Happy New One Everyone!
Onwards and Upwards, we hope. It’s been a sucky year in so many ways but its also been one full of better moments, sometimes we forget that even in years like this there are chinks of light, moments of grace and inner peace. A year of contrasts
Poetry-wise Zoom continues to enable many regular events and festivals but there’s also been the return of life gigs in all forms of entertainment. For me a huge highlight was the Northern Irish Stendhal Festival held in August. I was blessed to put together the poetry output for the fine festival and the crowds were so up for it and the acts so excited that despite a reduced no of festival goers the poetry was incredibly well attended. If you managed to get to a festival this year you probably went through the same vibe, the same buzz, live gigs in the heart of summer. Good Times. For me the poetry line-up over the days was some of the cream of NI poetry, page and stage. There is such a wealth of great NI poets that it was hard to only be able to pick 11. They were
Cat Brogan Frank
Rafferty Mel Bradley
Gemma Walker-Farren (“Granny D”)
Paul Butterfield Jr
Every single one of them put in a scorching performance. The audiences were hugely appreciative
Slam has been strong this year. OohBeehive ran its incredibly successful national comp this year, each month’s 2 finalists went head to head in Dec. I competed twice and got to the semi in Nov, in this monthly slam Northern Irish poets have been frequently in the mix. Cathy Carson only started slamming and managed not just to qualify in her heat but to come 2nd overall in a national comp. Kudos. The wonderful Jay Mitra bagged the win in a fiercely competitive slam where every single slammer has already got their stripes in the heats.
For me it was a huge slam year, I managed to win the All Ulster Poetry Slam for the first time in Oct. My first second Slam since Covid struck. I found that Zoom has some benefits and has plugged the gap but there’s nothing so alive as the experience of performing live. It rocks. Thanks to FLive and the Ulster and Ireland poetry slam peeps, especially Frank Rafferty. In Dec I managed to get to represent Ireland at the Euro Poetry Slam in Brussels which was an absolute career highlight. We, the 20 national finalists all bonded incredibly well. As we said to each other during the comp the slam wasn’t what it was about for us, it was getting to meet everyone. Philip Meersman, the MC for the event and chief planner told us the night after the slam “You are all family now.” We all felt that. I bagged 4th place after Belgium 1st, Spain 2nd and Italy 3rd. I was floored. The top 10 qualified for the World Cup in Sept this year. So I am humbled and so, so appreciative for the experience and opportunity.
(* means qualified for this year’s world cup)
Hrvoje Mimica (Croatia) *
Dimitrus Stamiris (Greece)
Cosimo Suglia (Luxembourg)
Sad Tuna (Poland) *
Veroni Gyenge (Hungary) *
Tamara Stocker (Austria)
Sved (Czech Rep)
Argyris Loizou (Cyprus) *
Nikola Dukoski (Macedonia)
Danil Astachov (Russia)
Marie Darah (Belgium) (1st)
Matteo Di Genova (Italy) (3rd)
Monique Hendricks (Netherlands)
Mama Fiera (Spain) (2nd)
Matic Acko (Slovenia) *
Kelli Kiipus (Estonia)
Neimad (France) *
Matt Charnock (Denmark)
Every single one of the slammers were superstars
One of the best experiences of my life, never mind in poetry.
Finally in slam I got to compete in the National Final of the Hammer and Tongue at the Royal Albert Hall. An absolute honour, Elizabeth McGeown was also there from NI as well as so many fine finalists including Kathryn O’Driscoll, both huge slam champs. Rick Dove read two very different poems to claim the crown. It was my first live performance since March the previous year so it was a fantastic way to go back to the stage
Saboteur Awards are always worth a gander and this years shortlists included:
Best Spoken Word Performer
Special Mention goes to
Best Lit Fest
Best Regular Spoken Word
Best Spoken Word Show
Most Innovative Publisher
Touring is on the way back, or at least it was towards the end of the year I embarked on the Hybrid Tour throughout Nov. It was a mix of live gigs and zoom performances. Gigs included Fire and Dust Cov headlined by War Poet Antony Owen who read about growing up in Coventry. I also attended the Genesis Slam in London, Beatification Manchester, Manky Poets, Write Out Loud Sale, and many online gigs such as Jackanory, Yes We Can’t and Write and Release. I also MCed Lit Up from a hotel in Manchester. I love touring as I’ve mentioned before having blogged the tour. For those who haven’t read those blogs let me just let you know. There is little more joyful in Performance Poetry for me than touring. As a friend told me about touring “You are always moving forward”. Finally thanks to those who make tours possible for me Spoz, Michael and Catherine Reeves, John and Bryony, Kev White and Tony Curry. You are what makes tours so good. It’s not so much the gigs (although they are amazing) it’s the meet ups with friends, discovering new friends. The sights familiar foreign and beautiful. Thank you.
The tour’s highlight for me was performing my new one person show at Manchester. It’s first outing. Fix is a spoken word show from a recovered club casualty and will be being performed hither thither and yon next year. Spread the love.
Lit Up continued throughout the year online. Its a regular poetry night with a twist we encourage performers to read a mix of their own work and covers. This year we were blessed by numerous open micers but headlining we had
Cat Brogan and Nick Lovell,
Stephen Sexton and David Braziel,
Kathryn O’Driscoll and Colin Hassard,
Clive Oseman and Matthew Rice,
Linda McKenna and Skylar J Wynter,
Ross Thompson and Neil Bell,
Dominic Berry and Abby Oliveira,
Spoz and Cathy Carson
All, every single one of ’em put in a blistering set, their choices of cover always keenly selected, their own work always hitting home. The remit of Lit Up is that all is inclusive, page headliners, stage headliners, both given equal footing, after all they are both united in one thing: the love of poetry. Thanks also to all the open micers. They never fail to floor me. Massive shout out to Community Arts Partnership who host Lit Up and of course to the steady hand of Conor Shields the CEO, Lit Up wouldn’t happen without him. Shouts out also go to Shelley Tracey and Gordon Ferris. Yes.
Finally the Arts Council ran an award for recovery from covid, how to revitalise your career. I was humbled and excited about being granted funding for my new project. I will give more deets in good time. Congrats to all those who got accepted for those who didn’t keep on trucking poetry peeps
That’s yer lot. Thanks to all those poets and organisers who have kept the heart of poetry beating so strongly. Here’s to a year of severe ups and downs and the hope, the wish, the prayer:
Onwards and Upwards
You made it this far: Keep Going.