'Laughter and tears: there was nothing sedate or predictable about the Tudor'
The closure of the famous Tudor House hotel in Wigan, home to Write Out Loud’s open mic night for years, has come a great shock to its regulars, and beyond. One of those regulars, Isobel Malinowksi, pictured during one of her compering stints there, looks back on the laughter, the tears – and how the Tudor changed her life.
“On Thursday morning the Tudor House hotel, home to Write Out Loud’s Wigan venue, closed its doors for the last time, calling time on three decades of delivering good, cheap beer and wholesome northern grub , to its very eclectic clientele.
Shock, dismay, grief continues to spill out on to Facebook as well as Write Out Loud, with musicians and poets alike sharing memories and reminiscing about what the Tudor meant to them.
A statement released by owners Russ and Frances thanks customers and explains the reasons for the closure. One sentence encapsulates, for me, just what made the Tudor special to anyone of an artistic, creative inclination: "The point of the Tudor was that it was an alternative place for alternative people to go and be themselves."
I came to the Tudor in 2008, a little battle-worn and traumatised by life events. Finding the performance scene and all those wonderfully supportive friends was a turning point - finally I was among people who spoke my language, understood what I had to say. A facet of performance poetry seems to be that you really do put your heart and soul into it - and by listening to people's poems, you very soon find yourself living their history, riding their ups and downs, bonding far easier than you would if you were doing origami, or flower arranging.
One of my warmest memories is that of compering for the first time, wearing my old wedding dress and new Doc Martens. It was an outrageous outfit and quite in keeping with my new, rebellious personality. Ever since drying up on stage at high school, I'd been terrified at the thought of compering again. Somehow Wigan host John Togher managed to persuade me to have a go - and after several glasses of gin and tonic, off I went, to have the time of my life! So many poets have felt that terror, been gently persuaded, and then gone on to do great things at the Tudor and beyond.
Joy France has echoed much of my own thinking on how pivotal the Tudor was for her: "If I hadn't gone to the Write Out Loud open mic night at the Tudor in Wigan run by John Togher, almost four years ago, then poetry would have been a 'one-off thing' that I tried once to scare myself. I didn't realise it, but I'd fallen into the home of the most wonderful people around and that my life would be enriched forever!"
Write Out Loud stalwart Dave Bradley's thoughts on the poetry scene: “As well as all the raucous and bawdy fun there was stuff that was heartbreaking/passionate/sincere. The Tudor was far more than just rude.”
Meanwhile, Gus Jonsson reflected saucily on the visual and gastronomical experience of dining in Wigan. "Sad day ... The Tudor ... the only venue that served me spag bog .. without spag ... oven chips Wigan style ... loved Izzy’s legs ... wow ... but the Tudor's closed now......loved the Tudor loved the bear pit to bits...xxx"
I've always thought that the bear pit analogy was a little over-hyped. Yes, you had to sometimes compete to be heard over the noise from the bar and the Ladies hand drier, but the audience could be every bit as attentive as your Sale art gallery - it was just quirkier and with a balanced, hearty appreciation of the comic as well as the serious. Poetry nights can sometimes become incredibly heavy, sedate gatherings, but there was nothing sedate or predictable about the Tudor - you could go from being moved to tears to crying with laughter, all in one night. It helped that the Tudor never took itself too seriously - all were welcome, and newcomers given the warmest of welcomes.
Yes, occasionally you might have the odd drunk lumber in front of the stage - or even onto the stage. But thereby hangs the beauty of the Tudor - it inspired people from all walks of life to have a go! So many people, like our very own Laura Taylor, walked in off the streets for a drink, heard the words and were then hooked for life - and how many venues can do that?
So now I suppose it's time to look to the future. Russ and Frances state: "Down the years, many tried to imitate us – but there was only ever one Tudor. We really did put our heart and soul into this."
The question on everyone's lips has to be, can we ever find a spiritual home like the Tudor again? One steeped in history with a culture for free thinking and a love of music and spoken word that seemed to seep from its walls? Or was the Tudor really about a wonderful combination of characters coming together and making it happen?
Hats off to John Togher for relocating to The Old Law Courts at very short notice and putting together a wonderful Armistice Remembrance night that was particularly well attended. Though I'm hoping that the future venue stays central to Wigan and walking distance from rail and bus routes, you can be assured that I'll be following it, wherever goes."