Saturday Part 2

Gecko is ushered onto the stage by Rosy Carrick, technicians, and Portishead. He kicks off with I Can’t Know All The Songs (we chorus – in harmony! – until the end), a perfectly formed intro song, followed by the piece that I probably know best of his: Rapunzel. It’s incredibly catchy, and unashamedly feminist, basically doing what fanfic writers call a fix-it of the original tale. More mythology follows as he turns out a rap/ recitative adapting The Tooth Fairy into modern job parlance. I miss the next song (with singing accompaniment by Maya(?)) as I have lost the will to be in the swelter any longer, so stand in the shade outside the tent, catching as much breeze as will make a difference. We’re all glad that there’s no rain, and mud is minimal, but it’s as stuffy and sticky as the third circle of Hell in the tent. He ends with a sweet tribute to the magic of childhood. We’ve seen so many styles in this short span of time, and this is elegiac, joyful paean which fast-forwards to a bleak-looking old age, leavened by mythical memories. The technician gives him the perfect level of reverb – enough to lift it into legend, without drowning us in soft-focus glurge – and he punctuates the different moods with whole-body movement, gleefully bestriding and then slumping at the microphone. And he takes us with him. Bravo! The crowd agrees!

Desree takes to the stage again in a swelter, her first poem lauded by the audience who look to be unconscious with heat, but absolutely there with her. I am distracted with a bunch of admin (people, hydration, and data charges – yeah, no WiFi, mate), sadly, but I love the fragments of these new poems I hear, tackling body image, race, abuse, and toxic relationships (with others and ourselves). She ends with that anthemic piece about privilege with aplomb. It’s from her teeny chapbook, and she takes cards as well as cash – GET ONE. I’m definitely doing so.

Luke Wright takes to the stage to The Fratellis. It’s a perfect young punk, chanty, ranty, loud and clever intro to a striding length of man with deliberately messy hair and a DIY-style “PUTA MADRE” teeshirt (Google it – I’m not telling you). After a typical rhyming rant about Good Morning Britain and all it means (“Piers Morgan says: ’You can’t say anything these days! You can’t say anything these days! You can’t say anything these days! You can’t say anything these days!’ And yet you seem to, Piers!”) which slides into something deliberately quieter and slower, he confirms the fact slipped into Rosy’s introduction that they kissed earlier. He tells us that there’s a sliver of shade behind the Cabaret tent that’s sheltered him through the toxic, omnipresent heat, gives us quiet ode to his children. A pier-end-style marching band outside underlines the outro, a bigger contrast unimaginable, flourishes of music fanfaring Luke’s disquiet (confusing since he’s been performing here for actual decades – he’s been doing this since his teens). His children feature strongly – the love is glowing, palpable, quiet and beautiful (even when he’s voicing his seven-year-old as an East End villain). The other love (apart from Rosy – Tank Girled and cast as a PVC goddess) that gets immortalised is of Bungay, where he lives, in anecdote form, describing how uncool it is in the way that you complain about your favourite ancient anything (cardigan, uncle, cat, car, movie). As well as being the first person to drop the c-word (to my knowledge) on the Poetry stage this year (Mavericks after dark is another story), he dissects British culture – social anxiety, snobbishness, inferiority complexes and all. Embrace The Wank is in defence of pretentiousness, telling the audience that, were he in charge they’d be locked in, unable to wander – “it’s not about entertainment, it’s about bettering yourselves!” and he shouts himself hoarse with a series of epithets, the one that creases me into a spasm of mirth being something like “Let me bathe in a pool of expert jism!” The final track is a slow, sad ode to knowing Britain by its motorways – the life of a touring poet revisited, appropriately. The massed audience are rapturous.

Erin Fornoff takes to the stage to a track I know but have no idea of the name. She frugs and twirls with extraordinary verve, scarlet fabric flitting to the renewed breeze, tells us that we’re entering the Feelings Zone. Home proves her words. Her esprit d’escalier poem about her horrific mentor (see yesterday’s revelation). Her style is more mobile this time. I’m finding it fascinating who moves more or less today, who’s louder, who’s quieter, who has the same set, and who different. I’m losing focus – I’m not designed for the heat (likewise not from the desert, I am all about dim, wet, windy, cool places – thanks, genetics), but, like Eve before her, I’m enjoying different elements from this near-identical set as I continue to brush spiders from my keyboard and bless the breeze that’s finally caressing us. Erin (who got me an ice cream earlier, carried safely across the length of a baking Bella’s Field and beyond, like the bottomlessly kind soul that she is) spots Lemn Sissay standing at the back, who’s turned up early to hang out (and be mobbed in short order by organisers, technicians, artists, and other fans)

Toby Campion takes to the stage, still summery as hell in dungarees and white teeshirt (what is it with me noticing clothes today?!), giving us, as promised, the same set as last night (and, as promised, The Antipoet are doing their best to drown him out from the other stage across the field), and again – despite having seen it yesterday (and a similar set a couple of other times), I enjoy not only the craft and the words, but the warmth he bestows on the audience, friendly and engaged despite the audience being a fraction of yesterdays, holding them seemingly effortlessly. (And I got another nosebleed during this, which somewhat impeded my typing ability.) His finishing, crescendoing rant about a homophobic attack at Glastonbury 2016 is given a beautiful underlay of building bass to add ominousness to the message he’s giving us.

Headliner Lemn Sissay takes to the stage to glorious music and rapturous applause, comments on the music, throws himself off, and asks if he can come on again as he’s put himself off. It’s oddly comforting to see someone so very experienced, so very lauded, wanting to perfect their entrance, their presence. His first piece, Let Go, is advice to be yourself, despite what people tell you. It is preacherly, a story, a parable, a song of mythological proportions. And, in perfect, unchanging rhythm, a wheelchair user with a vocal tic barks a counterpoint to his words (sometimes echoing a word he uses, but mostly “hey!” or single-syllable epithets) that a) oddly enhances his performance, b) does not seem to throw him in any way whatsoever. He then points out that this is an unusual kick-off poem – it’s long, and thinky, and difficult (and uneasy), lambasting slam poetry – you shouldn’t be doing this to get people to like you, say what you really want to say, not what you think the audience want to hear. He then deconstructs his own performance, and his own thought process, with a breakdown of the voices in his head, with in-jokes about arts funding and what the arts means, and how the industry separates artists from community, with a series of terrible insults and jokes, with the person with the tic echoes back. (“Nobcheese!” is my favourite.)

Invisible Kisses is next, which apparently gets used in weddings a lot (“If you used this for your wedding and you didn’t pay me, I just want you to know that you’ve robbed a black man!” – the almost entirely white audience laughs knowingly). At this point he acknowledges the involuntary heckler with a comic stare. The vocal tic doesn’t work with the rhythm of this particular poem, I have to say…

(I don’t have to say, obviously, but I’m trying to place you here. This might also be the point to tell you that I raced outside after his set to track her down, and it turns out that it was none other than Jess Thom, otherwise known as Tourettes Hero, and you can see her at Astrolane, apparently!)

The passion of his delivery, against all the background noises makes it more powerful than any version I’ve so far seen online.

The next poem is old, addressing a social worker who bullied him when he was a child. He is one of the most parenthetical poets I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot of Jonny Fluffypunk), the chaotic, nesting statements of his between-poem anecdotes and explanations are a glorious contrast to the crafted structure of the poems. He tells us he’ll cut out the swearing, at which point Jess Thom shouts a beautifully timed f-word, and Mr. Sissay decides to address her explicitly (“I suppose I’d better talk to you…”). The poem itself turns out to be shorter than the explanation by whole minutes. He slaloms between anecdotes, explanation, lies, and poems, and the distinction between them starts to break down. The crowd loves everything he offers them, and I’m enthralled and all – this is different from the poetry films readily available online, more like a TED Talk or a lecture from the most rock ’n’ roll poetry lecturer EVER. Disfunctional stops a few bars in because he can’t find it in his book. It’s impossible to tell whether this is deliberate craft or a beautiful insight into a very human performer. Poe’s Law in action?

It’s nothing like what I was expecting, including the gaffes, the fourth-wall breaking, the deconstruction, losing his place, forgetting his way. After an exchange about cats with the person with the inadvertent heckler, he forgets what he’s doing next, and someone suggests one he approves of, even though he wasn’t going to do it. So Flock of Sound roars, sings, and stamps unplanned into the space, and the tic is in perfect syncopation with it, and we holler for it, and he follows it up with something similarly rhythmic and anthemic, a powerful ode to Martin Luther King. He bounces with renewed energy in its wake: “Thank you! Sometimes I forget myself!” And now he’s flying, chanting, gathering us with him to rise in his glorious slipstream in his namechecking goddesses and heroines as he calls out praise to womanhood.

His last is Architecture, for his friend Vikas, who’s in the audience. He thanks us for attending, despite the huge number of other things we could be doing in this massive festival. The imagery is deliberately huge, stamping its way into our consciousness. And, of course, we roar for an encore, and he gives us an intro about trust and forgiveness (you can stay angry, but forgiveness helps us to let go – and it’s not about the people you’re forgiving, but for you to put the burden down, and helps you be stronger, change things, and being an activist). Open Up talks about the heritage of migration in industrial Britain, about what “belonging” means, a rallying cry to open all boundaries.

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Magical, Musical Poetry Preview

We were invited to join Tongue Fu at The Ancient Futures stage in the Tipi Field tonight. Fronted and formed into gloriously chaotic improvisational poetry goodness by Chris Redmond, a band makes magic out of already magnificent poetry. It’s never sounded like this, and it will never be the same again.First up of our poets: Paula Varjack, with typically cabaret-vibe élan, two pieces about the dangers of dating artists, and the perilous duality of bisexual, femme identity.Next up: our illustrator Scott Tyrrell with a cautionary tale about intimacy in the context of family life (the piece that, incidentally, got him into the final round of the BBC EdFringe Slam final (which he the won, obviously). Brace yourselves.Then, after an anecdote-song by the host about cannibalistic children (don’t ask), I got up to do my bilingual poem Stroke, but I have no evidence, so you’ll have to take my word for it.Next up the pugilistic compassion of our Poet-in-Residence Vanessa Kisuule, giving us her Malleable Manifesto – a way to live, or not, recognising your own divinity.The band expands, shimmying from Vanessa’s instruction to emulate James Brown looking out of the window into an extended riff as as a trumpet joins the line-up, beckoning our current slam champion Jackie Juno to the stage with a poem about how the universe birthed the world with a word – fitting the particular décor of the yurt and elevating it into magic.Chris then summons long-time co-creative-conspirator Liv Torc to deliver that extraordinary piece about three generations and the impact of truth and hope (as if accompanied by the band on the Titanic).Chris exhorts the crowd to our feet so we can join in the chorus to his song about us all rowing the same boat, along a similar theme of environmental responsibility, dedicated to Liv, then keeping us there for one more song, decrying the spying capabilities of social media (we all chant “Who’s telling me what?!”). A banging evening, a chance to get to know – and watch live finally – some of the other poets, and a great warm-up for the rest of the weekend!

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

The Johnsons, by Scott Tyrrell

The Johnsons, by Scott Tyrrell

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

In Helen’s own words:

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews:

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

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

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

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

Fay Other people’s words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Fay Roberts, blogger

Fay Roberts (c) Louise Frohock

Performing for the first time with us is Fay Roberts, 12:05-12:30 Sunday. If ze’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In zir own words:

“Born in 1975, Fay is a classically-trained singer from Cardiff who has been getting on stages since the early ’80s. Ze was finally bitten by the performance poetry bug in Spring 2006 in, of all places, Milton Keynes, after a favour to a friend turned into a place in the final of a poetry slam. These days ze describes zirself as ‘a performance poet and peripatetic percussionist who by day pokes projects and by night projects across a microphone…’

“Ze has been involved with the Cambridge chapter of Hammer & Tongue since 2010, hosting it since January 2012; and frequently performs across Central and South-East England. Ze set up Cambridge arts label Allographic in 2011, hosting live events and producing poetry anthologies, pamphlets, and books. Ze has been the Artistic Director of Spoken Word at The Free Fringe in Edinburgh since 2013, and host of critically-acclaimed Fringe show Other Voices Spoken Word Cabaret since 2012. In 2014, ze ‘won’ the Edinburgh Fringe Anti-Slam (where the worst poem and performance with the lowest points wins a terrible prize), as judged by Mark Grist, Rachel McCrum, and Oh Standfast. In 2017, zir first solo show, The Selkie, was shortlisted as best spoken word show of 2016-17.

“Ze still sings – it’s actually practically impossible to stop zir…

“Zir work has been described as: ‘lyrical’, ‘engaging’, ‘scarily good’ and, memorably: ‘too many words… I got lost…’ Zir voice has been described as: ‘musical’, ‘mellifluous’, and ‘mesmerising’.

“Fay has performed poetry in: pubs, clubs, theatres, tents, shopping centres and stately gardens; in open mic, showcases, features, support, collaboration, competition and costume. Sometimes ze bangs a drum, and sometimes ze performs in silence, while the words flutter in front of zir…”

Reviews:

“We need more poetry like this… funny, confident, modest and a really bloody good poet to listen to” Hollie McNish

“Her poetry combines lyrical flair with a solid emotional core… there is no one quite like her” Tim Clare

“Gorgeously sensuous” SabotageReviews.com

“Known to us as ‘The Welsh Whisperer’, Fay Roberts has the ability to bring a room to total silence, her mellifluous tones sending her audience into a dream like trance… cannot recommend her highly enough.” – Paul Eccentric, speaking part of The Antipoet

Fay’s Scott’s words:

As Fay has been exquisitely bigging up the rest of us, I decided as a Poetry Blogging Alum to say a few words about zir.

With the calm of a Summer pond and the voice of an ASMR specialist, Fay is a velvet cushion of a poet, threading words together with the weft and warp of a witch with a PhD in word crochet. We first met many years ago at the now no-more Jibba Jabba spoken word night in Newcastle where ze was headlining and I was main support. I was doing my usual ‘well if I’m not headlining I’m going to be amazing and storm this to make the headliner work for the top slot’ load of bollocks, Prima Donna thing. No one need have worried, not only did ze deliver a beautiful, layered set but ze’d actually written a poem during the course of the night celebrating the best lines and sentiments spoken on stage that evening. I was extremely impressed.

Not only is ze a wonderful, respected poet in zir own right, an hilarious send-up of the archetypal Somerset hippy as zir Anti-Slam alter-ego, Melody Starchild, but ze’s also an amazing Hammer & Tongue Host, an unwavering, stoic advocate for Spoken Word and a voice of calm reason in a sea of artistic temperaments. It’s no wonder ze’s been asked to be Poetry Blogger this year for the world’s most iconic outdoor festival. And I reckon ze’s already doing a better job than I did. And I stormed it. Amazing, I was. People still talk about it 😉

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Scott Tyrrell, illustrator

scott Tyrrell
Back to perform with us is Scott Tyrrell, 15:05-15:30 Saturday . If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In his own words:

“Scott has been a poet and performer since the turn of the century. An award-winning comedian, creative director and multiple slam-winning poet (including the BBC Slam and UK Anti- Slam), he has performed his work at Glastonbury, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Prague Fringe, STAnza, WOMAD, Larmer Tree and the Cheltenham Literature Festival. He has written for TV, radio and performed for Radio 4, Radio 3’s the Verb, Sky Atlantic, ITV, BBC4 and BBC Arts. His most recent poetry collection, Honest, is published by Burning Eye Books. He lives in Newcastle with his wife, son, a goldfish, a one-eyed cat and a small fluffy dog.”

Reviews:

“Scott Tyrrell is one of the best comic poets there is.” – Kate Fox, poet and presenter

“A writer who has always had a singular voice of resilience, humour and self-knowledge. Scott is a poet who understands what it is to be uncomfortable in your own skin, and how the gaze of others can compound that feeling, but he’s also a poet who can find the funny bone in anything and everything.” – Beccy Owen, Singer Songwriter

“Brilliant” – Phill Jupitus

“Scott has a weird kid’s cynicism and wonder, an artist’s eye for the telling detail, and a stand-up’s guts when it comes to stating the truth in all its ugly, miraculous glory.” – Tim Clare, Author

“Scott is one of those rare poets who can have you belly-laughing one moment before stunning you with some powerful poignancy the next. He is a super-engaging performer whose charismatic stage presence is backed up by a depth and diversity of high quality writing.” – Dan Simpson, Former Canterbury Poet Laureate

Fay’s words:

The first time I saw Scott performing was in Newcastle. I was nervously perched at the back of the auditorium, knowing no-one but the person who’d booked me, who’d had to leave early. I’d maybe met the host of the event once, in a darkened open mic at Edinburgh Fringe. I was doing that thing I do when I’m nervous, which is pick up bits of the poems I’ve seen through the night and weave them into a tribute for the performers. The format of the open mic was organised chaos, where the artists flung themselves onto the stage without order, setup, or introduction, and somehow it worked wonderfully. (Jibba Jabba was a wonderful night – a moment’s silence, please.) Then Scott, the other booked performer, came up and I nearly dropped my pen. In a self-deprecating but incredibly authoritative manner, he spun out some of the most gorgeous poetry I’d heard in possibly ever. And then had me rocking with laughter the next minute, before proceeding to have me dab surreptitiously at my eye. This was a man who turned every feeling – rage, dismay, love, pride, frustration, exasperation, embarrassment, and joy – into unforgettable imagery, so tightly crafted there was no room to slide so much as a sheet of paper between them. And then I saw him spank the BBC EdFringe Slam into submission as people cackled and cooed, and we had to somehow judge it. And then he toured Hammer & Tongue and held our often cynical Cambridge audience right in the palm of his hand and sold out of books quicker than I’ve ever seen anyone do there.

And then it turns out that he’s a ridiculously talented illustrator, who’s literally mapped the UK & Ireland spoken word scene and several years of Glastonbury Poetry&Words. It’s going to be wonderful seeing that deadpan wit and wisdom shine at the Festival next month! In addition, he’ll be live illustrating each day’s performances.

Sneak preview:

Introducing the Chroniclers

Hello there! How’s 2019 shaping up for you so far?

Applications for this year have closed and, while the rest of the team are busy picking some of the best spoken word artists out there for Glastonbury Poetry&Words, we thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce you to two of the other people whose job starts well before June in chronicling what’s to come and the weekend itself.

Images

Did you know that Glastonbury Poetry&Words have our own illustrator and on-site artist during the Festival? Scott Tyrrell will be rendering the artists into art as he has done for the past several Glastonbury Festivals. Here’s some more about him:

scott@1.5x-8

Scott has been a poet and performer since the turn of the century. An award-winning comedian, creative director and multiple slam-winning poet (including the BBC Slam and UK Anti-Slam), he has performed his work at Glastonbury, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Prague Fringe, STAnza, WOMAD, Larmer Tree and the Cheltenham Literature Festival. He has written for TV, radio and performed for Radio 4, Radio 3’s the Verb, Sky Atlantic, ITV, BBC4 and BBC Arts. His most recent poetry collection, Honest, is published by Burning Eye Books. He lives in Newcastle with his wife, son, a goldfish, a one-eyed cat and a small fluffy dog.

Words

And joining him to document the long weekend in words (and the occasional photo), and to let you know what’s coming up via this site, is Glastonbury Poetry&Words 2019’s blogger, Fay Roberts. Here’s some more about, well, me (hi):

Fay@1.5x-8

Fay Roberts is a peripatetic, percussive performance poet by night, and a professional projector by day. Ze runs the Cambridge branch of the Hammer & Tongue slam series, and zir own poetry label Allographic (which functions as a small press and a platform for performers), along with directing the Spoken Word section of The Free Fringe in Edinburgh from 2013 to present. Ze is a classically-trained singer, a self-taught drummer, a bit of a mumbler sometimes, and speaks with zir hands. In 2014, ze “won” the Edinburgh Fringe Anti-Slam (channelling the spirit of Melody Starchild). In 2017, zir first solo show, “The Selkie”, was shortlisted as best spoken word show of 2016-17.

(I promise to keep this “writing about myself in third person” stuff to a minimum! ☺)

Are you following us on social media? You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and now Instagram, and we’ll be using the tag #GlastoPoetry19 where at all possible.

Joaquin Zihuatanejo’s tribute to the cows of Worthy Farm

A couple of weeks ago I asked a bunch of the Glasto poets if they’d like (if they had the time) to write a few lines of verse in tribute to the bonny bovines whose home we are about to squat in for a week. I was chuffed at the response which I’ve posted in the previous blog. But I was incredibly touched that our Friday night headliner, a World Poetry Slam champ and incredible spoken word artist has also penned this touching tribute…

cows

Of Cows and Men

They are moving the cows for us
Nay, they are moving the cows because of us
We, the intrusive humans
So in love with the sound of our own voices
While they, the divine bovine
Love only grass, the gentle breeze and other cows
Whose place will I take on that field
With my tent and books and pocket full of poems
Will they send the poor beast to Texas to graze in my backyard
And if they do, and my poor wife leaves the gate open
And the cow heads east and slightly north toward Glastonbury
Managing only to make it as far as Fort Worth
And stumbles upon a solitary Texas longhorn grazing in a pasture
Will he look down upon the steer
With his American moo so queer
To the ear of the more refined British cow
Will they argue the merits of Huck Finn and Harry Potter,
Of Longfellow and Whitman
Of Perry Mason and Sherlock Holmes
Will he long for home
Or will he be glad to have roamed
And what of the stoic steer
Will he be filled with rage
That something so foreign is so near
Or will they find a way to put aside their differences
And realize that they
Like we
Are cut from the same cloth
Creatures and brothers separated by an ocean
And the foolish notion
That the grass is always greener on the other side

I am so looking forward to this!!! Next blog will be from a field in Pilton

Scott 🙂

 

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 🙂

 

 

A woman who spits – Vanessa Kisuule

Vanessa is naturally gifted poet and performer, and along with Anna Freeman managed to twist my arm into drawing her as an owl in exchange for an interview (these Bristolians can be quite pushy 😉 ). I asked the hugely talented Vanessa Kisuule about what started her on her literary road, her experience performing for the BBC and the spectacle of Glastonbury…

vanessa2

What or who first made you want to write poetry?

My cousin introduced to me it, actually – I’d enjoyed the page stuff for a while but didn’t know anything about spoken word. He talked about how much he loved it and I wasn’t particularly convinced. I thought it sounded pretentious – but he showed me a Def Jam poetry video and it blew the top of my skull off. I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen and I was enthralled by it for months. Ironically, that contrived American slam style of poetry really grinds my gears now. My taste has changed a lot since I first started out and I now prefer less didactic poetry. But I will always be grateful for that initial spark of inspiration that those videos lit – you can never underestimate how incendiary a thing it is for someone to be stood up on stage telling their story in their own voice. So simple and yet so beautiful.

What was the first thing you wrote which made you feel like a poet?

I wrote a poem called ‘Strawberry Laces’ when I was fourteen about asking for the number of a guy that worked behind the counter at a record shop and getting rejected. In hindsight, that makes sense because I was fourteen and he was at least in his early twenties and him saying yes would have been many shades of gross. But anyway, it was the first time that an experience compelled me to write my feelings down in poetry form. I don’t even know if that made me feel like a poet then, or even if I feel like a poet now. Pah. What a wonderfully meandering and pointless answer to the question….

You were recently chosen along with Megan Beech (another of our Glastonbury poets this year) to be one of five poets performing for the BBC’s ‘Women Who Spit’ series of short films. Your poem ‘Take Up Space’ is a powerful call to arms for women to take their share of society without fear or apology. Tell us about the impetus behind the films and how you became involved. Did you write the piece specifically for the project?

The BBC contacted me having seen my stuff on YouTube and were interested in getting me involved with a project involving a group of young female spoken word artists writing poems around feminism. What’s really great is that that manifested in very different ways for each poet – whilst it’s great that women are now getting more platforms to talk about feminism, I think we can end up shoehorned into a limited space in which we are deemed unequipped to talk about anything else which is almost as bad as being completely silenced. So there’s a variety of topics addressed by all five of the commissioned poets – I wanted to write something positive and affirmative around the topic of feminism as it can be quite wearying constantly reminding ourselves of the oppression that we live with daily. It was important to me that the piece celebrated rather than lamented the experience of being a woman. It’s a love letter of sorts to the many, many women I know and love who are so brilliant, intelligent and uninhibited – being surrounded by them as an example means I have never felt like I had any limits on who or what I should be as a woman.

You seem really comfortable in front of the camera. Do you have any theatre training or are you just a naturally relaxed performer? Would you pursue other film projects?

This is hilarious, because I chronically hate being in front of the camera and there aren’t many other contexts in which I feel less comfortable. I actually had to drink a bit of wine to loosen up enough to get through shooting the BBC video – I’m glad that my nerves didn’t come across in the finished product! I am super comfortable being on stage – that, to me, is like being in my living room. I feel at home with the audience and in my body and it’s just lovely. But there’s something about the artifice of performing for this dead, unblinking camera lens that just makes me go cold. I did do theatre stuff when I was in school, but again I loved the stage and didn’t really do anything film related. I do respect and enjoy film and the power of visuals, just as long as it doesn’t involve me in front of the camera! I worked with an incredible production company last year on a few videos, one had a cast of actors and another was a gorgeous sand animation. I think there’s so much to explore as far as the medium of spoken word video is concerned so I’m looking to do more creative things than just say my poem into my webcam (which is absolutely fine and valid but just not for me!).

Any current or future projects you can share with us?

I’m actually just taking a bit of a breather from what’s been quite a mental few months. I only made the plunge into full time poet-ing a few months ago and I’ve been lucky beyond belief in just about staying afloat. So right now I’m writing new stuff, reading a lot and hatching a plan of where I want to go next. I’m keen to do some weird and uncomfortable things and push myself away from the template of what I’ve been doing over the past few years as a writer and performer. It’s the only way to grow and evolve – so hopefully by next year I’ll be doing things I can’t even conceive of now!

This will be your second Glastonbury performing for Poetry&Words. What are your memories of the first time?

I didn’t actually enjoy Glastonbury very much my first time round, if I’m honest. It was my first ever festival and I think I’d created far too high expectations in my head. I hadn’t even slept in a tent before then so the vastness of it all was too much for me to take in. There are lots of things I know about festival-ing now that I didn’t then. I pitched my tent in some random area away from the other poets so I was really isolated. I’d bought a cheap one man tent that I couldn’t even sit up in – it was like a polythene coffin. I also put way too much emphasis on seeing everything and I now know that the most fun happens when you chuck the programme over your shoulder and go with the flow. I did have two wonderful moments though: 1) Beyonce and 2) raving in a cage in Shangri La with Adam Kammerling at silly o clock on the last night. I have done many more festival perfomances now so I consider myself ‘seasoned’, so my experience will hopefully be ten thousand times better – and I will be pitching my THREE MAN tent backstage with all the other lovely Poetry and Words crew and I am certain I’ll have a whale of a time!

Who in the Poetry&Words tent (other than your good self) would you recommend this year as unmissable?

Harry Baker is a dear friend and absolutely blinding poet whose pun credentials remain unrivalled. I’ve not seen Antosh Wodjck live yet but I’ve seen his pieces on YouTube and his writing makes me want to eat my own fist with envy. Anna Freeman consistently brings the funnies and Paula Varjack and Dan Simpson are a dynamite hosting duo. It’s gonna be fab!

Which acts on the bigger stages are you most looking forward to seeing at Glastonbury?

I cannot WAIT to see Kanye. No matter what, it’s going to be a talking point! Will hopefully be checking out Mary J Blige, Pharrell Williams, Lianne La Havas, Florence and The Machine, Patti Smith, Funkadelic and The Family Stone and Flying Lotus. But like I said, I’m going to try and go with the flow, so if I see even three of these I’ll be happy. It’s all about the random gems anyway – the little performances on tiny stages that you stumble across on your way to somewhere else…..

Will you be bringing your book ‘Joyriding the Storm’ with you? I’ll swap you for one of mine. Mine’s got pictures in it and everything.

I will bring a fat stack of my books to sell – and one has got your name on it Tyrrell! (YES to the pictures)

Finally, can I put in a request for ‘A Personal Malleable Manifesto’ when you play the P&W tent?

You most certainly can :). I almost always end my sets with it so you’re in luck.

Wicked! Looking forward to that. You can catch Vanessa Kisuule in the Poetry&Words tent on:

Friday 26th at 1.40pm and Saturday 27th at 12.25pm

It’s getting so close now, but still more to come!

Scott 🙂

Glastonbury Poetry Sunday Showcase – Anna Freeman

Right. Sooooo…you may notice in place of the usual photo of the poet there is, instead, an owl. Short story is this – last year I designed the poster for Poetry&Words and went to town drawing a great number of the poets as owls. The overall response to this was one of general enthusiasm and a few of this year’s poets expressed disappointment at not being owl-ised this year – none more so than Anna Freeman who refused to give me an interview (that may or may not be an exaggeration) unless I draw her as one. Ergo, the resulting image below.

I spoke to Anna, a Glastonbury veteran, about her first Glastonbury Showcase spot, her novel, TV dramatisation, camping preferences and if she had a favourite illustrator. Hmmm…

anna_alone2How the hell are you?

I’m pretty good! I’ve got a mini bakewell tart so, you know, pretty good. Looking forward to seeing you.

Your novel, ‘The Fair Fight’ is doing quite well out in the world – critically acclaimed and selling very well. Has your expectation of being a successful novelist matched up to the reality?

I’m sorry, I’m just too important to think about that. I’ll have one of my people get back to you. Um. Really I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d definitely call it successful. The hardback has been doing well as hardbacks go, but the paperback comes out soon and that’s when you really know whether it sells. I don’t think about it much or I go weird. I’m much more comfortable being anxious about the second novel.

I understand the BBC have optioned the book for dramatization. In an ideal world, which actors would you want to play your fantasy cast? In particular the two main protagonists, Ruth and Charlotte?

I don’t know much about actors, tbh. But the woman who’s in charge of the development at the BBC definitely thinks like me about it – they can’t be too pretty. Nothing about the dramatisation should be prettied up.

It’s not an accident that my two female protagonists don’t look the way that women are told they ‘should’. One of them is covered in smallpox scars and the other has had half her teeth knocked out. The book is largely about their gradual empowerment, and part of that – though definitely not all of it – is about overcoming the pressures that women are under to look a certain way. The book is grimy and blood spattered. The cast have to be as well.

It’s quite a leap to take from writing poetry to a full blown novel. What were the writing challenges you encountered in making the transition?

You need loads more biscuits to do a novel than you do for a poem. Don’t underestimate that.

Can you tell us what you are currently working on?

I’m doing this Q&A for my friend Scott because he promised to draw me an owl. But after that I’m going to have another go at writing a bit more of my second novel. It’s a thriller set in the fifties. We’ll see if it turns out okay – I can’t tell. It’s either pure rubbish or a work of genius. One of those two.

I’m also going on tour with my show, Animal, starting in the spring and ending at Edinburgh Fringe 2016. It’s a show I’ve been writing for AGES (Really ages) with Chris Redmond and the Tongue Fu band. It’s a spoken word comedy about life choices and spirit animals, set to live music, and it’s one of the funnest things I get to do.

You’ve played the Big G a couple of times before, but this will be your first Showcase gig. What can we expect? Will there be book reading and poetry? Or just poetry? Or just book-reading? Will it be funny? Will you be wearing a hat?

No hats. And I don’t think novel either. I’ll just do my very best to be funny. And not too hungover. That’s the plan.

You’ve played your fair share of festivals. What makes Glastonbury different from the rest?

The size, to start with! But also it belongs to me in a weird way because I’ve been going to it since I was a kid.

What has been your favourite Glastonbury moment?

A couple of years ago, with Bohdan Piasecki, Deanna Rodger, Adam Kammerling, Erin Fornoff and Dan Simpson, dancing to The Destroyers. I was stone cold sober but I was so filled with pure joy that I thought, “Surely someone’s spiked me. I can’t be having this much fun sober. No way.” That’s the kind of thing my OCD brain thinks. But it was just a magic bit of dancing time.

Which acts are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

My sister’s band, The Jolenes. I love them. All-female bluegrass high energy dancing. I don’t care who else I see. Genuinely. I don’t like making a plan. I just let what happens, happen. I’ll end up watching a lot of the poets, because the line up is ace and it’s where I live in the day.

Quick fire Camping questions…

 Airbed or roll-out mat?

Airbed all the way. I’m not a HEATHEN.

Cider or lager?

Lager. I might be from Bristol but cider makes my stomach hurt.

Do you put your towel over the dome of your tent to dry?

Um. Probably. If I’ve bothered to wash enough for my towel to get wet.

Do you bother with Guy ropes?

Of course! There’s no point having a tent if people aren’t going to fall over it in the night.

What colour wellies can we expect from you?

Whatever’s cheapest…? Or my massive army boots.

If you were forced to ditch one of these two, which would you lose – loo roll or torch?

Oh god. Why are you messing with my head?

 Trapped in a tent with – Michael Eavis or Michael Palin?

TRAPPED IN A TENT! Why am I trapped in a tent? I’m going to be way more worried about how to get out than who else is in there. I’ll pick whichever of them has a pocket knife we can use to cut a new door. Or the sharpest teeth for gnawing.

And finally some quick but VERY IMPORTANT questions…

Do you have a favourite poetry blogger?

This is a blatant bid for flattery but I’ll let you get away with it because none of the other ones have drawn me an owl.

Objectively, who do you think the best illustrator of authors as owls is?

Haha! I hadn’t read this question when I anwered the one above. I can’t do it, Scott. It makes me feel grubby. Even if I do have one of your prints framed and hung up in my house.

Which poet are you going to give a signed copy of your poetry book ‘Gingering the World from the Inside’ to, upon your immediate arrival at Glastonbury?

Oh, oh, I know this. Is it Hegley? I’m pretty sure it’s Hegley. *emoticon of a face blowing a raspberry*

(I’ve owed Scott a copy of my book for a shamefully long time in exchange for one of his that he actually remembered to post.)

 

The extremely talented Anna Freeman will be performing her showcase spot in the Poetry&Words tent on Sunday 28th at 2pm. DO NOT MISS IT!!! Find out more about Anna here: http: www.annafreemanwriter.com

Still more to come!

Scott 🙂