This event is promoted by Amanda Bonnick and Jenny Hope who last gave it an outing in 2011, and have now moved it from a cellar bar to the modern environment that is the Art House Cafe. The format is open mic spoken word, sign up on the night, with some music thrown in. However these ladies have been around a bit, and know not to take a chance on who might just turn up by making some tactical invitations in advance, thereby ensuring a strong core platform of talent for the evening.
What struck me was the diversity of form for the evening; poetry, verse storytelling, drama, polemic, acoustic band and a classical guitarist all made an appearance. The cafe itself is light and airy with a low ceiling overhang that amplified the performer’s voice and a good range of food and drink to satisfy an always discerning poetry crowd that had turned out in some force, a testament to the pulling power of Amanda and Jenny. Indeed some had travelled from as far as Burton on Trent and Birmingham to support the event. Amanda and Jenny took it in turns to present, leaving precious little time for them to showcase their own considerable poetic skills.
Two new young female poets caught my ear, Holly Magill and Claire Walker. Holly read quirky bedsit poetry with a racy frisson running through it, Claire read short neat compact concise pieces. Both offered interesting perspectives on their subject matter ,whether it was Holly and the sensual properties of cardigans, or Claire and her beguiling, slightly sinister The Woman who Loved Every Man ,with the great opener ,“I collect them.” Both should also take confidence from an enthusiastic reception, and build on their performance and projection of some strong material.
Michael W. Thomas is a poet, novelist and playwright who has lived, been widely published, and performed ,in several countries. His literary credentials are formidable , and stretch from Finland, to Florida and back to Albania, where he vies with Norman Wisdom for the international affections of the Albanian people. He now lives in Worcestershire. I last saw him perform at Shindig in Leicester. Once again I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. His tone is fond and gentle. He reminisced over a childhood teacher in Mrs Wharton, and the crap cars he had travelled in as a child. His lament over the word “especial” was never maudlin, his exploration of mental illness sensitive and moving.
One of the joys of these events is in meeting distinguished writers. Happenstance found me sat next to Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn. Her novel Unravelling was published in 2010. It won the Chapter One Promotions Book Award and came second in the International Rubery Book Award. Her novel ‘The Piano Player’s Son’ will be published by Cinnamon Press in 2013. She also runs creative writing courses and workshops. Tonight she read a drama which had been performed on BBC Radio Nottingham, They said There Would Be Silence – a bleak, powerful and compelling mini drama about an incoming telephone call to the Samaritans in which the caller announces that he will kill himself in three minutes. It was a clever dramatic device, well crafted, and an object lesson in economic writing. I reflected that I needed to practice!
Two regular performers on the Worcestershire circuit acquitted themselves well. From Great Wyrley, Ian Ward, progressed along a now very well rehearsed set from the song title laden Delta Devil Blues to his signature Rumble in the Woods. Worcester Goth Suz Winspear, wearing a dress which was a glorious riot of black taffeta and lace, reprised the arboreal theme with an excellent version of her trademark Evil Trees.
Lisa Ventura took a rest from hosting Parole Parlate, Gary Carr from identical duties with Spoken Worlds, to relax and perform for a change. Both demonstrably enjoyed themselves. Lisa railed against the idea that all Italians like hot weather in light knockabout mode. Gary delivered a quick-fire selection of short poems, each one unerringly finding its mark. Myfanwy Fox is always great fun, and did not let us down, taking time out from Wildlife World, a title she is so devoted to she even took a copy with her on stage, to amuse and entertain with her waspish wit, best showcased in The Birdie Song.
I remarked earlier that one of the drawbacks about hosting events is that inevitably one’s own poetry takes a back seat, however when you are as talented as Amanda Bonnick you simply front a band yourself, in this case “Slow Train”. Daringly, they opened the second half with the plaintiff Goffin/King composition Will You Still Love me Tomorrow which some American radio stations banned on release because they had felt the lyrics were too sexually charged – but clearly in Worcester anything goes! Please Don’t let me be Misunderstood was my favourite though, combining a vocal delivery familiar to the Nina Simone version, but a musical arrangement more akin to the Elvis Costello cover ,with a neat flute motif played by Matt Brockington, who subsequently performed a solo polemic spot.
The theme of variety dominated the second half. Naomi Paul cleverly combined stand-up comedy, poetry and music, Al Barz performed a wonderful poem with flashcards and, Ian Glass enthralled and entertained with his poetic narrative ballad How the Duvet Monster Got His Name. To close Colin Baggs delivered an instrumental tour de force of classical, flamenco tinged guitar with energy, passion, driving rhythms and beautiful melodies. It seemed only a short while previous that Sophia Dimmock had confidently opened proceedings with her poetry, yet two and a half hours had flown by.
Word and Sound is likely to next play in September, check out the facebook page for details.
Gary Longden 2/6/12
Photographs by Lisa Ventura