It's goodbye to poetry out loud for a while - and hello to online poetry initiatives
The poetry scene is coming to terms with the immediate effects and the implications of stark government advice to “avoid non-essential contact with others”, which will mean the cancellation of most if not all upcoming poetry events because of coronavirus safety concerns. For this reason we have removed Write Out Loud’s Gig Guide from our home page.
In advance of the latest government advice, many events have already been cancelled or postponed until later in the year. Three Write Out Loud open-mic poetry nights in March were cancelled - at Bolton, Marsden, and Woking - as a result of coronavirus safety concerns.
Cheltenham poetry festival - due to take place next month - said it was postponing its festival until the autumn. Teignmouth poetry festival said it was hoping to reschedule its festival later this year, too. Launches of an anthology celebrating the NHS due to take place in London and Birmingham were scrapped. The Poetry School said it was closing the "physical school" for the next few weeks, and would be in touch with students about alternative learning options. Coffee-House Poetry, which attracts audiences of 100-plus to its nights at the Troubadour in London, has postponed all readings and workshops for the next three months. It has also cancelled its 2020 competition, the Trouabdour International poetry prize. The Poetry Society's Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden has now closed its doors, too.
Freelance poets who earn money from running courses are looking at or already offering online alternatives. And some poetry event organisers are already hatching plans to stage alternative events online, including Write Out Loud Sale, forced to cancel Tuesday's open-mic night at the Waterside arts centre just 24 hours before.
Andy N, who with Amanda Steel was due to guest at Sale, said on Facebook: "Unfortunately, my and Amanda's appearance as a headline act on Write Out Loud Sale is now going digital tomorrow via Zoom. it'll be very different but fun. If we are heading for lock down for 12 weeks, could be the way forward for quite some time now ... for poetry readings."
One leading spoken word poet, Luke Wright, said on Twitter that he would be live-streaming some of his sets over the next couple of weeks: "I can't not gig. My need to show off is pathological." Another poet, Ian McMillan, presenter of BBC Radio 3's The Verb, tweeted: "Poetry will not close down tomorrow; / Poetry will keep visiting you in your home / And bringing you essential supplies."
Watch this space ... and stay online with Write Out Loud!