Down an alley-way on Angel Row and up some stairs on the left poets, storytellers, music-lovers and literature people started to gather at The Chameleon Arts Café for the launch of the first ever issue of Low Light Magazine, published by Hi Vis Press.
The venue is compact, but big enough to get everyone in and as the evening turned to night, more and more people started turning up to enjoy what was going on. The night was hosted by Miggy Angel, someone I’d never encountered before, I was told there would be ‘lots of whoops and whistles’ and I wasn’t disappointed. After just over an hour of loud music from the speakers, drinks being bought, black crosses scrawled on hands after entrance fee paid, Miggy released an ear-splitting whistle to kick things off.
The order for the night consisted of a number of poets and storytellers, all with a slot to perform to the room and give us a slice of their life and their creativity. There was also an ‘open mic raffle’ whereby you pay £1 and get a raffle ticket, and if yours gets picked, get ready to perform. Miggy set the tone perfectly from the off, asserting that this was an event with a punk and rock n’ roll attitude to literature. From the start there was clapping, whooping, cheering and whistling which, in such an intimate setting, evoked a collective support for everyone and everything in the venue at that time. Miggy kept everyone in check from beginning to end, telling us that while people are performing, we be quiet and listen to them. At the end, this applied to the bar staff too with Miggy declaring the bar closed while the performers were up, and everybody respected that.
Readers from the first few sections of the night included Liam Mills, Anna Wall, Keith Ford (one of my favourites from the night!), and Gwil James Thomas. Our first open mic performer was Gemma, who impressed everyone by reeling off her poems from memory, and was then followed by Jake Wildeman, who insisted on bringing a bit of romance into the place with his poem ‘Not so hopeless romantic’.
The breaks were frequent and around 20 minutes each, giving everyone enough time to get talking to people, talk to the performers, get more drinks, and for more people to arrive. During this time, I was persuaded to put myself forward for the open mic. Note that not many people actually went for the raffle, so if you did you were pretty much guaranteed to be up there. As well as myself, a newcomer to the event, Kat, put her name in and was first to be drawn. However, she was mistaken in thinking that it was a prize raffle rather than a performing one, and Miggy wasted no time in giving her a book as a prize, which was just brilliant of him.
Further on in the evening, Jamie Thrasivoulou took to the stage, shouting out his poems with no introduction and getting the attention of everyone. After his first poem, he settled in with a bit of background behind his chosen pieces, giving us the story and then the product of it. This was my second time seeing Jamie perform, and this was the perfect setting for him.
Eventually, after another break, we all went upstairs for a set of poetry from Hannah Whitlow, who had also been performing earlier to close Notts Zine Fest at Rough Trade. After, there was a change of form and instead of poetry we had hip-hop artist Alice Short. I don’t really listen to hip-hop and it’s not usually my thing but it definitely made a change and the whoops and cheers were still going on at this point. Then we all went back downstairs for another round of readings from Rob True, Bridie Squires and, of course, Miggy Angel himself. This was the perfect mix to round off the night, and the end of the spoken word, before it was back upstairs for the punk element of the night that Miggy warned us about at the start, with music from Rob & Natas of Sheffield Skate Punk. And from there, it was whatever you wanted until 2am.
This was an incredible way to launch the magazine, and I’d definitely go to a Hi Vis event again for the sheer energy that Miggy Angel is able to create in the name of literature, and to keep going it for hours on end right in the heart of the city.
Low Light Magazine
Ed. Jim Gibson, Ben Williams, Sophie Pitchford
£5.99, Hi-Vis Press
Hot off the tails of the esteemed Hand-Job finale, Hi-Vis Press makes a return to form with their latest art collection Low Light Magazine. ‘Art’ is a broad term here, as the mag features photography, poetry, flash fiction, journalism and essays, all displayed in black, white and red. Featuring works from staples of the Midlands art scene, as well as a few new faces, the mag immediately sets off into the “dark underbelly of life” right from the editorial notes. Within the first page we find ourselves engrossed in a landscape of screeching owls and urban sprawl, and this tone spreads evenly throughout the following 81 pages. Stark monochromatic photography highlights fragile masculine forms (in the case of Jack Fleming’s Whitehawk) and the sparsity of modern living (in Alex Brown’s Happiness). That isn’t to say that it’s all doom and gloom – pieces like Ewan Waddell’s A Brief Discussion of Positivity in Adversity and Sarah Evans’ Versions of You portray a sly beauty in an otherwise bleak world. All in all, this is a deep-dive into the grimy, undiscussed areas of alternative culture, hoping to sift through the landfill to find the solitary flecks of silver. LP Mills