Psst! Mystery poetry gig discovered in Yorkshire front room

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A cryptic email a few minutes after the gig started, from someone I don’t know very well inviting me to a “house concert” (neither did I) put me more in mind of an invitation to an illicit rave than a poetry soiree.

This was on Friday, as I was nursing a cup of Lemsip, snuffling and coughing and feeling sorry for myself, so I was really not sure. But it was intriguing, and only a quarter of an hour away, and poetry.

I knocked three times – well, tried the bell, then banged the enormous brass knocker, which apparently stopped the first act mid-song – and was led into the front room of this otherwise ordinary-looking terrace house to be greeted by five tiered rows of faces (footstools up to barstools, cleverly); an audience of 30 people giving their attention to me instead of the act.  Sorry! And, wow, a happening!

By the time I had grabbed a drink in James Bar Bowen’s kitchen, had him explain that he and partner Jackie had been running gigs at their ex-pub home for seven years as Better Than The Telly, the first act was giving way to poet Rose Condo with her show Geography of Myself, fresh from sell-out success at the Edinburgh Fringe. In their front room. Double wow!

I’d met Rose once before when she’d come to a Marsden Write Out Loud evening, so I knew we were in for something special. She was superb, putting her red “You are here” spot on the ground before taking us on a journey around herself and other humans, from Winnipeg to Huddersfield and far away, finally landing in Rose’s postbox and finding ourselves sitting in her thrall. Triple wow!

Rose’s set was a seamless combination of narrative, song, wit and poetry, with visual aids – a world map and that postbox - and audience participation, that brought laughter and applause throughout what seemed a short set, but wasn’t. 

She delivered faultlessly from memory in a professional performance to put po-faced poets to shame, if that’s not too alliterative. Fear not that you missed it though, as Rose is appearing on 6 November at the Red Shed, details on our gig guide. I highly recommend it as an entertaining, funny, poignant, thought-provoking evening, and a masterclass in polished presentation.

I didn’t stay for the post-gig banter but look forward to the next (if invited back!). I had no idea the place existed, yet it’s a hundred yards from where I run the monthly Risk a Verse at the Red and Green Club (Thursday 23 October), which is next to the canal  locks bearing Jo Bell’s poem. A poetry and music hotspot, Milnsbridge, I discover. Mind you, if Jackie and James (and Rose) do want to get more people to their events, our gig guide’s reputation for attracting audiences makes it well worth using (hint).

Unless it turns out like one of those stories where you go back and: the big oak door was nowhere to be seen. Better than the telly, indeed!

◄ End of October deadline for the £5,000 National Poetry Competition

Write Out Loud Middleton at the Ring O' Bells tonight ►


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