other I have experienced. Enjoy!

What words would you use to describe your work/ your act?

poetry, performance poetry, spoken word, live literature, performance art, theatre

What do you like best about doing whatever you call whatever it is that you do on stages?

Seeing on people’s faces that a meaningful connection has been made, and hearing people chat to me afterwards about how the work has affected them.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I would love it if more poets wrote for younger children. I tour poetry to children from terribly disadvantaged starts in life, and I share inclusive, interactive poems about kindness and understanding. The political conflicts we are currently experiencing are not helped by issues in the education system. Encouraging children to express their creativity and share stuff that unites us as opposed to nurturing tribal division is hugely important. Loads of poets work with teenagers, but go into junior schools, go into infant schools, there are children eager to learn and play and think, and there are children whose capacity for compassion is not being nurtured. It is not easy writing and performing for younger people, but I believe it can be an excellent and effective tool for societal growth. I was at Glastonbury Festival when Jeremy Corbyn spoke on the Pyramid Stage about the importance of poetry for children. I’ll get off my political pedestal now, and make myself a nice cuppa – and continue to be giddy in anticipation of this year’s festival!


You can see Dominic Berry at 15:30-19:00 Friday; 11:50-15:30 Saturday; 14:30-17:00 Sunday at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage. Read our previous article about him here.

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Interview with Jackie Juno

We sent interview forms out to our artists, and we’ll be sharing their stories here on the blog. Next up:

Jackie Juno by Scott Tyrrell

Jackie Juno by Scott Tyrrell

Your Name

Jackie Juno

Website

https://jackiejuno.com/

Twitter handle

@JackieJuno

Video

Facebook Page

https://www.facebook.com/Jackie-Juno-204884346199582/

How did you get into poetry/ spoken word?

Via stand-up comedy and cabaret

Who are your influences/ idols?

Bill Bailey, Benjamin Zephaniah, Julie Mullen, Matt Harvey, Jo Brand

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about your work?

I have won awards for my page poetry as well as my performance work

What advice would you give to someone starting out in spoken word/ performance poetry?

Remain true to yourself. Go to as many live performances as you can

Who are you looking forward to seeing/ what are you looking forward to doing at the Festival?

Neneh Cherry, Lauryn Hill, Hozier, Jo Brand, John Hegley

Have you been to Glastonbury Festival before?

Yes

What’s your stand-out memory of the Festival?

Winning the Poetry Slam 2017, dancing naked on stage c1993, surviving the muddy years

What’s the one thing you simply must bring with you to the Festival?

Earplugs

What advice would you give someone visiting the Festival for the first time?

Try and stay grounded in all the madness

Have you performed at Glastonbury Poetry&Words before?

In the slam

What’s your standout memory of performing at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage?

Winning the slam 2017

What advice would you give someone performing here for the first time?

Be 100% yourself

What words would you use to describe your work/ your act?

performance poetry, stand-up poetry

What do you like best about doing whatever you call whatever it is that you do on stages?

I love to make people laugh, and cry

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I am very excited about being part of the Poetry and Words stage, I have found it such a haven of truth and safety in recent years when it all gets a bit mad, and the lineup this year is pretty stellar! I will be bringing copies of my four poetry collections for folks to take home with them, and chocolate to share 🙂


You can see Jackie Juno at 16:35-17:00 Sunday at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage. Read our previous article about her here.

Interview with Will Sanderson-Thwaite/ Gecko

We sent interview forms out to our artists, and we’ll be sharing their stories here on the blog. Next up:

Gecko by Scott Tyrrell

Gecko by Scott Tyrrell

Your Name

Will Sanderson-Thwaite

Name of Act

Gecko

Website

http://geckoofficial.com

Twitter handle

@geckoofficial

Instagram handle

@geckoofficial

Video

http://youtube.com/geckoofficial

Audio

Spotify

Facebook Page

http://facebook.com/geckoband

How did you get into poetry/ spoken word?

The Apples & Snakes open mic Jawdance at the rich mix in Hackney was my entry point into this wonderful world. I come from a music background where open mic has very different connotations and I was absolutely blown away by the warmth and energy of the place.

Who are your influences/ idols?

Randy Newman

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about your work?

There might be some audience participation!

Who are you looking forward to seeing/ what are you looking forward to doing at the Festival?

I’m ridiculously excited to see Stormzy headline.

Have you been to Glastonbury Festival before?

Yes

What’s your stand-out memory of the Festival?

Playing after Billy Bragg in the Green Fields. Not only that playing after Billy Bragg closing with a Bob Dylan song. No pressure!

What’s the one thing you simply must bring with you to the Festival?

Vocalzones

What advice would you give someone visiting the Festival for the first time?

Explore off the beaten track, try not to have too much planned so you can be free!

Have you performed at Glastonbury Poetry&Words before?

No

What words would you use to describe your work/ your act?

poetry, spoken word, music, multidisciplinary entertainment

What do you like best about doing whatever you call whatever it is that you do on stages?

Building up trust with an audience so that you can become more playful with them as the show goes on.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I will have some CDs of my album Volcano with me if anyone would like to support that dying medium.


You can see Gecko at 15:35-16:00 Saturday; 14:45-15:10 Sunday at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage. Read our previous article about him here.

Interview with Luke Wright

We sent interview forms out to our artists, and we’ll be sharing their stories here on the blog. First up:

Luke Wright by Scott Tyrrell

Luke Wright by Scott Tyrrell

Your Name

Luke Wright

Website

http://www.lukewright.co.uk

Twitter handle

@lukewrightpoet

Instagram handle

@lukewrightpoet

Video

Audio

Facebook Page

http://www.facebook.com/mrlukewright

How did you get into poetry/ spoken word?

I saw Ross Sutherland, Martin Newell and John Cooper Clarke do a gig in Colchester and knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life performing poems on stage.

Who are your influences/ idols?

This year I’ve been mostly listening to Aldous Harding.

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about your work?

I did it all myself without any help from my mum.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in spoken word/ performance poetry?

Read widely, watch widely.

Who are you looking forward to seeing/ what are you looking forward to doing at the Festival?

Mik Artistik

Have you been to Glastonbury Festival before?

Yes

What’s your stand-out memory of the Festival?

Aged 17, Performing poems down a megaphone at the stone circle. It sound unlikely but people cheered.

What’s the one thing you simply must bring with you to the Festival?

A good quality pair of rubber boots

What advice would you give someone visiting the Festival for the first time?

You’ll never see all of it so relax and play it by ear. It’s not about the bands.

Have you performed at Glastonbury Poetry&Words before?

Yes

What’s your standout memory of performing at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage?

Not that I’m advocating such behaviour but one year I was very very drunk. But I remembered all the words to a 9 minute ballad and then had a great game of football with some kids backstage before passing out in the sun.

What advice would you give someone performing here for the first time?

They’re not leaving because they hate you, it’s that the Foo Fighters are on.

What words would you use to describe your work/ your act?

poetry

What do you like best about doing whatever you call whatever it is that you do on stages?

My life is my job.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

It’s my 20th anniversary this month. 20 years since my first gig. Almost to the day!


You can see Luke Wright at 16:35-17:00; Saturday at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage. Read our previous article about him here.

Introducing: Helen and Benita Johnson, Organisers of Glastonbury Poetry&Words

The Johnsons, by Scott Tyrrell

The Johnsons, by Scott Tyrrell

Time to tell you something about the history of the stage, and thereby Helen Johnson, who’ll be there with partner Benita every day, barring a natural disaster! If they’re new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In Helen’s own words:

“The Poetry&Words stage was set up in 1992 by Pat V T West. It started off in a yurt and then moved quickly to a small stage in the corner of the Green Fields. Just before her untimely death in 2008 Pat called me to her flat in Clifton to ask me if I would take over the stage. To say I was taken aback would be a massive under-statement. I had absolutely no idea that was coming! At the time, I was in the midst of my PhD, juggling that with a full-time teaching job. I had no idea how I could possibly run a festival stage too, but you just can’t say no to that!

“So I said yes – on condition that the infrastructure was sorted out for me. (No arriving two weeks’ before to a bare patch of grass for me; I needed the tent up already!) So it was that the Poetry&Words stage moved to Theatre and Circus, who had a tent they would house us in for a few hours a day; a tent, as it turned out, that was several times the size of Poetry&Words Mark I.

“That first year, before I headed off to a conference in Saskatoon, Canada, I packed two bags – one for Canada and one for Glastonbury. After the conference, I got back to my house, had a shower, switched bags and caught the train to the festival! I had a skeleton crew that first year and ran much of it myself – compering, performing, organising etc, alongside a few helpers and poets. By the Sunday, I was so exhausted by jet lag and festival fever that I literally fell asleep on my feet (to quite a lively band, as it happens!)

“Anyway, fast forward to 2010. The stage now ran all day and I had a full crew to help me with it (having discovered the wonders of delegation). At the time, I was performing my poetry as part of the duo, Yaffle, with musician, Benita Johnson. I invited Benita along to perform with me at the festival. Two years later we were married (not something, I can assure you, that happens with everyone I book, though we did get engaged at the festival in 2011).

“When we had our son, Jake, in 2015, Benita stood in for me as stage manager, and I had the pleasure of attending as a punter for only the third time ever, along with our 6 week old boy. Benita proved to be so adept at running the stage, that we’ve worked together on it ever since. I suspect that Jake won’t be far behind. He helped me laminate Scott Tyrrell’s bunting this year, talking to each of the poets as they went through the laminator. (Some were told off for being naughty, but most, you’ll be pleased to hear, behaved well and made friends with him on their journey.)”

Reviews:

“Her sparkling witty poetry is continuing to wow audiences on the performance poetry circuit.” ~ Three Tuns Poetry

“…poignant yet sultry and stirring, complex and sweet.” ~ Everton Hartley

“She glides and canters over hills and vales of words leaving a landscape of language hanging on the wall of your mind.” ~ Mal Travers, Acoustic Night

“Like Ani DiFranco on steroids.” ~ Bob (happy audience member at a Yaffle performance)

Fay Other people’s words:

I really wanted to highlight the folk who make this all possible. It turns out we haven’t heard explicitly from Helen since Scott’s interview in 2015, so it felt like time! In a total cop-out, I canvassed those poets who I know who’ve worked with Helen (and Benita) in the past. They have this to say:

“These two create, curate, and nurture one of the most unique stages at Glasto – a true space for listeners to open themselves or take a quiet breath among the chaos. The two of them create life changing experiences for poets – I can genuinely say going to Glasto, my first ever gig in the U.K., was transformative – and it was thanks to them.” – Erin Fornoff

“How hard Helen and Benita work for make P&W happen is indescribable by even a billion villanelles!

“Loadsa folks believe these things ‘just happen’, they don’t consider how much organisation it takes to make it happen. That attitude is the greatest sign the event is well managed, cos most people only notice when stuff goes wrong. P&W is a Glastonbury Festival staple any poet worth their sonnets is proud to shout about being on the team.

“Helen has deeply studied the art of performance poetry, she knows what makes a solid stanza, and her love for our art is evident in all she achieves.

“Long may P&W’s flags triumphantly fly!” – Dominic Berry

“I met Helen around 2003, when we were both part of the Bristol poetry scene, and when Pat West was still the P&W boss. The stage has grown and diversified so dramatically in the years since Helen’s been at the helm and I’m so glad to still be a part of it now, and to see her and her growing family (and amazing thigh-bum-bag thing) pottering gloriously around the site!” – Rosy Carrick

“We met Helen and Benita at Larmer Tree festival in 2011. I had submitted The Antipoet for Glastonbury, along with a couple of thousand other people that year. I had never seen so much negativity on social media before! Many people that realised they hadn’t been chosen were angry and expressed themselves accordingly. I felt I needed to address the balance and simply wrote on line, that even though they hadn’t been selected, that they would happily step in if anyone had a problem at the last minute and thanked them for all their hard work and wished them good luck with it all. A few similar responses appeared after mine and the ‘angries’ petered out. I received a response a couple of days later stating that yes, I was correct in thinking that they hadn’t got Glastonbury but would they be interested in Larmer Tree, another poetry Stage that Helen ran? Yes please! They did it, had a ball and found a great fan base that saw them being asked to play there every year since. I didn’t give up submitting to Glastonbury and the next year when they were given the second opportunity to play Larmer Tree, they were pleased but Ian simply acknowledged my text notifying them with a, ‘lovely, I guess that means no Glastonbury’. I said, ‘never say never’ and a few weeks afterwards we were told they had been successful in applying for Poetry and Words as well that year! I cannot put into words how happy they both were as I’m the manager and they’re the creatives but I can still remember the look on Paul’s face when I read out the email over breakfast. He never did finish that boiled egg.

“Having done that I realise it’s more how they all got together than about Helen and Benita themselves 😮 It just all came flooding back. The fact that they’re lovely people, who have a stupidly hard job sorting through submissions every year and juggling poets that can really handle festivals and create a good mix across the board in all areas whilst looking for performers they know that can trust to turn up and do the job should be forgotten either.” – Donna Ray, Manager of The Antipoet

“Both Helen and Benita have thrown themselves into the gargantuan task of getting a world class lineup together every single year. A lineup that flows and wows seamlessly and effortlessly over 3 days. They’ve worked hard to get a first class backstage team to grease the wheels, and they have an unerring eye for spotting talent and giving them a platform at the world’s greatest outdoor festival. The likes of Luke Wright, Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish all started out being picked for Poetry&Words when they were bright, young, hungry things. And I personally have huge gratitude for being allowed to have plied both my love of illustration and spoken word at such an amazing place regularly over the years. I am truly in their debt.” – Scott Tyrrell


I’m really looking forward to finally meeting Helen and Benita in person later this month and telling them in person what an amazing job they do! ♥

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Glastonbury Festival Poetry Slam, hosted by Brian McMahon Gallagher and Thunderclap Murphy


And to finish everything off is the famous Glastonbury Festival Poetry Slam, 17:00-19:00 Sunday. If it’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

Important points the organisers would like you to note:

  • Sign ups are once the tent opens on site (11:30 Friday 28th). No early sign ups. Nope, not even for you!
  • Booked poets can’t perform in either this or the open mic, so this is a chance to air/ hear new voices.
  • 12 poets for sign up plus 3 reserves.
  • Poets don’t have to memorise poems, but memorisation will be credited.
  • If you’ve signed up for the competition, you must present yourself at the side stage by 16:50 on the day or you will lose your spot.
  • The five judges will be a cross section of poets/ musicians/ performance artists, with the weighting being on poets. i.e. 3 poets, 1 musician, 1 other performance type person.
  • The slam prizes are: a spot in next year’s programme, and an awesome unique trophy designed by Pete Hunter of Apples & Snakes (see photos above).

Brian MacMahon Gallagher and Thunderclap Murphy will be your hosts, and their decisions re: any of the above administrative points will be final.

Fay’s words:

I love me a slam. My first introduction to performance poetry that wasn’t in Welsh/ someone else’s words/ both was watching my brother, and other competitors, slam in what turned out to be one of the earliest UK slams in Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre in the mid-90s. Of course, competitive poetry recitation is something we Welsh had been doing for centuries (see Chairing of the Bard, and the modern Welsh Eisteddfodau tradition for examples – yes, 200 years old is the modern version…), but this was dynamic, and sharp, and immediate and – more importantly – democratic; each event’s bard chosen by the acclaim of the people.

Almost exactly three years after I moved to England to the day, I entered a slam for the first time, mostly as a favour to a friend. It was a bit of a turning point. Say what you like about slams (and I have), but they’re an amazing way into poetry for a lot of people – performers and punters. I’ve been running slams for {checks memory; whoa!} twelve years now, and am showing no signs of stopping. People bring something unique and adrenaline-fuelled to slams, and the audience gets very invested in the outcome. This year’s Glastonbury Poetry&Words Slam will be no exception, with a pretty amazing prize plus epic bragging rights. I’m looking forward more than I can say to the finale of this year’s Glastonbury Poetry&Words!

Introducing: Winston Plowes, Walkabout Poet

Winston Plowes2
Back to perform with us is Winston Plowes, Every day. If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In his own words:

“Winston Plowes shares his floating home in Calderdale UK with his 16-year-old cat, Sausage. He teaches creative writing in schools, universities and to local groups while she dreams of Mouseland. His latest collection Tales from the Tachograph was published jointly with Gaia Holmes in 2018 by Calder Valley Poetry.”

Spoke~n~Word

“The world’s first random poetry generating bicycle.”

“Step right up and Spin the wheels! Create the inspiration for your very own be-spoke poetic creation and amaze yourself with hitherto unknown poetic powers with the aid of this new and remarkable invention of Mr Winston H. Plowes B.Eng. MSc. CTC.”

Fay’s words:

I know very little about Winston Plowes, beyond his recurring role as an inspiration installation and interactive attraction at Glastonbury’s Theatre & Circus area. Onward to the video archives!

Wow. Okay, the first thing to say is that encapsulating this artist’s work in a simple paragraph or two is going to be… challenging! Never mind different types of poetry, this is not a man to stick to one artform, or discipline, when he can combine engineering, juggling, music, clowning, and words. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that this would lead to a dilution of talent and, frankly aggravatingly, you’d be terribly wrong. Mr. Plowes performs physical feats that make my wrists and knees creak to watch. As at home with an audience of children as adult literati, he has everyone engaged from the moment he steps into view. And in case you were thinking that all his poetry would be humorous, or filled with easy rhymes, think again, because the man also writes gorgeous, tightly crafted verse, including one of my favourite poetry forms – and one very difficult to pull off well – the Ghazal. (In fact – I’ve just gone and checked, and it turns out that it was his guide to writing them that got me writing them in the first place! Small world, poetry…)

I’m not sure which Winston we’ll get to witness at any given time, but I’m secretly hoping for something of everything he is. What a treat that would be!

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Jackie Juno, 2017 Slam Winner

Jackie Juno
Back to perform with us is Jackie Juno, 16:35-17:00 Sunday. If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Jackie Juno is primarily a comedic poet, known for her dynamic stage presence and outspoken views on matters political, environmental and social, somehow managing to make such subjects hilarious; but her material can also be tender, sensuous and confessional.

“She is the current Glastonbury Festival Poetry Slam champion, and a multiple slam winner, including the Plymouth Literary Festival slam (2017) and the Green Gathering slam (2016). She was a contender in the National Poetry Slam Finals at the Albert Hall, 2018.

“She hosts ‘Outspoken!’ monthly Poetry Open Mic night in Chagford, Devon, and HOOT! Cabarets in various venues in Devon.

“She has performed her poetry at two TEDx Talks.

“She was chaired Bard of Exeter 2011-12 and Grand Bard 2012-19.

“She has been a finalist in many international poetry competitions, including Arvon, Writing Magazine and the Ledbury prize.”

Reviews:

‘Jackie Juno is the arts school, leopard skin wearing rock chick. Her poetry hits you like a slap in the face from a pink handbag. There is plenty to laugh out loud at here but underneath the swagger is a gentler sensibility that gives the performance a soft heart. Her observations of life are witty, poignant and full of social message.’
Lucy English, Performance poet and novelist

‘Jackie Juno’s voice will boogie, shimmy and sashay its way into your head – her words are hellbent and irresistible: listen up!’
Chris Waters, Poet, Through a Glass, Lately, (Mudlark 2014)

‘Jackie is warm and witty, frank and feisty, but above all, very very funny.’
Matt Harvey, Poet (Radio 4)

Fay’s words:

I’ve only seen Jackie perform once, to my memory – at the Hammer & Tongue National Final about 18 months ago. Since I’m usually locked into scoring and timing (and updating the presentation), poetry details tend to slide, but she made an impression that’s stuck with me. I remember properly laughing for possibly the first time that day, and feeling somewhat refreshed by her unique presence. Surfing YouTube serves to remind me why: Jackie occupies a different mould from the standard (London, under 25s) “slam voice”, and she manages that difficult task of hiding important things to say in comedy rhyming verse. (Don’t get me wrong: the London slam scene is vibrant, exciting, and important, and some of my favourite poets – and people – are part of it, but poetry’s a broad church, and it always feels to me like gaining an important nutritional element when I see and hear something different at a slam!) She also has a deceptively light voice that is actually a rich and confident alto. Her stage presence is commanding and assured, and she is very easy to listen to (in the best way!). Looking forward to seeing her make a triumphant return to Glastonbury Poetry&Words as a result of winning the GP&W 2017 slam.

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Vanessa Kisuule, Poet in Residence

Vanessa Kisuule - Credit Ailsa Fineron
Back to perform with us is Vanessa Kisuule, 16:05-16:30 Sunday. If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Vanessa Kisuule is a writer and performer based in Bristol, UK. She has won over ten slam titles including The Roundhouse Slam 2014, Hammer and Tongue National Slam 2014 and the Nuoryican Poetry Slam. She has been featured on BBC iPlayer, Radio 1, and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, The Guardian, Blue Peter, Sky TV, Don’t Flop and TEDx. She has performed up and down the country and internationally in Vienna, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Bangladesh, Barcelona, Oslo, Finland, Romania, New York and Brazil. She has two poetry collections published by Burning Eye Books: Joyriding The Storm (2014) and A Recipe For Sorcery (2017). She was the recipient of The Jerwood Micro Arts Bursary and The Leverhulme Arts Scholarship in 2017 and her one woman show SEXY toured with the support of Arts Council England in 2017/18. She is currently the Bristol City Poet for 2018 – 2020.”

Fay’s words:

I have been watching Vanessa perform in a variety of places since 2012. I’m fairly sure that the first was a feature slot for Other Voices Spoken Word Cabaret at Edinburgh Fringe. She was in town, we needed a feature, someone put us in touch, and she was free – very simple, utterly wonderful for us. I like to think we provided a nice – if slightly surreal – experience in our haunted, underground cell, draped with fabrics. Only two years, as far as I can tell, into her poetry career, she was already extraordinary, and I’ve only seen her progress in stagecraft, energy, focus, and talent over the years, counting myself excessively fortunate to see her on stages in Edinburgh, London and Cambridge multiple times.

She won major slams fairly continuously from 2010 to 2014, and – like many major slam winners – isn’t “just” a slam poet: her range is breathtaking. She has a real gift for crafting work across the whole of the spoken word spectrum, from the gorgeously intimate and touching, through the powerfully rallying cry, to the unspeakably hilarious, but always, always important.The last nine years have seen her win the Hammer & Tongue National Slam Championship (2014, joint with Layla Josephine), among other titles; play at a slew of major festivals; have two works published by Burning Eye Books; turn up on the BBC (I squeaked very loudly and dragged my partner to watch it on the TV); tour her solo show, Sexy (which I’m gutted not to have seen yet); become Bristol City Poet; and also trounce various rappers under the stage name Shonda Rhymez.

She’s a powerful force for good – an outspoken, sex-positive, proud feminist who pulls no punches whichever power structure she’s lambasting with an exacting vocabulary. I’m so excited to get to see her later this month, and find out what poetry she’s written as part of her Glastonbury residency.

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Joe Sellman-Leava, Sunday showcase: Monster

Joe Sellman-Leava
Back to perform with us is Joe Sellman-Leava, 15:15-16:00 Sunday. If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In his own words:

‘This is a story about a boy. And a girl. Some of it’s true. Some of it isn’t. But I’m not going to tell you which is which.’

“Following the success of the multi award-winning Labels (Winner: Scotsman Fringe First), internationally acclaimed Worklight Theatre present a startling new play about the conflicting masculinities we perform. Writer-performer Joe Sellman-Leava blends together vastly different voices (including Mike Tyson, Patrick Stewart and Shakespeare!) into a one-man epic where heroes clash with villains, men become monsters, and truth and fiction collide.

“Joe Sellman-Leava is an actor and writer from Devon, based in London. His plays Labels and Monster have toured the UK and internationally since 2015. He is currently writing a new play, Mosley & Me, about British Fascism, and recently finished touring with Rain Man (Bill Kenwright). Joe is also Worklight Theatre’s artistic director, with whom he has co-written several plays including How to Start a Riot and Fix.”

Reviews:

★★★★ “Brimming with earnest, intelligent energy and jumping between threads seamlessly, deftly reconstructing scenes, arguments and interviews with nothing but a pair of red steel chairs for a set” The Stage
★★★★★ “Beautifully written… a stellar performance” West End Wilma
★★★★★ “a powerful and timely exploration of masculinity in crisis” Theatre Bubble

Fay’s words:

Setting myself this challenge to write something about each of the artists performing at Glastonbury Poetry&Words from my own perspective has got me questioning a few of my assumptions: 1. That everyone on the stage would be a performance poet/ spoken word artist of some kind. 2. Everyone would have a few videos lying around the internet that I could have a look at – and, more pertinently, listen to – so I could gain a solid impression of them and their work. 3. Okay, audio, then. Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Bandcamp, BBC, podcasts…?

Darn. Well, we live and learn. Or vice versa…

Anyway, most of Joe Sellman-Leava’s videos on YouTube are in relation to his show Labels (well-crafted trailers and crowd-funding updates for the most part), and suddenly all my assumptions fall under the heading: ironically meta. Amused chagrin aside, this is what I’ve learned: JSL has a voice and a directness of presence that had me doing a double-take during the first part of a 20 minute excerpt of Labels when he tells the audience that he’s 25. That seems far too young for the assured performance I’m witnessing (despite the ages of many of the recent Hammer & Tongue finalists, for example, let alone a fair number of our artists this year, it seems that my age is showing… more meta-irony?). It turns out that his voice (in various senses of the word) is also incredibly fluid, switching up accents, tone, and straight-up impersonations with an eerie speed. His main performance is earnest and deceptively straightforward, a well-crafted likeable nervousness slowly revealing well-honed anger, compassion, and determination leading to a meticulous, nuanced interrogation of the underlying factors leading to society’s labelling, compartmentalising, and assumptions, particularly with regard to race. I didn’t finish watching the excerpt of Labels for the slightly complex reason that I was enjoying it far too much and abruptly realised that I didn’t want to find I’d committed to something I was doomed in the ambition to experience in its entirety. As it was, nearly fifteen minutes had passed by and it felt like five at most. He speaks and writes with a regard for the rhythm and texture of language that demonstrates his spoken word influences, which is bound to make this piece of theatre another excellent fit for P&W, and I, for one, am very much looking forward to watching Monster later this month.

Sneak preview: