Spoken Worlds

Old Cottage Tavern, Burton upon Trent

BURTON is not an obvious location for a spoken word event, the natural home for which tends to be more urban areas.

But perhaps that is its secret? It draws performers from far and wide acting as a melting pot for a diverse range of poets and subjects all mysteriously mixing to produce an event which is unique, with this session stretching to three eclectic hours.

It works, and is a testimony to the skills and hard work of organiser Gary Carr. We live in uncertain times, and no event is complete without its political conscience. Andy Biddulph was happy to oblige with his trademark anti- capitalist offerings and more personal observations.

For no particular reason, the Lichfield Poets turned up in force for this evening, with no less than six of their number showing up, three of whom were making their Spoken Worlds debuts, the first was Stephanie Knipe.

Steph intrigued, then delighted the audience with a diverse set incorporating wheelie bins, bovine diseases, wine tasting, horses that don’t complete their races and, most memorably, phobias about ducks. Jan Arnold took a different tack, performing short, incisive pieces with a touch of the risqué, “The Little Black Dress”, “Sauce” and “Two Umbrellas”, the latter of which is one of the best double entendre poems I have heard in a very long time.

“Kaleidoscope” was perhaps her most interesting piece. It was introduced as a poem which had no meaning, but was really simply themed around the letter K, something that the audience subliminally heard, but not introduced. Third debutante was Brian Asbury whose seasoned stage background ensured a strong set, the highlight of which was, “The Lunar Society”.

The regular performers were equally on form, Janet Jenkins spoke movingly on domestic violence, touchingly about her “Wish List”, and came up with a cracking image of empty coat hangers as testament to a lost love. Ian Ward picked up the male/female communication theme with “Big Trouble”, whilst the irrepressible Fergus McGonigal from Worcester unleashed the quick-fire lyrically dense and extended “Conversation” in a typically humorous and sharply observed piece.


Fresh from his success as poet in residence at Nuneaton’s Poetry Day, Mal Dewhirst reprised all the poems which had made the day such a success, from his early morning coffee, through his search for the River Anker, culminating in his collaborative poem from which he built around words submitted to him from around the world. The following day he was to compete in a West Midlands Poetic Relay across the Midlands.

The event is part of a series of events organised in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics as part of the Cultural Olympiad, so this performance amounted to a “training run” of sorts, although hopefully the audience was more discerning than the pigeons who will be selecting the order of performance for the Relay Event!

Margaret Torr has a fine body of work behind her on pastoral themes and relationships, tonight she impressively broadened that with ”Human Kind” a refugee’s tale of savagery and humanity which was both harrowing and uplifting.

It is always a delight for events such as these to provide a platform for the serious as well as the light hearted. I always enjoy Tony Keeton’s work which tends to veer joyously from the philosophical, to the whimsical. “Question” came in the former category, and the quite brilliant “Faux” from the latter.

Gary Carr combined smooth running of the evening with his own offerings, some of which were from his recent appearance at the Buxton Slam. And it was from Buxton that Rob Stevens had travelled to deliver poetry to his usual high standard and perform a very good song about grown up children leaving home, the guitar accompaniment offering some welcome aural light and shade to a very enjoyable evening.

“Spoken Worlds” next plays on Friday 19th August at 7. 30pm. An occasional open mic event of light verse is also to be held at the same venue on the evening of Friday 12th August.


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