The Poet Beyond Compere – Rosy Carrick

…Ok so that was a terrible pun. Meet one half of this year’s Poetry&Words compering duo. Along with the inimitable Dreadlockalien, she’ll be bigging up poets, baying for whoops and hollers and bringing audiences to the boil. Ladies and gentlemen I give you the bold, brazen, brilliant Brighton-based MC, Rosy Carrick…

rosy

You have a reputation for being hard-hitting, underpinned with a playfulness and a penchant for the rude. You host Hammer & Tongue Brighton and cult movie-themed club extravaganza, ‘Trailer Trash!’, not to mention hosting at Latitude. The job of co-compering the Glastonbury Poetry stage seems perfect for you. Looking forward to it?

Yes! It’s a great stage to compere, a great team of people involved and, of course, an awesome festival, I can’t wait!

Compering is easily the hardest and most thankless job amongst all us poets at the festival. (It would scare the sh*t out of me). Do you prefer MCing, or given the choice would you do longer sets?

Actually I’m looking forward to compering the Glastonbury stage much more than I would be if I were performing a regular set. There’s so much going on at that festival all the time, so audiences are transient and sometimes impatient for something immediately grabbing, and my poetry doesn’t really work that way — I’ve performed at Glastonbury a couple of times in the past, but I always find myself avoiding the poems I like best in favour of dependable audience faves… WHEREAS I am a grade A expert at ordering people around and getting them to shut the hell up/be noisy/dance for my amusement etc… so this is really the perfect context for me to be there in! I do a lot of compering in all manner of places, and I really love it!

The P&W tent can be veritable hive of hippies, festy lovers and the literary batty, but on the occasions when the tent is a tad sparse, do have anything up your sleeve for pulling in the punters?

The poet Derrick Brown did a cool thing there a few years ago when things were sparse – he plugged his iPod into the speakers, played some BANGING TUNES for about 20 seconds and then got what audience there was to scream, yell, applaud and whatnot as loud as they could for as long as they could. It worked a treat! Lure them in with false enthusiam, and then retain them with death threats (or the magnetic power of poetry. I guess it’ll depend on who’s onstage at the time).

To digress ever so slightly, please tell us about your menstrual blood beauty tips videos. What was the idea behind those?

Aha. Well I have a 13 year-old daughter and last year she and her buddies went through this phase of watching online beauty tips videos, and they were all EXACTLY the same — super American, super ridiculous and super demoralising. And I was like: oh my god, what’s happening to my child?! What will this do to her?! Why is she watching this?! How can these even exist in all earnestness in the real world?! I needed to to take the power out of them pronto, and what better way to (literally) illustrate my point than with period blood. Given that half the population of the whole world bleed out of their vaginas for a quarter of their adult lives, I find the perpetual widespread disgust for menstruation completely bewildering.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love being on the blob, but it’s powerful, and the way that women are made to feel ashamed and embarrassed about it is significant in the wider context of gender inequality. So: unnecessary beauty instructions which play into mainstream cultural female degradation + reviled yet inescapable bodily female experience = blood on your lips, blood in your hair, blood everywhere! (And bee tea double-ewe Olive thought they were funny too — and she no longer watches beauty tips videos!) Maybe I’ll do a bloody make-over stall at the poetry stage actually, it could be very lucrative.

What or who are you most looking forward to seeing at Glastonbury?

Eek. I can’t wait to see ex-Pussy Rioters Masha and Nadya talking about their political work. I spend nearly every day writing about early Soviet Russian politics for my PhD, and there are some very interesting parallels going on at the moment. OH NO! I’ve just realised I’ll be compering the poetry whilst they’re on! That’s it, I quit! I was also really looking forward to seeing the Foo Fighters, but now of course leg-gate has scuppered that. So I guess I’m just going to be sitting in my tent crying all weekend. And dancing to DJ Dad’s awesome Djing at the night-time. There’s no one I’m super duper excited about this year to be honest, although I’m well looking forward to seeing Patti Smith. Who else is performing? I haven’t had a proper look yet. I can’t believe about the Pussy Riot thing, thanks for bringing it up, man!

And now a test for you, Rosy. I give you……

‘The Hypothetical Heckler’as a seasoned MC, tell us what you’d do in the following hypothetical situations…

A man tries to stage dive inappropriately during a tender poem by Charlotte Higgins.

Get him offstage, wait till the poem is over and, if he’s still there, invite Charlotte and the whole audience to dive on him in return as a fun interlude. Then tie him up so he can’t do it again.

A streaker does a lap round the tent.

I’m cool with that, as long as it’s just the one lap.

Somebody shouts “Poems are supposed to rhyme”

“You were supposed to be the contents of a condom, but sometimes we all have to accept that not everything happens as we’d hope.”

A couple refuse to join in on one of John Hegley’s songs.

Totally fine with that. One of my biggest fears is being forced into audience participation (pantomimes make me cry, it’s a terrible phobia!) Having said that, John Hegley’s songs instill such pure joy into my heart that I always join in with full vigour, so if I do see people not joining in I will probably just think quietly to myself that although I am fine with it, they are probably dead inside.

A member of the audience tries to get up on stage and grab the mic, claiming their poem about their recently deceased gerbil is better than anything they’ve heard so far from the professionals.

If they were clearly wasted/ a trouble-making dickwad, I’d take them out of the tent and make sure there were some crew members around to stop them from returning. If not… I would say something like: “To be honest, I suspect you are merely blinded by your own grief, but nevertheless I would love to hear your memorial poem…. but only AT THE OPEN SLAM on Sunday (which you can sign up for in the P&W tent any time over the weekend), at which time *I* shall be the judge of this alleged greatness… but in the meantime please bugger off because you’re f***ing up the programme, and your big-headedness might sully people’s impressions of your potentially fine poetry, not to mention the memory of poor innocent Mr. Dead.”

Kanye West gets up when the slam champion has been announced, grabs the trophy and insists it should go to Beyonce.

I like the idea that I would say something about how, unfortch, for me his misogynistic lyrics preclude his opinions about how much Beyonce should win the trophy in this case (particularly if she hadn’t entered the slam!)… but to be honest I would probably be like: OH-MY-GOD-I-CAN’T-BELIEVE-IT—SURE-BEYONCE-CAN-HAVE-IT-BUT-CAN-SHE-COME-TO-THE-STAGE-TO-PICK-IT-UP-SO-I-CAN-MEET-HER-AND-WILL-SHE-BE-MY-FRIEND-WILL-SHE-REALLY-THOUGH???, before chucking the real winner a packet of polos as a replacement prize and sailing off into the sunset in the glorious ship of Beyonce’s massive and beautiful-smelling hair.

Wonderful. Along with Dreadlockalien, Rosy will be whip-cracking the programme on all weekend from Friday 26th.

If you wish to sign up for the Open Mic (Saturday 27th at 12.50pm) or the Poetry Slam (Sunday 28th at 5pm), come to the Poetry&Words tent in Bella’s Field and ask either Rosy or Dreadlockalien to put your name down. Dreadlock will be the guy with the big hat and the dreadlocks (weirdly enough).

Only 6 days to go till the gates open!!!

Scott 🙂

 

 

Advertisements

Meet your Glastonbury 2015 Poetry Slam hosts – Varjack & Simpson

I caught up with Paula Varjack and Dan Simpson in London last week at the Anti-Slam Apocalypse to ask them about their partnership, their quirky projects and their plans for the hallowed Glastonbury Slam…

20150529_234945

The two of you have becoming quite a formidable creative partnership. How did poets of such wildly different styles end up working together?

Paula: I first met Dan at a gig where he was performing and I was hosting. I won’t give any details about the event other than it was a very strange format and all a bit awkward. At the break Dan and I bonded over how weird a gig it was, and how much we liked what the other was doing. It was then we realised he had performed at the second London Anti-Slam, the only one I had missed. I was excited about his enthusiasm for it and approached him after to co-produce it.

Dan: So then Paula asked me to help organise and co-host one year, and we got on really well on- and off-stage and it went from there. Our working styles and what we like making are quite similar – stuff that’s super fun for audiences to watch and, challenges performers in an interesting way.

One of your best known endeavours as a team has been the Anti-Slam. Whose idea was that, and how did it come about?

Paula: In 2009 I was living in Berlin and very much a part of the Slam scene there, and had links to the English language comedy scene that had begun to develop. I wanted to create an event where all of the performers from these artform and language divisions could participate. I was getting tired of the competition element of poetry slam. Not long after thinking all this, I went on a trip to Chicago & New York (a kind of pilgrimage to the early homes of poetry slam) and saw this performance by Jamie De Wolf at the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe that blew me away:

When I returned to Berlin I was inspired to create an “anti-slam” – a piss-take of a poetry slam, where I would programme those poets and comedians. By challenging everyone to do their worst, no one cared about the competition element. Because it was all so ridiculous, and it kept to the 3 minute time limit, it meant that audiences could enjoy performances despite the language differences.

European friends heard about it, so events ended up happening in Warsaw, Cologne, Turin, Sardenia – and even Sydney. I then went on to co-host it in Berlin with the Godfather of the Berlin slam scene Wolf Hogekamp for four years. Ray Antrobus visited me and helped me bring the first one to London, then Dan came on board! We now have events happening in 8 cities in the UK. It has become a brilliant Valentines event that sells out every year, and we have our Apocalypse – a national Anti-Slam final – and we’re keen to keep adding cities every year. I think one of my favourite things about it is how each city brings its own energy and helps revise the format.

Having had the privilege of participating in the Anti-Slam this year I found it hugely liberating to purposefully write bad poetry, particularly having had to sit through quite a few gigs over the last 15 years that have been strewn liberally with it. Have your other participants felt similarly liberated by the Anti-Slam format?

Dan: we get that response a lot! It’s a nice combination of challenge and liberation for excellent and established performers to engage with their bad side – but to do that entertainingly! As a gig organiser and host, as well as a performer, you do see a lot of genuinely “bad” writing and performers on the circuit – so The Anti-Slam certainly serves to perhaps relieve a bit of tension about that!

Paula: Yeah – I think there is so much that can be cathartic and liberating about it. It allows you to get one back at all the awful pieces and people you have contended with on the open mic and slam circuit. More importantly it enables you to harness the inner critic that respond directly to it. Something about this opens the floodgates of all kinds of shades of creativity. I think its about taking your fears of everything you try to avoid and going into it willingly, rather than being blocked by it.

You’ve been charged with running the revered Glastonbury Poetry Slam this year and the quality is always pretty damn high. Winners in the past have included now-massive poets like Hollie McNish and Luke Wright. Nervous? 

Dan: I love hosting regular, non-Anti slams too! It’s an honour to be asked, and always interesting to see who does well at these things. Not too many nerves – hosting is supposed to be the invisible foundations that the slammers can build their 3 minutes of stage time on!

Paula: I think the Slam is one of the nicest things that happen over the weekend. It always draws a nice mix of emerging poets and poets very very new to performance. I think the fact that the winner gets a set next year and a ticket to the festival really adds to the energy of it. It’s such a great way to get new voices on board so I am super excited about hosting it. I have hosted the Poetry and Words stage at Glastonbury before, many Anti-Slams with Dan, and also monthly host at Hammer & Tongue Hackney – so no nerves, I am only looking forward to it.

Tell us about your other projects like the Fail Better Podcast and Poetry Goes Pop!

Paula: In Fail Better we chat to two artists about their most interesting failures – usually something like messing up a gig in an epic way! We also look at fails of the month, and a current pop song that has terrible lyrics. It follows on from The Anti-Slam a bit – we both like the idea of failure and what we can do with it. I think embracing failure, rather than being ashamed of it, is fantastic for creativity. As much as I want my work to be polished, I am constantly reminding myself that I connect to other artists when they show their vulnerability. I also love interviewing people, and am obsessed with artists’ process, so the show is this great excuse to have conversations with artists I love and respect. I like them especially as they come on the show because they are as interested in the theme as Dan and I are and tell the most engaging stories.  We get lovely guests on the show every time.

Dan: Poetry Goes Pop! is a spoken word comedy panel show where we mash up pop culture and poetry. We play silly games like Poetry Karaoke – singing a poem to the tune of a popular song and Pop to Poem – turning bad pop lyrics into a serious performance of poetry. Like this!

Both of you have performed before at Glastonbury, independently. Can you share your weirdest moment(s)?

Dan: The giant mechanical spider. Every festival should have a giant mechanical spider.

Paula: Oh this is hard, I’ve had so many! My top 3 in no particular order are

1. Walking in and out of the Miniscule of Sound.

2. Finding the secret room behind the room down the rabbit hole.

3. A live art piece of a group of pregnant woman walking in a hazy daze through the fields. At least I think it was live art…

Finally, what advice would you give to potential Glastonbury slammers this year?

Dan: Don’t be intimidated by the setting – Paula and I will make it really fun and friendly! And don’t worry too much about the competition element – winning is awesome, but the best thing a slam can do is make you simply want to perform your work as well as possible.

Paula: Yeah what Dan said. I think my advice generally to anyone who is performing in any slam, regardless of whether they want to win or not is the same: Be the most you that you can possibly be. Perform with your own unique energy – the piece that is most distinctly the way you write and about what you are interested in. That more than anything is what audiences respond to. You can’t compete with anything else. Also remember scoring poems with numbers is always going to be at least a little bit arbitrary. Personal or Fantastical, Political or Silly, Lyrical or Monologue – just be super you.

The Glastonbury Poetry Slam will take place on Sunday 28th at 5pm at the Poetry&Words tent. If you wish to sign up for either the Poetry Slam or an Open Mic spot (which takes place Saturday 27th at 12.50pm) come as early as possible to the Poetry&Words tent and approach one of the MC’s to put your name down.

More interviews on the way…

Scott 🙂