Write Out Loud's Gig Guide notches up 10,000 events
Write Out Loud’s celebrated Gig Guide, beloved of event organisers and poetry lovers looking for a good night out, has recently notched up its 10,000th individual listed event. Write Out Loud’s founder, Julian Jordan, paid tribute to David Andrew, pictured, the indefatigable editor of the Gig Guide, which is now “part of the poetry landscape” and the “go-to listing for UK poetry events”.
But how did it all start? Julian explained: “When I ‘came out’ as a writer of poetry just over 10 years ago, I couldn’t believe that other people would applaud my rough scribblings, but they did and it was a wonder to me. It encouraged me to write more. I’d been invited to a poetry night run by a local busker, John Jelly, at Bolton’s roughest pub, the Man and Scythe. There were only five or six people there, yet I was struck by the liberating possibilities of this sharing poetry in public idea. I wanted to tell other people about it – my background was in liberal and community education, so encouraging others to find liberation was second nature to me, of course.
“Dave Morgan and I set up our own group, which we called Write Out Loud, which became a monthly night at Bolton’s then best pub. I also wanted to read my poems elsewhere, to see if it would work or if the locals were just being polite. I discovered other poetry events, some longstanding ones such as The Dead Good Poets’ Society in Liverpool, and Wicked Words in Leeds. I travelled to them all, often on public transport with many near-misses for the last bus/train home from Leeds to Bolton.
“With the information and contacts I made I began an email newsletter to inform others of this, then still fairly small-scale, ‘network’, though no one at that stage had seen it as a network. Over a pint, my computer boffin son, Michael, suggested that he create a website to make the information sharing easier and better organised. Thus was the Poetry Gig Guide born. Of course, anyone can create a website. To run a site as successful as ours, though, needs a lot of patient, detailed work behind the scenes. Remember we had no funding. All this was being run from my back pocket and in my spare time.
“I was fortunate to find two miracle workers to help. Paul Blackburn, who looked after the whole site, and David Andrew, who has taken the work of son Michael, and Paul Emberson, who developed the software, and made the Gig Guide what it has become. Almost single-handedly he has done the sort of work that many people would not touch. Essential and detailed processing of information, and imaginative research into who runs poetry events, where, when. Above and beyond that though, he has used his professional skills to analyse how the guide works, and worked with the developers in a process of regular updating and improvement. Examples include making it easier to list regular events, and the facility to provide reviews next to the listing.
“Although at first David entered every poetry event we learned about manually, it became apparent that the job would become unsustainable as the numbers listed grew. We became aware that the very existence of this, the only national listing of poetry events, was actually creating more events. Poets looking for gigs in their area and finding none go on to create their own – often with touchline coaching from us - and then list them on the guide. So David worked with the developers to create a facility for event organisers to list their own events.
“Without David’s expertise in data processing and systems analysis, his commitment to poetry and to volunteering, the breadth of his knowledge in poetry and the purveyors of it (he is also a very-much-published poet himself) there would not be a gig guide; THE Write Out Loud poetry Gig Guide. It’s worth noting too that the original idea of listing places to read your own stuff has given way to listings of all poetry events, increasingly of festivals, workshops, retreats and even broadcast programmes. The guide has become a part of the poetry landscape, a ‘national treasure’, as someone described it to me recently. It is certainly the thing for which the site is best known and has been a major reason for the 34,000 visits to the site each month, and 1,100 unique visitors each day.”
To mark the recent milestone, David Andrew has compiled a list of key Gig Guide facts:
First listed live event: At Birkenhead, on Thursday 15 December, 2005 (Wirral Ode Show Poets)
First Write Out Loud event: In Bolton, Sunday 15 January 2006, a Write Out Loud read around
First event with photo-illustrated venue: Cork, Monday 16 March 2009 (Ó Bhéal)
Most events listed in one month: 576, October 2011
Most events listed on one day: 40, on 7 October 2010 (National Poetry Day). These were in Oxford, Brighton, London (5), Wakefield, Bristol, Cardiff, Beverley, Limerick, Bolton, Wakefield, Ramsbottom, Liverpool (2), Taunton, Northwich, Blackpool, Kendal, Gateshead, Hull (2), Edinburgh, Hockley, Ilkley, Leeds, Birmingham, Chester, Halifax.
Most popular venues: Poetry Cafe, London; the Betsy Trotwood, London; Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute; Contact Theatre, Manchester Central Library; Manchester City Library; Rich Mix, London; The Albany, Deptford, London; The Lit & Phil Library, Newcastle-on-Tyne; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.
And David has the following tips for event organisers seeking to upload details of their gigs on Write Out Loud. He said: “The Gig Guide was set up so people could list events for themselves. Listing involves no more than filling up a form. That's not everyone's favourite pastime but something pretty much everyone has to get the hang of. And, if you do get stuck, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
“Whether you are already signed up with us or not, the starting place is the same. It's on the home page as 'post your gig' in the right-hand column. For those who want to cut and paste it is: www.writeoutloud.net/public/submitevent.php. If you are not already a user you have to sign up first, then go back and use this link again.
“You can list a single event or one that is repeating. You'll be asked to give the start time, the cost - including 'free', and some contact details. Giving a contact is important. Those thinking of coming who have a query will be put off if there's no way to ask their question. Giving good info about the venue is equally important. The more accurate the info given, the easier it is for someone to find it, which encourages attendance. Postcode is particularly useful for those who'll be looking venue up online, or have a satnav! Where we can, which is almost always, we'll add a photo of the venue to display in the listing.”
David’s parting request is to those whose event is no longer going on: “Please (please) get in touch with us to say so. Or use the 'delete' option in your listing. Nothing is more infuriating than turning up to a dead event.”
Write Out Loud’s news editor, Greg Freeman, added: “As well as David’s huge skills as a data organiser and processer, he also has a keen news sense, often spotting events that could make good stories and sending them on to me. He is also a brilliant photographer, and has contributed a huge number of pictures to the Write Out Loud Galleries. In addition to all this, he has managed to have poems published or accepted this year in Poetry Salzburg Review, The SHOp, Brittle Star, Under the Radar, South, South Bank Poetry, Tears in the Fence, Turbulence and Abridged. I would genuinely like to know - how does he do it all?!”