Having never been to a spoken word event in my life, I had no idea what to expect as I took my seat in the hot, stuffy Nottingham Playhouse audience and our two annoyingly enthusiastic hosts bounded onto the stage.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by the evening. Featuring the works of a young, creative writing group ‘Mouthy Poets’, each poem was vastly different covering a huge variety of topics, styles, forms and presentations. Some were shown via video, which allowed for a more visual representation of the work, but the sound quality struggled to preserve the poets’ performances. Some had chosen to use acting and music with the help of a guitarist to get their message across. Others made use of props including the first poem of the night ‘Becoming’ by Joel Kelly and Joshua Judson which explored the experiences of a girl from Kazakhstan who had come to England for university and was reluctant to return to her home country. Immigration and a sense of not belonging was a recurring theme for the evening and each individual’s story built on the audience members’ understanding of the tough and isolating life of an immigrant.
Highlights of the evening included a poem named ‘Ducks’ which began with Stephen Ashburn patting onto the stage in his flip flops with his guitar and launching into proudly confessing ‘I’m a duck’ – a poem all about a duck deciding to fly south for the winter because of a female duck (co-writer Cleo Asabre-Holt). ‘Indigo’ was a spectacular poem which dealt with the issue of a boy’s father walking out of the family home at a young age and the repercussions this has on the child, but also how they know more than the mother lets on. Written and performed by Larnelle Phillips, it was so moving and sounded like it came from a place of painful personal experience.
A firm favourite of the evening was ‘The Duck and the Elephant’ – a captivating tale of friendship, love and growing up, written and performed by Jo Kelen who is clearly going to become a big name in the poetry world. Her presence on the stage was mesmerizing and when combined with the fable-like story, it made for a very special and emotive performance.
Finally, a personal highlight was ‘Changing Rooms’ by Hayley Green, which captured and voiced the experience so many young girls go through suffering body consciousness in the school changing rooms for P.E, the curiosity of changes in puberty, and the struggle of bubbling emotions as a young teenager.
The second half was also enjoyable, continuing the theme of immigration, but it didn’t capture the audience’s attention as well as the first half perhaps because everyone was waiting for the special guest of the evening.
The true moment of glory was the arrival of John Agard – winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. He is the coolest man on the planet, sauntering out onto the stage with his white hair poking out from beneath a trilby, carrying an old fashioned writing bag, no doubt full of genius scrawls. Agard also touched on the theme of immigration and his own experiences of stereotyping as he hails from the West Indies. He has some wonderful imagery and some fantastic lines, including ‘Putting the kettle on is the British answer to Armageddon’. Such a talented man and an honour to have the opportunity to listen to his rich voice reading his own poems.
This was the perfect introduction to spoken word events due to the variety available and I would recommend anyone to go along for the experience.