Sunday Part 1


One last time for pre-show act The Antipoet, kicking us off with typical bombast, then, three tracks in, they announce a Serious Poem – It’s Not Guns That Kill People. They ask if they should try doing more serious stuff, and the crowd absolutely concur. The moody bass rumble and the backing track add to the atmosphere of the rant against the NRA their ilk. Next comes their tribute to their sadly departed mate Tony, who they met at Glastonbury (Martial Artist Physiotherapist). By the time that’s done, the swelling crowd lap it up, chuckling and cheering. While Ian has finally donned his spiky, patent high-heels boots and basque on in this tent, Paul strips off for They’ve Got To Learn, an enthusiastic defence of the power of profanity. The lads’ partners join them to help the audience out with a set of cue cards with the extraordinary words written on them. The audience manage very well to chime in at the right time. Then crowd favourite I Like Girls kicks off (and I’m invited to grant the audience a alternative (queer, non-binary) perspective, as has become traditional over the years). They finish with a round of thanks to everyone, the flourish of new album title track Punk Uncle, and a roar of glorious cheers.

Compere Rosy Carrick takes to the stage in dungarees and revelations about her morning ablutions. She then gives a rousing, touching introduction to… oh, wait, it’s me…

Blogger Fay Roberts takes to the stage. To say I’m nervous would be understating this tremendously… And then I do my usual opening piece, Blissful Chance, and it turns out I do know what I’m doing, and the smallness and passivity of the audience and the loud drag yoga on the Sensation Seekers stage doesn’t phase me (though that’s quite the leotard!), and I’m grateful, in retrospect that my first appearance on the stage was with The Antipoet, because it’s only another festival stage and I know how to do this, and the key thing is not to let people know you’re bricking it.

The beautiful soul that’s Dominic Berry took some lovely photos and videos, and here they are (well, one of them – we’re experiencing a small problem with videos… they’ll come later)

We have a surprise guest (for complicated reasons – I won’t bore you), Australian artist Omar Mousa. His bars glitters across the beat of the outside, tackling Australian culture and toxic masculinity. I am in an adrenalin come-down, and busy signing the one book I’ve sold, so I don’t take in much, but I am going to look him up later, not least for stepping in at the last minute for reasons that… well…

Shama Rahman takes to the stage amidst a tangle of technicians and wires and instruments and cases and musicians and busy-ness (an audience member tells us he’d “rather be warm than Wu-Tang” in response to Rosy’s request for expansion on why he didn’t like their “mostly karaoke” set last night. I was busy having a loneliness and exhaustion melt-down, but I heard their chants and oddly congruent backing tracks while trying to settle down). Rosy performs her Arnold Schwarzenegger poem from Friday, then, the musicians being unready, another one I’ve not heard before, about the awkwardness of holding hands (called, oddly enough, Holding Hands).

The band launch as swiftly as possible into their truncated set with Ships In The Night, which passes through at least three different musical genres that I can count in dizzying profusion. Shama tells us that all her songs start as poems, and the next one is another person’s poem, which translates as Matchstick – “It’s a revolution song… don’t underestimate the power of a single matchstick – it could burn your whole house down…” I assume it’s in an Indian dialect (I’ll check later). She then gives us the title track from her latest album: Truth Be Told, the one with the glorious dance (the one I had in my head as (I Sing To Myself) Song To The Sea, as that’s a repeated refrain). And the synaesthesia shivers kick off for me with the beautifully dissonant ripples of instrumentation, and her voice dances between ribbons of mystical shimmers with an almost forceful, rock-inflected delivery. (I find myself forgiving her for sitting on my beloved cajon, which I unwisely left on the stage after its brief appearance with The Antipoet). The final track (All In Your Mind?) is yet another genre, the sitar and bass snarling under her chanted, almost rapped lyrics. The sound technician outdoes himself, giving her almost more reverb than is decent (almost!), and the growl of poem-song draws more intrigued audience members. Let’s hope they stay through the inevitable disentangling (and me retrieving my drum) to watch the next act!

Murray Lachlan Young takes to the stage, introduced as “the suavest man in existence”, which he grins at (and somehow manages that with faded, black jeans, a nondescript top, and flip-flops – it’s probably partly the voice, and partly really suiting silvering hair), asking us to bring the energy up with applause for ancient nomadic structure, recently emptied compost toilets, the benevolent part of Universal Consciousness, then a series of things that no-one likes or wants to applause. Then bongos. “Tippy-tappy-tip-tap-tap” he demands from the audience, which they’re, well, a little too listless to engage with. It melds into a series of rhythmic portraits of festival clichés, followed by a query: should we have a national referendum about the thong (men, wearing thongs, specifically). Young men flee towards to the end, and he weaves that into his outro. According to his recent reading, the tipping point has come: Britain has more famous people than normal people. He gives us a poems mostly using the words known and unknown, which growls and keen through the full range of his amazing voice. Honestly, his voice has only got more theatrical and astonishing over the years since my brother and I first stared at him on late night 90s TV. He goes on to rhythmically pillory one of P Diddy’s more outrageous antics in something uncomfortably close to an impersonation of a stereotyped, young person of colour. Avoiding going to the loo has apparently reached new, dark levels (eating charcoal tablets to avoid defecation until the person takes a laxative). The toilet talk continues. Horrific mentions of despair and death concerning Glastonbury history… with regard to defecation. Again, I’m struck with the phenomenon of headliners talking more between pieces than doing pieces. The Voice of a Portaloo follows, almost inevitably.

Someone tried to crash out in his tent, which is near the naked male sauna, where he did a naked gig, including the next piece: Tae A Scrotum (yes, in the style – and accent – of Rabbie Burn). I snigger helplessly. I won’t lie. We finish with the “erotic folk song poem” Dogging – what folk songs aren’t singing about, apparently, but should. “You’ll be pleased to know there’s a singalong chorus: And a-dogging I will go/ Oh, a-dogging I will go”). It’s a tour of the UK as seen through the medium of carparks.

(Yes, I got a selfie. What?!)

Courtney Conrad takes to the stage in a floaty, open black dress combo with big, pale flowers interweaving on it (yes, I’m still noticing clothes – don’t @ me, as they say). Her delivery is even stronger than her first performance on Friday. It’s a very similar set to that one, but with some I didn’t hear last time, and the usual enjoyment of summoning up other moments I’d not captured then. Maybe I’m in a different place myself today, but I hear more strongly the intensity of both her love and despair for her family and cultures, the difficulties of language and translation of Otherness within Otherness. It’s brave and quiet and a gritted teeth sharing of brutal, beautiful truths.

(I missed taking a photo of her. Sorry!)

Jonny Fluffypunk is greeted with an “Edinburgh Fringe size of audience” so, to the sound technician’s mild disquiet, he drags the mic and stand into the auditorium, but luckily he knows what he’s doing when it comes to sound equipment and feedback, so no horrific feedback ensues. “If you were here yesterday, you’ll learn a valuable lesson about the craft of seemingly spontaneous banter.” And then goes on to start with a very similar rant, minus the rock ’n’ roll bit, then a different kick-off poem – his ode to coffee, which breaks the fourth wall at nearly every other line, asking for audience participation to better complete the fourth line in the spelling section gifted to him by Oxford: “F – Fuck Tea!” (we end up with “Filtered, frothy, fumigates my brain…”). It’s reached that point of the festival where nearly everyone references the toilets… To be fair, they get emptied halfway through JFP’s set, adding a distinctive fragrance to proceedings. And, like the drifting whiff of human marsh gas, I wander out of the tent to make myself a sandwich. I’m sure the set ended well, though.

Friday Part 1

And we’re off! pre-show act The Antipoet kick us off with their patented Glastonbury track We Are The Warm-Up to a surprisingly crowded tent for this time of the morning on the first day. People are already signing up for the slam and the open mic. The set collapses and they shrug. They bounce, gyrate, and greet the audience with words and gestures, beckoning grins and nods and cheers drom the assembly. Topics covered include: politics, proper tea, festivals (and their alternatives), an elegy for a friend, and hipster grammar. The tent feels properly warmed now!

Compere Rosy Carrick takes to the stage like a glamorous poetry beacon in shades of flames to introduce the next section, inducing the audience to cheer like they’re watching Bowie in 2000, making a Mexican Wave of sound.

Scott Tyrrell has set up his easel, supported by son Toby, here for the first time. He’ll be live-illustrating proceedings, fighting the high winds that are keeping us all cool in the tent and the stage set unfortunately so mobile!

Courtney Conrad takes to the stage after a rousing introduction, letting us know that she kicked off her poetry writing after a break-up. Her set covers the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, religion, migration, and always being Other. We’re plunged immediately into the intimacy of family and clothes-fitting. I’m sure people have rhapsodised ad nauseam about the liquid, hypnotic mellowness of her voice, but it’s hard not to when it manages to support the intense combination of gentle yet frustrated, determined, emotional, yet almost academic words with its constant ripple, an incredibly articulate storyteller in English and Jamaican dialect. She chooses to redo early piece One Love with a better rendition (and breaks my heart with smiles and sadness combined), and honestly I wish more poets had that confidence and commitment to quality. Call me a fan!

Rosy and Vanessa Kisuule exchange happy banter about matching shorts (“I hate to objectify, but mate, you look banging!”) Rosy manages to squeeze in a poem from her latest collection about trainspotting (Ferroequinology). It is a species of frankly uncomfortably erotic, difficult and unusual and textured with the kind of words that trigger my synaesthesia.

Toby Campion takes to the stage in fantastic dungarees to a rock ’n’ roll track and kicks off with what he describes as a poem written the last time he was here, after seeing Adele, describing it as his own Adele Moment. He captures the audience immediately, then exchanges Midlands banter with an enthusiastic section of the crowd before going on to read from his book about his childhood, dropping us into the middle of a series of intimate word portraits of growing up queer in Leicester. His skill has only grown in the time I’ve known him – both words and stagecraft, and the audience are enraptured as the sequence of sketches slots into place. After this more family intimacy, grief, and humour. It takes and keeps everyone who listens. After the poem about his father’s terminal illness, he gives the audience a moment to take them through some studied breaths. If more artists took the time to practise radical care of their audiences, thw world would be a better place. And then his drunken, unedited poem, breaking the fourth wall with wrist-bitingly hysterical images. Clever, heartfelt poetry competing with a brass band and some ground-vibrating bass beats? He wins.

Rosy borrows my £5 flannel shirt against the chill of the wind. I don’t blame her – it’s an excellent shirt.

Desree takes to the stage like an explosion, with a series of pugilistic poems about #MeToo, gentrification, relationships, gender, toxic/ fragile masculinity, body image, race, privilege, abuse of power (and complicity), and all the important things to get angry about. Anyone who can make a list poem (an overused and all-too-often rubbish form) sing and dance, with quick feet and lightning punches deserves as much love and admiration as we can give them! Her poetry manages rapid-fire rage, clever allusion, and a glorious use of language and compassion and observation. She also uses trigger warnings to bring us into her piece about R. Kelly – well-needed and reminds me why I’ve bought into TW and CW – it gives people the option to leave or stay (literally or metaphorically), and allows us to protect our bruises.

Rosy gives us an ode to Arnold Schwarzenegger, letting us know that she’s hoping to build her body in a similar fashion… More double-entendre and angry eroticism, this time combined with the frustration of PhD writing.

Demi Anter takes to the stage in a teeshirt made by her father of her at the age of two. She warns the audience that they may hear things that upset them, but that the teeshirt will hopefully make them happy. She has a very specific stage presence I associate with American spoken word poets – crafted and confessional, borrowing from theatre and standup – but without that staleness and fake intimacy that I also preemptively associate with it (like a massive snob? probably), if that makes sense. She tackles love (self- and others), mental health, eating disorders, confidence, art-making, and family, and has longer intros than any of the other poets so far. The explicitness of the language sneaks up on you, broadsides of orgasms and trebuchets of sweary rage among the gentle intimacy. Her final piece lampoons Californian artist culture and DIY culture and Valley Girl speech, while at the same time being deeply personal and factual like a terrifying dating profile.

Liv Torc takes to the stage and we’re straight into family intimacy, and immediately afterwards the graphic, terrifying realities of childbirth, name-checking fictional, kick-arse heroines and bombarding us with visceral imagery and glorious wordplay, followed up by the lubricous romance of the damp patch. The ugly-beautiful realities of family life continue with a Kennings-laden piece about sharing a family bed that you can frankly smell! Family is the theme overall – connection and love and the physical texture of it. (She further wins my heart with a piece about hair and hands and genetic and cultural heritage, even though, for me, I’m the end of that particular line of curl and strength and stubbornness.) She ends, of course, with That Poem – the one about three generations and the legacy of a cluttered Earth – which still has the power to bring tears to the eye and throat (including her own). The arrival at the far entrance of people who are litter-picking is one of those Festival Magic moment.

Scott is still battling the wind, sketching Demi while Liv performs.

Somehow, despite this being a) a Festival, b) a stage of poets, we’re running under time. So Rosy yanks Luke Wright up to the stage. This is the most dressed-down I’ve ever seen the dandy wordsmith, but he grabs the opportunity to strut out an excessively impressive univocalism about North-South cultural differences.

Ana Paz takes to the stage with an abundance of energy, plunging into the intimacy of the audience with mic in hand, demanding that we exchange passion with a refrain of “I continue to fight”. After Luke and The Antipoet, she’s the most physically dynamic of the performers so far, combining lyricism and wild, wide, high imagery with the pace and punchiness of hip-hop. The performance is like dance – and, unlike many poets, especially those who use fast-paced urban rhythms, she lets the flow breathe. She isn’t afraid of pauses, floating silences louder than the (utterly unremitting) clamour outside the tent. She repeatedly thanks the audience for their energy and attention. It’s the quietest part of the day so far for the stage – an unfortunate period for someone who’s so very dynamic. But she switches pace down to one about grief and despair, the kind of helplessness that can lead to an end. She tells us that performance (and all art?) is about finding a mirror in each other. I’m totally stealing that phrase. Random people hug each other to her words, overwhelmed as she finishes talking about why she writes (and much of that appears to be to fill the gaps and inequities in our current cultural models of “truth”). Fabulous stuff, and I’m hoping she has a larger audience (and at least as equally enthused!) for her next performance with us.

Thunderclap Murphy takes to the stage, bringing looping equipment with a maze of cables, instruments, and buttons. I take the opportunity (while Rosy conducts a quiz and Liv covers my gear – thanks, Liv!) to grab a quick dash to the toilet and my packed lunch and return exactly in time to see him start his loop of musical layers to underlay a farewell poem by war poet Alun Lewis (Goodbye, published in 1944) – guitar, flute, song, handclaps and vocal percussion. He decides to go with a hip-hop, drum ’n’ bass vibe for the next one (after teaching us a beatboxing shortcut – “born to be clever, too clever to be too clever”, if you’re interested), Match of the Day, the persistent ice cream van theme in Dublin. The guitar is dark and the flute sounds like that place where Middle-Eastern/ Spanish music meet in liquid ripples and curves. He ends with an a cappella blessing, having us all chorus Sláinte!

Interview with Courtney Conrad

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

Courtney Conrad by Scott Tyrrell

Courtney Conrad by Scott Tyrrell

Your Name

Courtney Conrad

Instagram handle

@ccpoetryyy

Video

Facebook Page

https://www.facebook.com/ccpoetryyy/

How did you get into poetry/ spoken word?

I started in my undergrad year at the University of Birmingham when I joined Speak Out Society, this was in 2015

Who are your influences/ idols?

Andrea Gibson

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

Listeners have an insight to unspoken words that have yet to be said to family, friends and lovers.

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

Never filter yourself on the basis of other’s perception of you

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

I am looking forward to seeing Ms Lauryn Hill, Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Snow Patrol Hozier, and all the poets performing

Have you been to Glastonbury Festival before?

No

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

poetry, spoken word

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

That I get one step closer to finding the courage to free myself from societal expectations that holds the true me captive

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

My set will be an intricate construction of my lived experience, drawing on my hard-learned lessons with heritage, womanhood, family and the intersections of race, religion and sexuality.


You can see Courtney Conrad at 12:05-12:30 Friday; 13:45-15:10 Sunday at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage. Read our previous article about her here.

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