Help us fill a big gap in mid Wales
by Jane Dards
As a Montgomeryshire poet, I have long bemoaned the absence of an informal open mic evening in my local area. Several times a year I travel the three-hour round trip to Chester to perform at - and enjoy - the Zest! open mic evening, which is held in a jazz bar and is great fun. But I hadn’t heard of anything nearer. I was delighted when I found Write Out Loud’s Gig Guide, and eagerly typed in all the search terms I could think of – but to no avail. And when the excellent Poetry Map appeared recently (currently in beta) I found out why. There really wasn’t anything listed: the whole of central Wales was one big empty hole. Apart from a couple of events in Aberystwyth, which are held on Saturday afternoons, the nearest events were in the far north and south of Wales, or over the border towards Birmingham or in the north-west.
So is mid Wales really such a cultural desert where poetry is concerned? Well, not quite. There are some excellent one-off poetry evenings at the Oriel Davies gallery in Newtown, often featuring high-profile poets booked by poet-in-residence Chris Kinsey. And there are occasional open mics. And of course the annual festivals at Hay and over the border in Much Wenlock. But I felt that there was a need for a relaxed regular meeting that gave local poets and poetry lovers the chance to read and perform poems in an informal atmosphere.
After waiting for somebody to organise such meetings, I chanced to meet Meg Gurney, who runs Torfaen open mic in south Wales, who encouraged me to start my own open mic. So, armed with lots of tips and advice from Meg, and with the support of Cathy Knapp at Mid Wales Arts Centre , who is providing the venue, I have finally set a date for the first event in the series. The frequency of the meetings will be decided at the first meeting. We are inviting all poetry lovers to bring a favourite poem to read, read or perform their own work, or just come and listen. I’m hoping for a stimulating evening with a wide range of poetic styles, including both serious and light-hearted. So there should be something for everyone to enjoy! The first guest poet will be well-known Newtown poet Chris Kinsey.
So that’s the first one sorted – I hope. I plan to have a guest poet or speaker - professional or semi-professional - at most events. But where to find them? I was back to trying search terms, this time in the Poet’s Profiles. But again without much success. How do I find poets who will be prepared to travel to mid Wales for only a very modest fee? Perhaps a Poet Map or a Guest Poet Showcase will be available on Write Out Loud at some point (maybe if everybody makes a donation ...), and Julian has kindly given me some suggestions of people and places to try. If you think you fit the bill, please get in touch!
In the meantime, I continue to search, and to ensure that the events that I do know about in mid Wales are posted in the Gig Guide. I’ve recently found one in Oswestry, so the hole in the map is no longer looking quite so gaping. Hopefully this will draw some local poets out of the woodwork. Are you one of them?
Jane Dards will be hosting the first Mid Wales poetry open mic on Thursday 29 March at 8pm, at Mid Wales Arts Centre (MWAC), Maesmawr Gallery, Caersws, Powys SY17 5RE. For more information, contact Jane Dards at firstname.lastname@example.org or MWAC at email@example.com.