Sale Write Out Loud's virtual poetry night points the way forward

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Open-mic poetry is adapting and reorganising as we all face up to the implications of the coronavirus crisis. Organisers at Sale Write Out Loud – forced to cancel their live night at the Waterside arts centre in Sale only 24 hours before it was due to take place – instead held a virtual poetry night via the video conferencing system Zoom, with billed guests Andy N and Amanda Steel still taking part. Afterwards organiser Sarah Pritchard told Write Out Loud:  “We had a great time! I highly recommend it. We will do it again until the curfew is over - and there is hunger for workshops, so we're planning that.”

Sarah said the whole experience had “generally been user-friendly. Laptops work well for groups, but phones are great for faces … It helps if people are in well- lit spaces to see their faces and have no background noises on and don't make too many other noises ... But hey, you get a tour of other homes and get to meet poets' cats and dogs!”

She added that she thought it was a great way to keep events going and “moreover, cross-fertilise groups and reach out to people who were already homebound and disabled, which is what happened last night. “

She explained what gave her the idea: “I have recently been involved in a Zoom conference for a World Psychotherapy conference in Birmingham that's going virtual, plus international teacher friends teaching on line in China and Saudi, plus Playback International theatre companies doing virtual performances in India and Indonesia ... So, inspired by them, I thought doing our poetry night would be the obvious way to go.” Sarah added: “Let's do it more. We'll get better and better at it and it's the perfect antidote to confinement and social distancing.”  

Immediately after the event Sarah said on Facebook that poets from Llandudno, Southport, Salford, Denton, Haywood, Sale, and Altrincham had taken part. “Loved hearing your poems, loved meeting new poets, and about your poetry journeys and projects! Keep creating, we can create our way through this virus ... Long live creativity and the poetry revolution!”

At Tuesday night's online open-mic Sarah read her poem 'I Wash My Hands', and with her permisson we reproduce it here: 



by Sarah Pritchard


I wash my hands

For the length of time of a tune or two

I have begun to remember

The feel of water gently kissing skin.

Of the life of water & the little rituals it holds.

I have begun to remember the feel

Of my hands & the way they age

& still feel as sensitive

The maps the hold

The gaps they frame.


I wash my hands

& I remember returning my tears to the lake

As we said goodbye

How they flowed through my hands back to mother earth

From whence we all come

& I pondered

Are we really listening to her?


I wash my hands

& touch the zapper to watch the screen

Am strangely drawn to late night apocalyptic films

Hoping for some handy tips.

I learn that hoarding hearing aids amongst other things

May come in handy when

The sound sensitive aliens come knocking at my door.


I wash my hands

& take up the dog lead

& walk the nearby fields

Grateful for their close warmth & unworried play

Waving at a distance to other dog walkers

Who wave at a socially acceptable distance away.

Each other's greatest fear & hope.


I wash my hands

& turn off the news & queues

For toilet paper & guns

Wonder if they'll get the virus in the queues or shoot the virus.


I wash my hands

Stroking, softly, rhythmically,

Searchingly in a fresh study

& realize

My hands miss other hands.




◄ 'Though I am inclined to share, I know that opening the window will change the world'

Sources of creativity: interviewer Andy N looks back at five years of podcasts ►


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Greg Freeman

Wed 25th Mar 2020 20:18

The Sale night was organised via the video conferencing website Zoom. You get 40 minutes for free, and I think Sale organised theirs in three tranches of 40 minutes each. Robert Garnham ran Big Poetry Goes Viral last night as a Facebook group.

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Wed 25th Mar 2020 17:46

Hello - our poetry group are planning to do this - it's a great idea - I just have a question or two about how you set this up - can you get in touch if you know how this was set up? Thank you. I'd be really grateful.

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Andy N

Thu 19th Mar 2020 12:37

Was great fun. I'm used to doing Skype and facebook calls for my Podcast series Spoken Label but a group one was something very new but very enjoyable. Worth other people exploring it certainly the way things are at the moment.

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