Sunday Part 2

I miss compere Dominic Berry’s final first entrance of the day (look, it makes sense to me, shh) while I’m picking out the slices of bread that don’t have (visible) mould for my sandwich (nearly typed sadwich; interesting parapraxis).

Gecko takes to the stage immediately making his guitar singing like a harp. It’s his tenth performance at Glastonbury Festival 2019. “Round of applause for me still having some kind of voice!” It’s an excellent voice – all down to Vocalzones, apparently, though I suspect good rehearsal and technique, but what do I know? He’s ludicrously talented, and I don’t have the guitar vocabulary to convey it. Like all the amazing guitarists I know, his fingers tease out sounds almost unconsciously, even while he’s talking to us (I’m trying to avoid cliché here about his instrument being an extension of him; how did I do?). He’s able to switch up between performance and very spontaneous audience banter, the wit and compassion in the songs bleeding straight out into other interactions (example: the wind blows a heavy barrier over at the side and he immediately breaks off to ask: “Is everyone okay?” – seems small, but it’s classy as hell, to my mind; then goes on to make a joke about how it’s his low-tech equivalent of Stormzy’s fireworks). His songs veer between silly, passionate, meaningful, sweet, and witty, and reflect all sorts of genres (which is pretty miraculous considering he’s just one dude with a guitar. One well-engineered encore later, he leaps off the stage to perfect timing.

Dominic sits cross-legged on the stage to give us a small poem while the technicians set up for Joe around him. It’s different from his usual stuff, in metre and subject – Glastonbury and new friends. It’s just lush, and I want a copy.

Bringing us the Sunday showcase – Monster – is Joe Sellman-Leava. He enters to a slowed version of the Friends theme, and a blatter of the slogans of toxic masculinity. It’s a story about a boy and a girl, and the boy (Joe) learning something from the girl (who he won’t name), and a play (Troilus and Cressida), and confusion and violence… He immediately switches up voices quickly, which helps later with the placement of the first conversation. It’s rapid-fire and a clearly not chaotic, but definitely disorientating. Joe is talking to his girlfriend as he tries to learn lines for the play, researching male (specifically inter-gender) violence, and he switches between the conversations, the play, reminiscence of their first meeting, the research (Patrick Stewart talking about his father’s violence against his mother, Mike Tyson talking about his relationship with various women), the rehearsals, showing us how violence can underpin even the smallest of interactions (mother and father, son and mother, boyfriend and girlfriend, male director and (virtually) silent actress), and – arguably – the limitations of Method.

And then it takes a left turn into the director and Sally talking about something that appears to be this play itself, and we slalom even quicker between reminiscence, quotes/ impersonations, conversations (arguments?), Shakespearean soliloquising, rehearsal, domestic interactions, but his voicing and placement with the spare set of two fold-out chairs assist us to see it, hear it, follow it, live it. And slowly, my own fear builds until I’m catapulted out of the tent just as the insidious voice of the director pushes for Joe to do unspeakable – yet spoken, here – things to the actress? The character?

“There is a fascist, a rapist, and a monster inside all of us, because no-one is innately good.”

“I’ve lost myself, and what remains is bestial.”

The inevitable course of this series of dilemmas and conflicts spirals into a break-up.

Patrick Stewart’s story is my story. And Joe’s story is my story. And fulminating, seemingly irresistible rage doesn’t just happen to men. But they’re both right – while anger isn’t, violence is a choice. Making that choice is important, and has to be made every day if the toxic legacy is to be left behind. This is a spoken word show. It’s all true. It may not be factual but, like all good art, it’s true.

Dominic gives us another of his Glastonbury poems from his time as Poet in Residence 2017: We Are Mud. It’s glorious and fun and loving, and a perfect come-down after the intensity that’s just gone before, after he walks us through some Toby Campion-inspired deep breaths in chorus.

Poet in Residence Vanessa Kisuule takes to the stage in… well, basically, yet another fabulous, glamorous outfit. How? How?! She always looks extraordinary, and it’s, as ever, a lesson in attitude and joy in yourself making a person look magnetic. ANYWAY, she starts with one of her recent favourites: Not Worth Shaving Your Arsehole For, complete with intricate introduction. Increasingly hoarsely, she gives us a touching ode to motherhood, then one to octopodes (I love them even more now). Her grandmother puts in an appearance now, divided by speech, Vanessa not having the language of her family, but loving her through the tales and fables told. And finally, laryngitis just about failing to throttle her, a list love poem to female camaraderie – proper friends and club friends (“babes, love, and pumpkin… don’t text back, babes!”). She tells such spare, vivid stories with her gorgeously textured lyricism – this is the perfect efficiency of poetry spun by an absolute master.

2017 Glastonbury Poetry&Words Slam Winner, multiple slam-winner, and Bard of Exeter Jackie Juno floats to the stage in layers of frilly white, resembling a very happy, earthly cloud, explaining that she’s from Totness, where you’re never more than a few feet from a homeopath. She starts with a terrible tale of fluffy white lighters. This woman who advertises tarot readings in the poetry campsite and professes a great love for trees (lovely poem), calling out to Lord and Lady during it, inducing the audience into evoking the spirits of thirteen British trees, she has the older pagan’s mild disdain for modern hippy culture, especially the consumerist element. I want to ask her how she feels about Glastonbury and its many, many stalls. Maybe I will later… She gets us one-two’ing to complete her poem, complete with many terrible puns. Her enjoyment is infectious, and the audience are chuckling along, especially to her anecdote about being booked for a “mini Glyndebourne”. The rhymes that follow are a fabulous send-up of the mangled diction of the intensely upper classes.

 

Saturday Part 1

WInston Plowes with his magical contraption is set to capture words

And we’re off! pre-show act The Antipoet kick us off with their classic Glastonbury track We Are The Warm-Up – to an audience of about 40 (which is, for a poetry gig, frankly bloody amazing, let alone on a Saturday morning at a festival). By track three they’re up to 50 (Paul informs me that there are 53 and I should also count the 40 who walked away earlier – duly noted). Clearly ranty poetry in eyeliner and bondage kilts is the way of the future. The set is different, leaning into the swearier stuff they avoided yesterday, summoning a harder laughter from the audience.

Compere Dominic Berry bounds onto the stage to give a poem on the Myth of Protein. Vegans in the audience particularly love it, cackling along.

Ana Paz takes to the stage to Move On Up. She stands, silent, for a deliberately, dramatically uncomfortable while, gazes at the audience, collects herself and the witnesses, gives an impassioned piece about the martyrdom of a queer activist of colour (“When I see you, I see me.”), how activism expands into community and history, and how much we still have to fight against, in the memory of Mariana Franco (an assassinated councilwoman from Rio de Janeiro). The rest of her set echoes this, as yesterday – an articulate rage against hypocrisy, the long history of explicit and – more dangerously – implicit messages from society about structural inequity (“I paid attention when my mother told me how to season/ But when a man told me that’s where I belonged, I didn’t listen”). The audience (yes, bigger than yesterday) lap it up, and she encourages hmms and fingerclicks for the next poem where she jumps off the stage to ramp up the intimacy on the topic of truth. She explicitly engineers her set on the fly to match the energy. They are loving the darker, more contemplative stuff, so she leans into that, holding the growing numbers of in the palm of her hand.

Dominic gives us another barnstormer about veganism, with so bloody many puns about food and masculinity that we’re broadsided when it gets serious and hands us uncomfortable facts about strength and animals.

Eve Piper takes to the stage in a gloriously bright dress. Yeah, I’ve no idea how to talk about clothes, but it’s such a dramatic contrast to yesterday even I notice these things. Right, words then. She starts as before, with a query: who here is single? And who’s keeping their options open? Who’s got their eye on a potential Glastonbury mate? Someone shouts “You, Eve! It’s you!” The set is the same as before, but sounds as fresh and well-crafted as yesterday, and the audience are as hooked, while I tug new favourite moments from the welter of words.

Liv Torc is now hosting the Open mic, kicking us off with verve, and a well-honed delivery of the guidelines (one poem only, don’t go over time or the kazoo and shakers will interrupt you), enthuses and draws people in like the best of hosts. I knew she’d be good! ☺

Dominic had to write out the bio of someone who declared themself too high to do it…

(Apologies for the paucity of photo quality from here on out – my phone was suffering from the heat something awful…)

Josie Alford (@josiealfordpoet) gives us the poem she used to propose to her boyfriend (he said yes). She is performing so she can tell her mum she’s performed at Glastonbury.

Mark McGivern gives us a poem for one of his oldest friend with a meditation on how to be a fixed point of stability in someone else’s life in all the small gestures. He runs his own spoken word and music events in Cambridge (and I’m so proud to see him on this stage).

Torrey Shineman (@TorreyShine) (surname rhymes with Cinnamon, if you were wondering) gives us a poem giving us the history of vulva epilation (terrifying – look it up, also merkins) in response to current fashion (especially in her native US).

John Row (a refugee from the 70s spoken word scene and famous back in Cambridge as a storyteller in every festival within a 50 mile radius) has escaped the Kids’ Field to rant about the shame of the racist basis of migration policies. The crowd erupts!

Chip Colquhoun (@creatorchip) is another professional storyteller from Cambridge, who was put down for this by John Row, and he brings us the one poem he’s got on his phone – a children’s version of Beowulf. He’s the first person to go over time, but curves it into a deft twist of finish (“If you want to know how it finishes, I think there’s a book about it somewhere…”)

Loudspeka (@loudspeka) is a political, pacifist activist (“break the code, write an ode”) who rants a colourful exposé of big business, a confrontation that has the crowd whooping. Due to struggling with the technology (which hates the heat even more than I do), I missed getting a photo of her. Gah. Sorry! Check her out online anyway!

Bertram: That Geezerbird (“70% Skittles. Too excitable properly. Definitely at least the prettiest one here”) gives us a rousing rap about confusion that gets the crowd clapping in time as they bounce, skipping about the stage, then roaring as they leap from it.

Robin Lawley, who came third in the last Glastonbury Poetry&Words slam, absolutely changes the atmosphere (the proper joy of open mic, folks!) with an ode to a departed cat, gentle and personal and absolutely in the spirit of Jeremy Hardy who he’s just been a part of memorialising.

Jason Butler (@oldmanvegas) gives us a rapidly rhyming anecdote about an escaped crab. The crowd love this tale of late night seaside vengeance. Sadly, didn’t capture him either!

Ross Wallis gives us An Epistle, conceived a few weeks ago, and written while waiting in the huge queue to get into the Festival, an articulate, heartfelt apology to the next generation, fitting for an Extinction Rebel.

Ade Ogonboor DJ’d at Glastonbury a few years ago, got home, got cancer, beat cancer, and is back here, now, in the Poetry&Words tent talking with great, quiet articulacy about austerity and Brexit. He then continues to barrack various of the performers, including commenting on Rosy’s legs (she bats him down with superb poise).

Elise Wouters (@eliserebelfox) is a Belgian poet living in London who writes erotic Brexit poetry (“There’s the niche we didn’t know we needed!” cries Liv), and it’s as filthy as you’d imagine and witty with rage to boot, beautifully delivered.

Sunny Jim (@_SunnyJim) gives us Plastic (W)Rap – an environmental activist with a hip-hop inflected angry gesture to the sea of plastic and its source, literally heat-stroked and (figuratively) erupting with ire.

Rosie Solomon (@rosiees7) is a surprise finish to the open mic (again: we’re under-running, somehow!) with a rant about working in a bar – Don’t Tell Me How To Pour A Fucking Pint. It’s exactly what you’d imagine, and really, really good – a rallying cry to service workers and female-presenting people everywhere.

Festival veteran Jonny Fluffypunk roars onto the stage (yet another pair of dungarees*, this time looking like they were part of the previous wave of dungaree-wearing; authenticity in every thread) and shortly thereafter plunges into the audience to shriek at them about their place in proceedings (giving the poets the attention and validity they crave, obviously). He gulders about the foolishness of “poetry being the new rock ’n’ roll,” and entirely blows his own theory by being the punkest thing on stage (with the possible exception of Paul Eccentric) so far. As ever, it’s somewhere between the most cynical of stand-up, almost more time spent on the between-poem ranting and banter, and break-outs from the pieces to address the audience in a fourth-wall-smashing series of pithy jabs and bon mots about his good words. The audience are quiet but intent, absolutely with him in every line, cackling and whooping, sniggering and raising hands, lobbing ripostes every so often. I’ve seen him do this very set several times, and it’s still delicious, and I’m glad I’m here to witness it in its natural environment.

*My memory is made faulty by unwitting dehydration – photographic evidence has him in practical combat shorts. Can you even believe anything I write here? Probably…

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Demi Anter sashays onto the stage through the batwings, bogling with Dominic to the fantastic music she’s gifted by the technician and resplendent in a yellow dress that’s perfect for the shimmy. She reveals later that she’s a daughter of desert – despite her Celtic colouring, this heat just bounces off her. And so this leads us into a poem about her mother, and today’s set continues to be more about family and travel that yesterday’s. Still hypnotic, personal, anecdotal, deeply emotional where anecdotal poetry sometimes puts a barrier, a safer distance between the performer and their truth. But her courage is “seemingly unending”, and this theatre turns into a polemic about how to be truthful in the world of spirit and heart. She finishes with the same end dating site-like piece as last yesterday, but – in a tribute to Ana Paz’s “amazing use of space” – she unhitches the microphone and strolls around and bends into the space and suddenly it’s even more theatrical and, somehow, funnier (and more terrifying).

Illustrator Scott Tyrrell takes to the stage after Dominic gets the crowd screaming “as though Boris Johnson had left politics” to a classic rock track. He opens with the title track to his book (“(If We’re Being) Honest”), something that is, essentially, a list poem, but a superior example of the species, uncomfortable and hilarious, and waaay too intimate (I know a lot more about his masturbatory habits and his relationship with his cat now). It’s followed by one of my favourites of his: Bad Dad, swiftly seguing into Gabriel, which starts with a kind of “kids say the funniest things” intro and turns to a paean to platonic male love. Scott excels in awkward emotions and the kind of social observations that any high-flying postmodern author would be proud to display with this level of skill, plus any number of killer last lines. Wonderfully, with his intro to the famous (awkwardly, gleefully, hilariously erotic) Coitus Interruptus, he even manages to embarrass himself, charming, blushing even further than the heat (“Hello! I’M DYING! I’m not from the desert – I’m from the North-East!”). He moves onto the tender Blue Badge of Honour about his beloved, disabled wife which is the one that made me drop my pen and wipe my eye when I first heard it. It’s still powerful, still delivered with loving rage (“I am the feather to her fortress…”).

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Friday Part 2

Compere Dominic Berry kicks us off with one of my favourite poems of his (I Will Not Treat My Friend Like An iPod), roaring us into excited appreciation of poetry (Bowie on the Pyramid Stage makes another appearance as an inducement to whoops)

Paula Varjack makes the best entrance through the saloon doors, glorious in gold lame and attitude, and she launches into the dark, burlesque rant of Commodity, following it up with My Country, and then her piece about strip clubs, covering race, international culture, shame, sexuality, self-definition, identity, the masks of intimacy and expression acroas her pieces. Paula blends confession and storytelling, summoning the audience closer for something new and even more visceral about her first experience of London queer culture, written for seminal London club Heaven. It’s wonderfully, horribly reminiscent of my own first 90s gay club experience (except that I had a straight mate who insisted on dragging me out for my birthday, and I didn’t get off with anyone, and this was the only gay club in Cardiff and… you know what? never mind…), with a fantastic soundtrack I want to dance to as though I’m in my 20s again (don’t worry – I still dance like that; it doesn’t take much; I probably will later). She checks that the parent of the one child in the audience is fine with hedonistic sex and drugs references to finish us off. This is Glastonbury. They’re fine. We’re all fine. And I’m never going to look at coffee the same way again…

Dominic gives us The Beleaguered Vegan, a barnstormer of a poem which talks of uncomfortable facts about meat and dairy production.

Brian McMahon Gallagher takes to the stage (again through the batwings to induced roars from the audience) to launch into a piece about how Shakespeare is shite, and how true love isn’t proved by “topping yourself after your first shag.” It meanders via toxic masculinity and gender roles, and concludes that maybe true love isn’t depicted that often is because true love might be boring. Then he suggests he gets his panic attack poem out of the way (apparently all poets have a panic attack poem; wish I’d known – that might have made my own a little easier to bear – maybe Irish poets are more forthcoming), followed by getting his Irish poem out of the way (his term!), written for the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Republic – Was It For This? Toxic masculinity and homophobia (internalised and externalised) thread through the next few poems as well.

Dominic Berry brings us his poems about video games and social anxiety next, then encourages us to scream for Erin, as though Bowie, Prince, and Keith Flint had formed a supergroup.

Erin Fornoff takes to the stage, shimmying through the batwings to the twirl of harp music, and launches into that poem of hers that I love immoderately – Home – followed up by a classic #MeToo/ #TimesUp poem about the kind of subtextual casting couch abuse that successful men love to sow as ways to get into less powerful people’s heads and pants (don’t go to lunch with Peter Sheridan, is the advice – and yes, I have permission to blog that!). She excels in word portraits in a few spare words, vignette after vignette scrolling by like you’re meeting people in her life, limned with her love. She talks about loss in such a fluid, beautiful way that it eases it, somehow. I’d love to bring her poetry with me, and apparently, I’ll have a chance to buy her book (Hymn To The Reckless, named after a gorgeous poem that’s love and fire and the glory of the memorably ephemeral). Guess I know where my cash is going (unless she’s up for a book swap). How about you?

(My phone is being peculiar about media uploads, but there should be a video of Erin at this point – hopefully I can get it in tomorrow!)

Dominic tells us that he finds lots of hope at Glastonbury Festival, tries to bottle it and bring it with him in the rest of his life. This informs the next two poems.

Eve Piper takes to the stage after Dominic asks us to give the same amount of applause as if Donald Trump stepped down from politics. She asks who of us are single (or keeping our options open), segues into her property-marking poem about love bites. It’s fascinating to hear a poem that’s very reminiscent of the Bristol poetry sound in a Mancunian accent. The next piece is one of those letters to someone who’s done something that’s “punishable by poem”. It’s that poem that hooked me when I was researching her for the preview article – Taxi Driver. Articulate rage used in the best way and for reasons that no-one should have to celebrate escape. She reveals that the mental health is so poor for Bristol University that it’s measured, at its worst, in a suicide rate (which she landmarks as a trigger warning) that sounds to me closer to that of the armed forces. The anger here is quieter, close to despair, again the voice of someone who’s escaped, painting a visceral picture that drowns out the Latin beats outside thumping under her words. Class war, gender disparity, and the violence of silence rings through her work. And a love for rave. Lush!

(Again with the video upload fail – apologies!)

Tony Walsh takes to the stage after a heartfelt and passionate intro from Dominic, and gets us happy and cheering with a cheerful celebration of festival life (adapted from a Kendal Calling poem) and moves onto a rousing ode to John Peel, Keeping It Peel (I think it might have a longer title…). (And then I have to run out, because the glamour of this job is picking between watching one of your favourite poets or having a wee. I did get to tell John Hegley backstage that his shorts suited him (he was debating with his friend about changing for the stage); I don’t think he heard me.) When I’m back, he’s giving a typically wordplay-rich, rhymetastic ode to the joy of movies… no, it’s about the British arts scene. It’s an anthem to the joy and work and connection that art brings – entertainment, wealth, occupation, culture, representation from the stadium-fillers to the tiniest local open mic or art exhibition. We want to roar along with him: “Witness the richness, we’re poorer without this!” and stand together, as he urges, all artforms together against austerity, not talking about how funding is dividing up between art, health, and education, but we should be taking our rage back to “whoever stole the cake in the first place”. Now it’s a ranting, frantic, magic tribute to glam rock, and how any music can represent and lift up everyone from everywhere, of any background or demographic. And for his mate Dennis from the Strummerville Stage (and for Joe Strummer of course) it’s a Shakespearean sonnet using Clash lyrics! I’ve don’t think I’ve ever heard a more dynamic sonnet; I’d honestly forgotten it was that form until the final couplet. His final poem is quieter, and yet as anthemic as anything that’s gone before, reminding us that we’re all love, all connected, all divine. We can make it better, we can make it better, we can make it better… And after that set (hell, after even one of those poems), we can believe it!

(Another video missing here – ah, Glastonbury!)

Headliner John Hegley takes to the stage with typical diffidence, a ukelele with a smiling face built in, and what looks like a knitted potato with an orange bobble hat. On second glance it might be a hamster. We are instructed to sing “Dancing!” at the right point. We are then further instructed to sing it correctly (rising note on the second syllable). “Enough of the fun – now for some poetry.” Riddles (some with rhyming clues, others without) are shared with us. It’s hard to say whether he looks more disappointed when we get it right or wrong (the final one – depression – is guessed at by one wit as “Boris Johnson”, to a wry dismissal). Every single one of these pieces demands audience participation of some kind, and it’s picked up with increasing enthusiasm and deftness, just in time for Martin to join him with a guitar and a tale of how we should all be helpful, like Martin.

When he says snail instead of slug and we pitch in with the salute to the snail he namechecks a delighted Tony Walsh and tells us that “we must fail with aplomb”. There’s plenty more chances to fail in the many (including new) gestures to accompany Guillemot, and in picking a translator to turn his short story into English. Nicky steps up to the plate gloriously, and we see Mr. Hegley smile for the first time, frankly flirtatiously. In the course of finding an interpreter, I spot Baden (namechecked by Mr. Hegley) from my first days of poetry in Northampton. The world of poetry is ridiculously small. After a couple of lovely, deceptive wee poems where we’re invited to fill in the rhyme (except sometimes it’s not a rhyme, or it is, against expectation – I’ve never enjoyed being persistently wrongfooted so much!

Finally, for crowd favourite Luton Bungalow, we join in happily in our sections – it’s such a lovely, warm time, and… wait, it’s only the final piece if we don’t ask them back for a spontaneously prepared encore! Martin and John leave, returning to a rapturous standing ovation (from those of us easily able to rise!) to give an actually spontaneous rendition of Spectacles as requested by an audience member, and then one which name I missed in all the fun of a five section chorus about different types of birds. The words of the verses form a sober, loving meditation on death and the meaning of life, family, legacy, and connection, and a wonderful end to a gorgeous set that fled by too fast.

(For some reason, my phone won’t let me upload photos and videos of Mr. Hegley. I’ll try again tomorrow!)

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.

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: