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Opera North - The Little Greats

LeftLion Shindig!

22 November 10 words: Pete Lamb
Poets reading to a parrot in the Lacemarket. It could only happen at a LeftLion event.
Sarah Jackson read from her collection Milk

Shindig! was held in the snug confines of Jam Café on Sunday 21st November in a collaboration between LeftLion, represented by Aly Stoneman and James Walker, and Nine Arches Press. Nine Arches are an independent publishing house based in the West Midlands and are seen by many as the hottest thing on the poetry circuit at the moment, so good to see them teaming up with the Lion. The night featured two open mic sessions and readings from four published guest poets; Robin Vaughan-Williams and Sarah Jackson were selected by Aly Stoneman while David Morley and Matt Merritt represented Nine Arches.

As always, the Jam Café provided a typically laid-back and cosy setting that perfectly suited the tone of the event: established poets book ending in the up-and-coming. The open mic – which let’s face it, can be pretty unpredictable, offered a genuinely eclectic blend of voices who’d written on topics ranging from a tribute to Nottingham to a rant against the Vatican, from computer programmers in love to post-apocalyptic worlds (special mention goes to Peter Flint for Two Minutes a poem on Remembrance Day that was clearly a very personal piece of writing), as well as readings from WriteLion forum members Steve Pape, David Severn and Alistair Catterall.  

Robin Vaughan-Williams collection The Manager examined the hollowness and generic tedium of the corporate workplace.

Robin Vaughan-Williams was the first headline act, getting underway with several work-themed poems, several of which came from his first published collection The Manager (Happenstance publishers). Focussing on the hollowness and generic tedium of the corporate workplace, and in particular the sinister figure of the dictatorial Manager, these went far deeper than petty office rivalries to the nature of workplace hierarchies we can all empathise with. Following on from this, Sarah Jackson thrust her audience into an even darker stream of imagery centring on the body and nature that was brought to life through some vivid and violent language. Though not comfortable listening for everyone, Sarah’s poetry underlined the potential of verse to share our deepest, most personal thoughts with total strangers and see them identify with what you have to say. Her take on the children’s tale of the Ten O’clock Horses and the bleak but excellent Revolution showed why she is much touted for the future, earning herself a spot in the Bloodaxe anthology Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century.

After a 20 minute break featuring a live acoustic set from solo artist ‘Milk’, Nine Arches’ Press Editors Matt Nunn and Jane Commane introduced the second part of the evening, featuring two of their most popular poets. David Morley was certainly the most distinguished poet of the evening having published 18 books. His readings were both lyrical and striking and included a piece on the decline of British industry in the style of a bingo caller and a poem on birds. What made this particularly entertaining was an audience member had a parrot on his shoulder. I’d like to think it was LeftLion having a joke but knowing there is also a man on Mansfield Rd who goes out drinking with an owl, it must be a Nottingham thing.   

'I knew there was something I forgot...'   

Rounding off the night, Leicester poet Matt Merritt read from his second collection (launched that night) entitled hydrodaktulopsycicharmonica. Though sounding like complete nonsense, hydrodaktulopsycicharmonica is not only a real word but an eighteenth-century instrument no less. For whatever reason Matt chose it as the title of his new collection, and read poems about redundancy, his favourite words and getting drunk with a man said to have inspired the Robin Hood ‘myth’ (his word, not ours). He has also used his experience as a wildlife journalist to produce some fantastic writing on birds, particularly one on screaming swifts, which added to the overriding, unintended, ornithological theme of the evening. He came across as a very nice, down to earth bloke, which certainly challenges the myth of the performer as a flamboyant egomaniac. Due to this, we’ll forgive him his claims that Rob Hode came from some village in Leicester. Phh!

That the Jam Café was packed is proof that poetry is thriving across the Midlands and UK and all that attended were treated to a cosy evening of wonderful poetry. And to all those who sneer at poetry as flowery nonsense reserved for the middle-classes, I’d prescribe a trip to your next local poetry reading: you’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear Notts, Leicester and Birmingham accents. Shindig! offers the kind of experience that many summer festival-goers are treated to if they manage to wriggle out of their sleeping bags and down to the minor stages before 3pm. 

David Morley read about the decline of British industry in the style of a bingo caller.

As you’d expect from a LeftLion gig, nobody takes themselves too seriously, everyone is welcome – particularly those with feathery friends; and if it’s your birthday, as was the case with Matt Merritt, the whole cafe will sing Happy Birthday to you. Here’s looking forward to the first Shindig! of 2011 (tba:18/02/11). 

To keep up to date with LeftLion spoken word events, join our Facebook Group WriteLion LeftLion

Nine Arches Press' website
 

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