A poetry performance risk assessment

Poetry performance risk assessment

Hello, many thanks for allowing me to hold a poetry event on your premesis. Please find below my risk assessment. Just to put your mind at rest, yes, I do have insurance, and this covers every aspect of a poetry performance. I have been performing for ten years and I have never once had to make a claim, though the lady who I hit around the head with the microphone lead that time two years ago did come close. Once we found her glasses, she was somewhat placated, and she says now that the ringing in her ears has subsided.

The way I see it, there really cannot be much that could possibly go wrong. The room will be set up with chairs facing a microphone and it is here that the different poets will stand. We are going to fix the mic lead to the floor with hazard warning tape, because nobody wants a repeat of what happened to that poor waitress at the gig in Barnstaple. There’s still a nasty stain on the wall of the venue where the soup landed. It’s just a shame that the poet on stage at the time was delivering a eulogy for his recently deceased uncle. The moment of silence in between deep, meaningful stanzas, during which the waitress let out a stream of foul obscenities and four letter words, has now become a part of spoken word folklore.

So, as per your instructions, I have pondered on any eventuality which might occur and the risks associated with such.

1- Coma. The blissful or serene nature of our performers may induce audience members into a sleep like state which, under certain circumstances, could mask the onset of a coma. Should an audience member slip into a coma, this might not be realised until a more raucous poet hits the stage. For this reason, long sticks will be employed to prod audience members who show no signs of movement after five minutes.

2- Fainting. One of the risks attendant to poetry nights, particularly those revolving around slam poetry culture, is of excessive gasping from the audience, particularly when faced with such spellbinding poetry and wordplay as to deprive the room of oxygen. Because of this, we will leave the windows open.

3- Fainting (performer). Due to the high energy nature of some slam performers, there is always a risk of fainting due to an inability to slow down and actually breathe. The host will be on stand by at all times with an oxygen cylinder should a performer faint.

4- Injury sustained during a fall. Some of our performers are pretty funny. There is always a risk that audience members will laugh so hard that they fall off their chairs. Due to this, seat belts will be used and audience members will be requested to wear them at all times.

5. A fight. Poetry audience are generally not known for their rowdy behaviour but there is always the possibility that a troublemaker might intervene. Someone, for example, for whom Rhyme scene and syllable counts are more important than the performance of a poem. Who can forget the riot that broke out during Pam Ayres’ last tour? Security guards will be hired at all times to monitor such rowdiness, and poets will be told to make sure that their work conforms to whatever set of strictures they have adopted.

6. Stampede. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a poetry set or performance is so bad that people will need to extricate themselves from the room as fast as possible. The door to the venue will always be a funnelling point, particularly if the performer is so bad that a hasty removal is the only possible action. The management will therefore insist on trigger warnings not only for content, but also for style and delivery method. Performers who are somewhat flaky in their delivery will be required to announce this in good time. Which brings us to . .

7. Trigger warnings. Lately there has been an overuse of the phrase ‘trigger warnings’ and some poets are issuing trigger warnings for poems about sunflowers and bumble bees, just in case. This has diluted the whole trigger warning system. For this reason, trigger warnings will be issued for every single poem, and if a poem actually warrants a trigger warning, then a hyper trigger warning will be issued. However management understands that just the mention of the phrase ‘trigger warning’ is enough to trigger an audience member, so therefore trigger warnings will also be issued for trigger warnings, with the phrase, ‘just to warn you, I’m about to issue a trigger warning’.

I hope that this risk assessment puts your mind at rest, particularly after the events of last month and the damage sustained to your refrigerator.

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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