I’ve just had a great weekend in London performing a half hour set at a trendy film festival in Hoxton, in a studio gallery underneath a railway arch converted for the weekend into a one screen cinema. It was a great event, under the banner Lets All Be Free, showcasing films which probe notions of freedom and what it means to be human in the modern world.
I was initially sceptical that my poetry would go down well. After all, my oeuvre is mostly comedic and some might see the approach I take to serious matters as Taking the Mickey. The block of films shown before my performance dealt with subjects such as migration and political activism, with serious, weighty themes which were greeted by the audience with respect and contemplation. I was due to perform at half eleven in the morning.
A year ago this would have given me cause for concern and I would have been phased by the whole festival and its spirit of underlying seriousness. Yet now, I am able to approach such events with a sense of wanting to entertain and amuse and to give everything to my performance and the words.
The tactic seemed to work. The audience were appreciative and they didn’t escape to the bar while I was on, indeed, more came in and watched. Not even the sudden death of the microphone halfway through was a problem, I just spoke louder. Because of this I was very happy with the way that it went.
So what’s so different now? Several things have helped. For one, I’ve been concentrating less on the writing process and more on the rehearsal. This is thanks to my unofficial director, the wonderful Ziggy Abd El Malak, who’s shown me several techniques which I now employ regarding movement, pausing, etc. Secondly, I’ve been watching other poets and performers and the way that they do things rather than what they are saying. SV Wolfland, for example, has a wonderful microphone technique and employs body movement, as does Susan Taylor. I’ve even been watching my favourite pop stars to see how they move and how they use the microphone.
And thirdly, I’m just not afraid of things going wrong any more. Spending time with people like Jackie Juno, who can turn a whole situations round and just Have Fun while performing, has been invaluable. Watching the poets at the Womad Festival in close quarters also showed me how the big names control the audience and make every situation that crops up a part of the show.
So that’s why this weekend has been so great. And now I’m sitting here at Reading Station, waiting for my train home, and looking forward to the next opportunity to shout out words at the world!