Wednesday 4th December
The Gallery Cafe, Bethnal Green – 7pm
Poet on page and stage. Creator of She Grrrowls. Facilitator. Writer.
Burn After Reading / Kid Glove / Podium Poets. Writer for The Norwich Radical. Published by Nasty Little Press.
Wednesday 4th December
The Gallery Cafe, Bethnal Green – 7pm
With She Grrrowls just finding its feet and me just about recovering from a post-launch cold, I think it’s about time I wrote about its first instalment. I arrived at The Gallery Café over 3 hours before the event’s start time. As I can’t afford to fork out £50 on a sound technician, I decided to bring a pad of paper and pen to note down the basics. It seemed easier enough and despite some initial problems, it was working. That was when things started to take a turn for the worst. There was a party of 30 people due an hour before the event for a buffet, which did no good for my pre-show anxiety. Then, my comedy act got in contact to say she was too ill to do the show. I was further sent into a panic when part of the She Grrrowls team was taken down by a kidney infection. I was on the edge of a meltdown. Still, guest host Joelle Taylor turned up and got her hands dirty moving tables with me, providing a welcome relief.
Twenty minutes before the start, I tested the music again. No sound came out. No sound. We had no sound. What was I going to do? The events manager was off sick, and I hadn’t a clue how to work out what the problem was, let alone fix it. The café never closed its doors, so people were coming in and I was running round like a headless chicken. Joelle kindly jumped on stage to tell people to pay and I ran back and forth to collect money and check on the sound. Time was a blur, and somehow, with the help of the café staff and the band, the sound began to work through one speaker – not the ones above, but one sat on the stage. Booking a six-piece band for the first event was probably a bit ambitious, but through working together, it all turned out okay and we were able to start the show before 8pm.
My head was a whirlwind, but I was thankful I didn’t have to worry about the audience and the artists. The open mic’ (themed ‘politics’) was a great success… from a rather unusual but expected ‘alternative view’ to established poets like Pete the Temp and Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson, as well as emerging artists I was glad to see take to the stage, including a lovely lady called Imogen who rhymes under ‘Average White Female’. The audience looked packed – we ran out of seats (mostly because I didn’t have time to remove all the tables) and I counted around 40-50 people. The best part of this means that each act took away around £30 payment (although the ever-supportive Joelle tried to give the money back to She Grrrowls) and I would love to increase that amount by getting bigger audiences. What’s more is that the event had positive feedback – one couple who had come in for food (the guy had just arrived back from Canada) were convinced to stay for the show and left telling Joelle that this was just the kind of event they had been looking for: good quality poetry without the pretence.
I managed to relax enough to talk to a couple of friends who came to watch, and to be able to enjoy the rest of the show. Momina Mela offered us beautiful poetry with words that melt your soul, each word spoken slowly, carefully, as if each word was a jewel offered as a gift to the audience. Momina has an uncanny way with words and amazes with each line of poetry. Aisling Fahey then wowed the audience with her raw honesty; lines like ‘how to hold their frame without wishing there were less of it’, although about eating disorders, was both horribly relatable and undenyably tragic. A poem that goes beyond the experience of eating disorders and makes you wonder why you would ever want to be less of yourself, like you’d be destroying a part of yourself.
Sunshine in Mae finished the night and left everyone with a smile on their face. Fronted by Sula Mae, this six piece band also had some guys in it (see – showcasing female talent, not completely banning men). I knew Sula Mae from university as a solo artists so it was incredible to see her songs grow to such a level, hearing new tracks and old favourites like ‘Wake up Mr. Billy’. People hung around after and chatted, before Joelle helped me pack all the equipment away (what a star!) I was left exhausted, but elated, and so so thankful to everyone who was involved in making She Grrrowls a success.
Watch some of the poetry from the launch on the She Grrrowls Youtube Channel.
Since then, I encountered yet another hurdle! The booking system at The Gallery Cafe hadn’t registered future She Grrrrowls events. After waves of panic via email and feeling sick all day, I was able to sort it out and have spent the last week re-arranging bookings. The next event will be on Saturday 5th October – I had to change a couple of acts but you can see the confirmed line-up below… the change of theme to ‘sex’ seemed appropriate (well, we couldn’t do ‘space’ without Helen Keen)! I’m excited as I won’t be tired from work and my boyfriend will be there to enjoy the show (and help me out) – poetry on a Saturday night, what a treat! The rest will be every THIRD MONDAY of each month.
So, it’s been an eventful week for me. Since handing in my MA coursework and having my last day of work at Sainsbury’s last Sunday, I have started my new job as an English Mentor at a secondary school in Bethnal Green.
It’s been such an overwhelming experience so far but most of the staff are friendly and the students seem okay, though I won’t start teaching them for a week or so more. My role is a fairly new initiative to improve literacy and GCSE grades, so I’m basically like a tutor for C/D borderline students. Time goes a lot quicker than working at Sainsbury’s and even though I’ve mostly been doing admin stuff, it’s been great to get used to just being there. My week is now over and I’m off to visit my friend Hannah, who has moved to York.
I’ve been glad to have had quite a busy week after school as well! I’ve had a few trips to the post office for eBay, where I’m still selling lots of things at great prices! Other than that, on Tuesday, I went to see my course-mate Lydia Martin’s photography exhibition at Spitalfields. It was called Another Voice That Speaks and was really interesting, so I nabbed some free postcards! I may even use them for inspiration for students to work from, as I think my job is pretty independent – I even have to make my own time table!
On Wednesday I sat in the gardens next to the Museum of Childhood (which I really need to check out!) and finished the Year 7’s text ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ in the sunshine. I thought it was a great book and would like to watch the film. I went to Nando’s and really enjoyed it. I thought I had a bit of time so I had a mini dessert, and I must say, I really recommend the custard tart, yum! I then went along to The Gallery Cafe for some spoken word.
I went on my own, but got to meet Sophia Blackwell, who was lovely. I found out that not only is she an amazing poet, but she works at Bloomsbury Publishing! It got my thinking about my career path and that maybe I’d like to get back on that track at some point, since doing an internship during uni at Penned in the Margins.
Deanna Rodger started off as the support for the event, ran by Apples & Snakes. I think I recognised some poems, but I hadn’t seen her in… it must be years. I was pretty surprised when she said she had been doing this for about 6 years, as that means she started out at the same time as me! I need to up my game! I really enjoyed her set and thought the whole even had a great range of poets. I love her rawness and emotional expression. I know she has connections with the theatre, and I have seen a lot of people over-act poetry, but Deanna makes none of those mistakes and is so natural and holds a lot of truth in the words she delivers.
The next was Ronnie McGrath, who I’d never seen before. I loved the way he transported me to the ’60s, the way he played with sound and the strength of meaning. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it, and I also thought it was cool that he read from the page, because it just shows you that you can still give an amazing performance without knowing it all off by heart!!
The headliner was Buddy Wakefield. I had only just heard of him and listened to some recordings on Spotify and since he was performing near my new work, I thought it would be unmissable. And it was. I’m so glad I went. His performance had both strength and vulnerability. Tragedy and comedy. Ramblings and retelling. And glitter. Plus, an ad-lib finale with a beatboxer from the crowd, and McGrath on vocals. There was a reference to giving a pencil to a man in prison, and him putting it in his pocket. Some people laughed and I just didn’t get it, so that’s been niggling me because I feel a bit stupid! There was just so much in the performance, and yeah, it was ‘heavy’ but I like that. I wished others could have experienced it. I wish I could fill up a bottle of it and send it over seas to share it. I wish the recordings were enough. But they’re not. So, if you ever get the opportunity again, go see him! And it only cost £4!
He hadn’t toured in a while, and it was all rather emotional. It felt so good to be there. So, fantastic things like this happening provide yet another reason to live in Bethnal Green, or round abouts that area. Sorry, Worcester Park, you are not culturally stimulating and I don’t know if you ever will be.