I was fortunate to be invited to perform at a Staffordshire acoustic music event in Alrewas on Wednesday. The host was Barry Hunt, an Elford based professional musician with a formidable reputation as a guitar teacher, songwriter and performer. Like poetry open mic nights, these occasions can be hit and miss, wholly dependent upon who turns up to play, what they play, and how many turn up to watch. However Barry’s credentials are such that all the performing slots over three hours were taken and the car park, and pub, was full by start time.
Poetry can be quite insular, the converted addressing the converted, so I always relish the opportunity to perform to a non-poetry crowd. Music events pose fertile cross-over opportunities, but without music, the words and performance are all. If you don’t grab people’s attention in the first ten seconds, and keep it, the sound of chatter and clinking glasses can overwhelm. As a professional poet I take my craft seriously, and enjoy form. Before a crowd not expecting poetry, content and presentation become key, so I selected one short and one long poem, both about music, both humorous. Keep them interested, keep them entertained, don’t outstay your welcome and leave them wanting more. Fortunately this tactic worked, the poems were well received. I was reminded when someone added “I particularly liked the line about Cheryl Cole battering toilet attendants” that tailoring your set to the situation matters!
The rest of the night was a delight, the standard very high. Unsurprisingly, Barry himself was at the heart of what was best. A stunning duet with Victoria Pensom Taylor performing “Jolene” was the nights vocal highlight, Barry’s closing acoustic version of the usually electric, feedback drenched “Voodoo Child” the instrumental highlight.
Rob Stevens from Buxton also performed songs and poetry, his highlight being a poem about the miners strike.
It was a hugely enjoyable evening, thanks to the King William 4th pub for hosting.