Hey, Barbecutie

Posts Tagged ‘they call him Dave


c. Kit Ryall 2010

One of the hardest things about being an aspiring writer is other writers. Specifically, the highly motivated, self-promoting kind, who know how they should be marketed and the sort of people who should know their name. Literary events are a breeding ground for it. They watch the crowd at literary events, scoping out the right people to crawl over on their way to the top. Facebook friends applaud as the promoters introduce their mates, or someone they went to uni with, or someone they high-fived after comparing identical opinions on late period David Foster Wallace (but they call him Dave). The audience then endures an evening of self-satisfied and mediocre performances because they have come to expect no better. I get it. It’s not how you write, it’s who you know. That’s how it works. That’s how everything works.

But as a reader who loves literature, I had given up on finding a literary evening of merit. I wanted emotion, I wanted art, I wanted to hear people who were passionate and fresh and TALENTED. I didn’t want the organiser’s mates, shared backgrounds and trite metaphors, yet this is the attitude permeating the spoken word scene. Familiarity over quality. “You can read your shitty poem at my event because you let me read at yours”. The snake eats its own tail.

Then, in happier times, I moved to Kilburn and discovered wordPLAY. wordPLAY wasn’t a forum for smug connections and insularity. wordPLAY wanted beautiful things. It attracted a wide range of writers, poets, musicians and spoken word artists to perform, who were talent spotted and had a diverse range of mediums, perspectives and attitudes. The atmosphere wasn’t one of wet-lipped schmoozing and behind-backed criticism but of enthusiasm and excitement for the written word carved and coiffed and spoken out loud. The organisers weren’t looking to promote themselves, the performers weren’t looking for an agent, and the audience weren’t looking to spot the next big thing. Everyone was there for the love of good writing, and that’s what they got.

When wordPLAY ended in May, everything looked a bit duller. Going out on a high, the team had attracted a varied and impressive range of headliners from Laura Dockrill, Kate Tempest, Bernadine Evaristo, Edinburgh award-winning comedian Tim Key, TS Eliot-winning Poet George Szirtes, author of ‘Return to The Hundred-Acre Wood’ David Benedictus, and an eclectic array of less established, unpublished and wonderful writers, from traditional poets to MCs, beatboxers and freestylers and prose writers and storytellers.

The good news is that wordPLAY returns on Tuesday 23rd November for a one off charity event in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. I am very happy to say that I’ve been asked to help organise this glorious return to the literary scene. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that organising an event is shitting hard work. I have great found respect for anyone who manages to run any kind of evening, even the dire ones, and I now see the appeal of getting your friends in to fill out the bill. But the trick is not to give up. Amazing writing is out there, waiting to be discovered by an audience who wants to listen. Working on the new wordPLAY event has taught me not to give up and resort to favours or settle for someone reliable but dull. Once a month for over a year, wordPLAY met the challenge, and sought out the exciting, unusual and interesting voices to perform. They crafted one of the most accessible, entertaining and unpretentious spoken word events in London.

Keep 23rd November free. It’s going to be amazing.

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