Parole Parlate was celebrating its second birthday, and did so in some style. Organising Spoken Word Events is hard work. To create, build and sustain a monthly event over two years is quite an achievement . It is testimony to the creativity, endeavour and persistence of organisers Lisa Ventura and Martin Driscoll, together with lens man Geoff Robinson, in particular. They in turn have been helped by a diverse local talent pool, and an artistic hinterland which pulls from many miles beyond.
The basic formula is simple. The venue is the private first floor of a friendly Italian restaurant, Little Venice, with its own bar and toilet facilities and around ten slots an event which are filled in advance by a combination of organiser invitation and aspiring performer plea ! A “poets special “ menu before the main event has become a popular pre-performance destination for many with poetry talk, friendship and good food all available in abundance.
Mike Alma opened proceedings with an assured trio of poems moving from Petrification through Rainbow Butterfly and ending in the rhyming slang of The Temporary Bookseller.
It was an auspicious start. Short storytelling as performance is tough. With no rhyming possible and a narrative to tell holding an audience’s attention is difficult and flash fiction has sought to capitalise on the skills which this form requires. Fortunately Andrew Owens is good at it. Fate or Destiny was a touching condensed tale of junior school romance, Thirty Seconds, claustrophobic story of a child lost on a shopping trip.
Word and Sound is an alternative Worcester poetry event and it was at the last one that I first came across Claire Walker who reads with a fey, easy going confidence, her subjects typically being little things illuminating big things. Yet there is an edge to her too. In her story of the love addiction to men of a woman she intones “I collect them,” in a manner as sinister as Hanibal Lecter ever conjured.
Closing the first half was Ruth Stacey who performed a bold and imaginative sequence entitled The Fox Boy. Densely layered , it borrows from the Red Indian of North America tradition of using animal characters that are half animal/half human to explore existence. It is no twee anthropomorphic jaunt. Ambitious in intent, it is an invocation to break out of the restrictions of our own skin to explore beyond. Cleverly, the device of transcending the confines of that skin embraces mixed ethnicity too- “skin is just a covering, to keep the flesh tidy and the heart, in place”. It was very well received and proved that challenging, serious poetry can be performed out loud and succeed.
After the break Amanda Bonnick read from a travelogue sequence in Ireland, set against the backdrop of a doomed relationship and a tribute to her father who died in a plane crash in Borneo when she was a child. Both combined a wonderful sense of place juxtaposed with the intensely personal. Before the headliner we were treated to an ensemble performance from “The Poets in the Mist” including Suz Winspear, Liz Hayden Jones, Math Jones, Catherine Crosswell, Polly Robinson Mike Alma and Sarah Kemp. Catherine’s typically left field poem on ice cream, at a kiosk by the British Camp was a delight amongst several strong offerings.
Stephen Morrison- Burke, AKA Mstr Morrison, was recently installed as Birmingham Poet Laureate but cut his early teeth performing at Parole Parlate some eighteen months ago. Visually he cuts a hip, trendy contemporary dash , poetically, he writes soulful, reflective emotive poems. His manifesto is to provide a voice for the dispossessed, the unheard voices, and succeeds in that aim, most notably with his signature piece, April’s Eyes, about a child in care. Performing his set rehearsed, without notes, he stretches out a handful of pieces, twisting every last nuanced emotion of each piece with wry, affecting lyricism, delighting all.
Parole Parlate next meets at 7.30pm on Thursday ,December 6th.
All photos by kind permission of Geoff Robinson