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…

<img src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/LmDXFsDwYOCSHHCbXckSZp3_hvS3L352VF5alvLzYCggVCa-_AQHWlR5MjZdlhmdXaqrWAiJCA12TgQj1clkS80I38FDVQVOVdC2NYc6MWnj7o5952ewiHFIBgYR1xJlkRDJEZlRmN30M2sgwDC57xbQnRli7SDeGJNOFzXjo2hOojKoaCgJTSWNboi7nHKZAONid8d241-QNJLdcIrdx5IH70N-3rURa_85U5LwiYHIZrXCKbwgfckYPuawkfeGX06JBL6Z10KwKX-T_iy8cY0fyXR4JvAapIS3pG39WL4hKFPKhLGhaatPOFvGcPLStFHsPxAMvLFxQG3ytjudM8CTNlxJ0jPJFrUK_7MYuJGFKMREoMh-6vOch7pGQPIR9BLEXCy14ZX0fGt1WsYj4lDdTGP_0MJIVuTfDE806UREkiKNM6CR4-JFUiQAUw7KT5M_aAb4wIATuRodxgeD6_IpDGlSCgqspzIIJBy19NEC5Qw6deukhHEFC5_doINMRMLnFq_dyl9VknCht9KpUwQxvoM43n-q_QJ9b2ernF68M-WMFPrFiXxvsY-TTpmCv9zQQ71k4rPoBkNd3Ns6vHuBYpFMZ1wl6CpvSR_wvV1dUDaDyBFz4pyxl5dprdnVgxVpY8jj22NocONgGsNiz7jtTIgLgWq3JY3t6ZRI8TYqBK6OLa_FBtRtVqjmrtHXmFNNJlz1JNM8y_Rs9_EHXlbcrg=w640-h360-k-no”%5D

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…”).

<img src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/sLOTadBuhIv6U6IERCVNObjU_0kQddd8pMMB0yIiwFAfdxEX1CadmIQv5uSeJ959BK_URUhCDdARFwx52rNF5ZROEvLYpCep7Vh3qMP-iyS4dCZNtULP1G_0sRqHo0k_mdnmrGbnJgKA9rYewxjD9RjxXiEIBGo13mrFMPgGpfKzFDcHWxlnVf6EbCdKY0ccUNxvkNzIxU-P-lLu2m5S-D_lWb0dLDCQsSefEmortaWkTOoOf6f5ZKjkJ-Zj9YuVC2EhDoxhZ7gfHoWZuIf8wP2Q7StyGKKtYHql826QRcdZTRqGdBj_1XnGvSzpAUKYzuXp28-72WhuSD27rU77gVLmMaqUfQiozNw1bBQdsZWeTuFNtwuT0yBTz3vPYjdFZio00GbvnD8rRi0xsuCeVBXygkry024K8iKsGuuj3o9-XlWkVlb9dJYY0ivBUFT9zPFI6spLhoy-GvgJITokGcIsht5BWWdz-1X8j3XNfDq757nbm1clapaMeHfmx5f-wRvwVlq_DqdjybX0ncuq-rOaeWd8teX2sSdMK2eSvgZuyfxLhOWg8uvtZdW3bA074yeeG6cvd0CyMfa3zIVNsjil0pLldoicWfWUv7jHU5S2YdIrGNbC9b6Ah9XFIvXl4xVK5wx7xeVjhPWj_BmgbAKSL42Osb53WMUTVgXNUKhi5bs3iRBByUMy6gzSWh2h3OGv8k4FOZBek0V4Ju_j9wxIag=w509-h904-no”&gt;

Img src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/07L4U7eRx7TdZQYDxZKYPKyBakU3of4UsbjcXPIrGzVZez0DBezO3H5579FMoo-zAOiIHcgVI4RFVYWPFSuHFFZIBc3WIdaIChRJDpjFZ-bM2TX3n8YBSmi17fC_kw7m-piOtJd4H-cPN0DUiF6YLz0SAwKTHui4MmjK8VmaY1wZGE8beP9saTnSXRqwYc9H0RbieNE06ZQECq7oSQzI6ot29o1I-ayAGxNt-0RRVyjhhy5AL7KQ-keT6l_tFleZfFaIRt41wc-FVGyfWqG0fFNXbmrJkvUmh8aUONw3-ttyvyAb4Uj3CwduOtHXvJkFCa707yR0aqjaYmNNHlCzdOf-Z8GLOv5a3n4hqlQC0yL-pIuCLpzPeOVW_aP8Bt-3mYA3MK9bJHwKEPdgNX5HX0-OfIJ6lqWdsK3u3j-x9j0UXAEuCJLhw3zpLJf2gkxJY79hko_DGn3lKxI8msPAkHG9tKazF4WqjZi6Ug_4a6tA8GKW3v5Ey1OVMs2dzcZ2-CnslNAuXpwYDpCUYIgfwzIwB1aMenLOuQgsh-jgec7_I6GuQsnnapImmLZbMr7BrnR2YoXByYzcd1gPUTe9zm_C0uisNH-cet1ZjHlB-h2C3heGHDKFORUx4jQtY9Xv0YLDKPZmCsene8hybTvM1QlVjyhEGHH3S1KG_lRvNZ-wZ_9U3Y8j8X0LyeR7pGxVuIxYAnCsyrJeiTjdeDxsEsOZ7w=w509-h904-no”&gt;

 

Advertisements

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!)

Introducing: Eve Piper

eve piper.jpg
Performing for the first time with us is Eve Piper, 17:05-17:30 Friday; 12:35-13:00 Saturday . If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“Rising urban narrator for the millennial generation, Eve Piper is a Mancunian poet making her mark on Bristol’s poetry scene.

“Upon moving south, she was selected to take part in the Words First project run by BBC 1Xtra and the Roundhouse, wherein she was mentored by Chris Redmond (Tongue Fu) Harry Baker and received guidance from Kate Tempest.

“She has since performed all around Bristol, at events such as Raise the Bar, Hammer & Tongue and Milk Poetry, where she supported Hollie McNish at the Tobacco Factory Theatres.

“Having frequented Manchester collective Young Identity in her youth, Eve’s voice rings true to her Mancunian roots while connecting to the Bristolian underground.

“With influences ranging from Drum & Bass to John Donne, her poetry merges the personal and political, tracing the sharp angles of young womanhood and relaying rhythmic urban narratives with a beguilingly subtle approach.”

Reviews:

‘Eve first graced the microphone with an authentic and located style which many poets take years to develop. Always a breath of fresh air to see her illuminate audiences, coupling raw storytelling with arresting and technical language.’ – Danny Pandolfi

Fay’s words:

Eve’s another new voice for me. I’ve found three YouTube videos so far, all reasonably recent, part of scenes I immediately know carry a cachet of “here lies quality work”. This instinct’s not wrong, certainly borne out when I watch Eve’s pieces – she’s one of those poets that has the gift of stillness – you can hear the entire room leaning forward to catch what she lets drop. And it’s quiet, but it absolutely shouts. Each of the well-crafted, intense, frankly eerie pieces I’ve seen are about broken souls, in media res stories of how systems fail people, how obsession is a hook, how we can get poisoned by other people’s hideous decisions. Eve Piper is one to watch and I’ll be glued to whatever she brings us at the P&W stage next month.

Sneak preview:

CW: assault.