[blogpost by Katherine, pics by Rachel]
We held our first Bletherskites showcase on a Sunday afternoon in the Jazz Bar. We love this lazy weekend afternoon slot, with its accompanying cheeky pint and chilled out atmosphere, and it seems that you do too – we were delighted to have a bar packed with warm and enthusiastic people to watch one of the best line-ups we’ve seen in a long time.
We invited Pete the Temp up from London to record the show. Pete is the UK producer for the international Indiefeed Performance Poetry podcast. I have to admit to some serious personal geekery for the channel – there is just so much to listen to! Three times a week, they broadcast a poem along with some commentary or an interview with the poet – the poetry is often brilliant, and always interesting, and it’s great to hear some discussion of each piece. One of the most exciting things about the podcast is the access it provides to new artists and new kinds of poetry. Who would have thought that an English woman living in the city of Edinburgh would have found kindred voices in American cowboy poetry? We wanted to create an opportunity to add some of our own brilliant Scottish spoken word artists to this archive; to give voices from Scotland the chance to resonate around the world in the way that a cowboy poet from Wisconsin unexpectedly galloped into my imagination.
So we asked Pete – if we put you a show together, will you come up and record it? Pete agreed, and we invited a line up of some of our favourites to come and perform. They will all be getting a shiny professional recording of their work, and you’ll be seeing a selection of the pieces on Indiefeed over the next couple of months, so keep an eye out for them.
This was an exciting opportunity for the Scottish spoken word scene to represent itself on an international stage. Our own Harry Giles, MCing with infectious enthusiasm, took the chance to open the show with a modern Scots hymn to his homeland in all its variety. Jenny Lindsay gave us her quintessential Edinburgh poem, which I’m have a feeling will make people yearn for our fair city, to “walk you – / gingerly, like a first attempt over burning coals”; Colin McGuire gave us his own take on Scotland’s old bard, Rabbie Burns, in his inimitable and electric style. Claire Askew took a moment to say some words about the scene itself, including some beautiful things about Inky Fingers, thanking us for our efforts to make spoken word welcoming and accessible to people who are marginalised and whose voices might get lost – we blushed a lot, and we hope that we live up to that praise.
The showcase as a whole was an eclectic and celebratory mix of styles, voices and identities. The poets did a handful of pieces each, with the Inky poets adding one each of our own. We heard some fiercely political work – Rachel Amey gave powerful voice to the ailing NHS across the border, while Claire Askew eloquently asked us to listen to the voices of sex workers rather than making assumptions about their lives. Heather Turner, via the energetic and engaging performance of Nikki Barnes and Susan Heron (aka Ags and Ina!), gave us a glimpse into the fight to save a local high school, with humour and passion. Graeme Hawley struck a quieter but equally steadfast note as he described the irrelevance of being gay to the day-to-day blessedness of a good relationship, in a poignant piece which may even have made me shed a tear or two. We had some other vibrant glimpses into lives: Agnes Török took us through some of what she has learned so far – including an evocative piece about the thrills and difficulties of communicating in a second language, which resonated with the desires of the poet to understand and be understood. Jim Monaghan took us through his experiences via his birthdays in a thoughtful, gently funny piece which stayed with me for a while after the show. Camilla Chen gave us the gift of a poem “which takes about the same time to read as the time it takes to peel and eat and an orange” describing the tender urgency and frailty of a new relationship in pips and juice.
Pete himself took to the stage after the break to remind us in an entertaining, energetic and skillful poem that we’re all going to die so we’d better do some living. I took the opportunity to sip my post-performance Innes & Gunn and look around at the life in the room.
Towards the end of the afternoon, Ali Maloney delivered a compelling, sprawling manifesto on the identity of the artist. The line that stuck in my head was one in praise of those who “ask not how the world looks at you, but how the world looks.” Ultimately, I think that the Bletherskites poets lived up to that sentiment: their voices are clear, distinctive, often urgent; their honesty and generosity can only add good things to how the world looks. We hope that the Indiefeed listeners love them as much as we do!
Inky Fingers would like thank Pete the Temp; all the poets who performed; the lovely audience for your warmth and support; and Indiefeed for their tireless work in bringing us wonderful words.