As part of our live literature tour Word on Tour, we are very lucky to be celebrating words in all their forms whether written, spoken or sung. As part of our programme we've got some exciting names on the spoken word circuit to team up with writers and musicians to bring you unique events which explore the diversity of talent in our region. Here, our tour manager Cat Large explores the rise (and rise) of spoken word in the region.
“Spoken word, performance poetry, stand-up poetry whatever you want to call it, it’s certainly gone from strength to strength over the years.
Back in the late 1990s I was a regular attender of Bristol’s weekly Acoustic Nights, hosted by poet, Pete Hunter. I was lucky enough to see many of todays rising stars standing up on the stage in that shabby pub backroom on a pre-gentrified Stokes Croft. Like most open mic nights, it was a hit and miss affair. Fuelled by a democratic and noble desire to give voice to anyone who cared to brave the stage. One minute you could be marvelling at an assault of arrhythmic acapella, the next startled by the acerbic talent of a young Byron Vincent or melt into a reverie inspired by the poetic observations of Lucy English. These were the early exciting days of UK Slam poetry, when the likes of witty and talented future Costa First Novel Award winner, Nathan Filer practised their art before word-sparring for the nation’s literature festivals.
As the UK spoken word scene grew in popularity, so did it grow in sophistication. Byron Vincent, now more performer and campaigning documentary-maker than poet, produced BlahBlahBlah, hosted at Bristol Old Vic. He showcased the talents of poet, performer and now Bristol City Poet, Vanessa Kisuule (pictured) as well as popular performance poet, Anna Freeman. It was here I first squealed with delight at the charmingly understated comic timing of Matt Harvey and gasped in awe of Kate Tempest’s powerful lyricism. Poet and musician, Chris Redmond went on to produce Tongue Fu, one of the most popular spoken word nights in the UK, along with Bang Said the Gun. It was later in Devon that I discovered the surreal delights of Jonny Fluffypunk and the delicious poetic vitriol of Elvis McGonagall amongst many others.
Many of these talented writers have gone on to tour their own theatre shows or like Anna Freeman and Nathan Filer, are now successful novelists. After the success of ‘Man Up Jonny Fluffypunk’ about one man’s late onset fatherhood, Jonny F is currently developing his latest show, ‘How I Came To Be Where I Never Was’. I’m tempted to return for a second viewing of Vanessa Kisuule’s one woman show, Sexy, a fiercely feminist and funny exploration of our conflicted relationship to our bodies. I’m intrigued to see Byron Vincent’s latest co-written show next month, Live Before You Die, the result of a cynicism-busting happiness experiment.
If you’re also intrigued to see these talents, go see the shows, support existing and new work and join us on Word on Tour as we travel across the South West for the next seven months. Long live the many pub backrooms that will fuel creativity and enrich all our lives, well into the future. ”