As well as sponsoring Find the Right Words in Leicester, we’ve asked local poet (not Coldplay’s frontperson) Chris Martin to give us a write up of October’s event with BE poet Ciarán Hodgers and York rising star Katie Watson.
It’s the third Wednesday of the month, which means there’s only one place to be: Upstairs at the Western, Leicester’s fringe theatre, and home to Find The Right Words.
For those you who don’t know, Find the Right Words is an essential part of the poetry scene, both for Leicester and the Midlands more generally. It gives a platform to new performers with its open mic, alongside bringing some of the UKs finest performers to Leicester as headliners.
In its five years, it has built up a vibrant community of regulars and a reputation for inclusivity and diversity, with performers of all ages, styles, and backgrounds all coming to share their work. Tonight was no different, with ten enthusiastic performers on the open mic, one undaunted speed poet, and two stellar feature acts.
The Open Mic
The open mic featured familiar FTRW faces including one former headliner (Henry Raby). Ten poets covered topics from disability, neighbourhoods, home, loss, Suffolk village rituals, muppets, and the emoji movie.
As is often the case, themes emerged from the group; this week ideas like friendship, resilience, and mortality all recurred. If the mark of an open mic is how many people are sought out during the breaks for compliments and discussion, we had a full house tonight.
Each month FTRW nominates a speed poet. This (usually willing) volunteer is given three random topics by the audience, and has an hour to produce something magical. Today’s poet was Nottingham based Akor Opaluwah. His three themes were…
- Harry Hill hitting Piers Morgan in the face with a cream pie
- A pet cat being spayed
- A 10 year wedding anniversary
…daunting. Especially because this was his first time at FTRW, so he had no idea what to expect.
After an hour in the bar scrawling on A3 paper, he returned with three pieces on revolution, baking, and building lives from different bricks. His thoughtful delivery and delicately placed phrasing belied the time he’d been given, and definitely left us planning to seek out his other (less constrained) work.
Katie Watson ended the first half with a set which deftly combined wry humour and brutally honest experience. Booked based on stacks of hype up at Edinburgh this year, despite not taking a show herself, Jess set the expectations high and they weren’t disappointed.
“Has anyone here ever been on a date? Terrible aren’t they? Though, not as terrible as men”
An additional theme of the night was ‘being taken out of context by rageful Twitter’, and I couldn’t resist using an out of context quote in this review. Without seeing the gleeful irony in Katie’s face as she said this, the above words come across as indignant, rather than the perfectly delivered premise they actually were.
From her takeover of the FTRW Twitter feed a few days before, it was clear Katie was going to be an engaging and enthusiastic performer. In a set which shot by too quickly, Katie covered topics such as an unexpected steak on a date, facing ableism and privilege, and health grief. It was moving and magical and I didn’t want it to end.
Touring the UK to celebrate the publishing of his new collection with Burning Eye, Cosmocartography, Ciarán joined us shortly after being interviewed on radio four’s front row (cue half mocking half impressed ooooooh from the audience). Throwing himself around the country alongside keeping up a full time job in Liverpool, he must run on the kind of energy that could replace fossil fuels overnight if we could bottle it.
Taking us through the collection, he shared his experiences as an Irish emigrant; from travelling to Ireland to spend time with family, the B word (Bono), to the way home and home-home each have their own place within him
“Leaving doesn’t have to be a knife”
Picking up the emerging themes of the night, Ciarán addressed friendship and feminism; dedicated works to activists in Ireland and artists worldwide. This was a performance which knew came in the context of a global conversation, and which furthered it with each poem. He’s touring until February next year, so make sure you catch his local performance.
Overall the night was everything a good poetry night can be; inclusive, thought provoking, challenging and hilarious. If you can get to Leicester, make sure you’re there on November 21st for the next instalment with headliners Rosy Carrick and Hafsah Aneela Bashir.
Oh, and of course I should add that as well a presiding over the night and sharing excerpts from her latest show (A Self Help Guide to Being In Love with Jeremy Corbyn) Jess also called THE RAFFLE. What started off as a way to win headliner merch has become a firm fan favourite. It’s an epically awkward struggle between thigh slapping drum rolls, upside down ticket numbers, and everyone maybe getting home on time. Tonights audience members won books, tote bags, and gig tickets to rapturous applause. Long may it continue.
Chris Martin is a stand up poet based in the East Midlands. He is the 18/19 Poet Laureate of Stamford, and currently working on a solo show about burnout. You can find him here: www.abolishminutes.com.
Find out more about Find the Right Words here.