In the early Autumn Burning Eye Books released Burning Books, the début collection from Jess Green. The poems are directly taken from the stage in which Jess, along with the Mischief Thieves explore the lives of those trapped by an non-negotiable education system. Just before Jess finished her last date at Rich Mix in London, we caught her for a quick chat about how it was going:
So a few years ago you exploded onto the internet with Dear Mr Gove and have been pretty much non-stop since then. Were you writing and performing before this piece came out?
I’ve always written, since I was really little. I started taking it more seriously when I went to university in Liverpool and began performing poetry when I was 18. It became my job when I moved back to Leicester at 22.
Burning Books the collection is taken from your show of the same title – tell us about the process of the show, did you always know it would go to music? How long did it take to develop?
I always knew I wanted to put the poems to music. My boyfriend is the drummer in the band and we had been putting some things together for a while. We had the idea for the show while we were in Edinburgh three years ago. I’d already written a lot of the poems from my experience of working in schools. It took about a year to write the rest of the pieces and get the music up to scratch, it was at this point we took it to Edinburgh for the first time. The show’s always changing though as I write new pieces in response to the changes the government’s making to education. It’s very different now compared to how it was two years ago.
How did you find your recent tour?
It’s been really fun and exhausting in equal measure! I really enjoy that at every venue you go to you have a completely different experience. We turn up in a city and have no idea what to expect. Some audiences have been very quiet and have taken in the more serious messages of Burning Books, other audiences, like the one in Newcastle last week, have been raucous and really got in to the music and the strength of feeling behind the words.
As much as I’m quite knackered by it, it’s addictive. Our last tour date is this Saturday at Rich Mix and I know as soon as we walk off stage I’ll want to start the whole tour again.
You sell CDs of Burning Books, how did this measure up to having book versions as well? Did either one sell better, why do you think that is?
It’s funny, we’ve been selling the CDs (which is an EP with four tracks from the show) for two years and when I started selling the book three months ago it was interesting the different things that people want to take away from a live performance. Some people really want to buy a CD so they can listen to it in their car or play it in their staff rooms and, I guess, recreate a bit of the show. Whereas other people want to buy a book so they can go back and look over the poems in more detail and catch any lines they missed.
Finally, what are you future plans?
Argh. I’m terrible at answering this because it changes week by week! At the moment, I’m writing Burning Books as a full length play. I’m also working on some bits with folk singer, Grace Petrie. I’m toying with the idea of whether to take another show to Edinburgh next year but I need to make my mind up pretty soon so we’ll see how that turns out…