Wednesday 4th August saw Scribal Gathering lose its virginity at the Nottingham Contemporary Cafe in front of a packed crowd of 150-200 people. It’s the largest audience I’ve ever seen at a spoken-word event so Aly Stoneman and I were over the moon to see people happily congregate on the floor when seating was not forthcoming.
The event took a lot of planning, largely because we had to coordinate our selected acts with both the publication of the magazine and the release of our 7th Write Lion podcast. Our objective was to create a kind of literature variety show, featuring beat poet Joe Coghlan who we predict will be massive and self-funding dramatist Rachael Pennell who writes about women written out of history. WORD! were our featured act to help promote their monthly event in Leicester and Al Needham for his irreverent humorous outlook.
Our open mic was ridiculously talanted with Chris Lewis-Jones, Jane Bluet of DIY Poets, a pirate, Michelle ‘mother’ Hubbard, Eireann ‘I’m an American poet, get me out of hereeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ Lorsung and that lovable rogue Lord Biro (who recently stood in the Kettering elections, promising to force Kerry Katona to wear a Burka because he’s sick of seeing her mug plastered over the red tops). Unfortunately we signed up so many poets that we overran by twenty-five minutes which meant we had to axe the breaks and go straight into our featured act. Next time this happens we’ll have to insist they only do Haikus…
To give the night an added twist we’d pencilled in a game of Poetry Bingo. The idea was to to use the names on the board as a means of promoting organisations, publishers and wordsmiths in the region as well as making some silly gags. These typically included:
WORDSWORTH – Is that a daffodil or are you just pleased to see me?
HAIKU – Nothing more than a glorified status update.
SHINDIG – Our next spoken-word event, to be held on September 19th at the Jam Cafe.
JENNY SWANN – This local publisher is burning the poetry candlestick at both ends.
RUTH– Up the Oxford University creek without a Padel.
STAPLE– Something that hurts when fired into the arse and also the name of the Sneinton based publication edited by Wayne Burrows.
Unfortunately this was cut due to time constraints but it wasn’t the end of the world. Quite fortuitously, Ross Bradshaw donated two hundred copies of Sunday Night, Monday Morning which we gave out to everyone on the strict condition that they read them. ‘You’ll be tested at our next event’ was the courteous warning. People were clearly delighted at this unexpected gift and meant we had the ‘bread’ for the ensuing ‘circus’.
For our next event at the ‘tempreh (Hockley Hustle, 23rd October) I’ve got a game of Literature Room 101 planned where authors, agents and publishers will be asked which aspects of the writing industry they’d like to see consigned into Orwell’s imaginary void. These can then be followed with a reading. I also want to make a slot for our new book reviewer Katie Half-Price who has hilarious potential but the problem is figuring out how to conceal ‘her’ identity. In my head I envisage her wearing a Bo Selecta style mask, pushed around in a wheelchair (ala Little Britain) with Pythonesque papier-mâché breasts dangling down to the floor and ‘left’ ‘lion’ tattoed in pink across her knuckles. It sounds like a lot of extra work but it will be worth it as the Art Show is coming up from London on the same day so the ‘tempreh will be swamped with press and literati.
I thought the visuals worked really well behind the acts, particularly the photo of ‘Fanny St’ which accompanied Al Needham’s ‘spoken wood’. I’d like to see more specific images for the other acts as well as more work from the LeftLion artists to help promote their work. Talking of which, we need to get some T-Shirts printed. We can flog tons of these if we plan well enough and make some money which can be invested back into the night.
Overall I was delighted with the night and proud to see so many interesting people under one roof. It really felt as if we were part of something. My personal three favourite highlights were hearing Al Needham say ‘Scunthorpe is the only city in Britain with ‘cunt’ in their name’. Who’d have thought we’d get away with that in the ‘tempreh?! Secondly was someone describing LeftLion as the Viz of the East Midlands and last but not least was young Joe Coghlan asking for a hug. That’s the exact reason why we wanted to put on the event. For hugs.