Utterly good fellow Richard Tyrone Jones bows out on wet night in New Cross
Richard Tyrone Jones is a leading spoken word performer and organiser, who, faced with a serious heart problem a few years ago, made light of it in a show and a Radio 4 sitcom. On a wet Tuesday night in south London he turned his back on it all. After 10 years of running Utter!, he told the audience at the Amersham Arms in New Cross: “People have asked me what I am going to do now. I am going to run a marathon, and have lot more sex.”
He said it was a night of mixed emotions, “although, with beta blockers, I don’t really feel any emotions anymore”. Tyrone Jones is a genial, quick-witted host, adept at dealing with the odd heckler, like the one who shouted out: “Poetry is dead!”. He responded: “Poetry may be dead, but not panto, and you’re the villain!”
There was a longer retirement speech before the end – but first the small matter of the last Utter! “final final”, in which contest winners from 2012-14, plus heat winner Tom Gill, went head to head, to win cash plus a paid gig at Utter!’s Luton offshoot, which is still continuing. The audience decides who wins in each round, and it’s quite acceptable to bring and vote for your mates.
There were three rounds of voting, which did make a rather long night of it. As Tyrone Jones cried in mock despair before the end: “TS Eliot was right, it all ends not with a bang but with a whimper, and all because of my shit time-keeping.”
The final final winner was Ali Brumfitt, whose praise for the pleasures of sex over chocolate, ultimately triumphed over Tom Gill’s look back at his home city of Salford, and how every time he returns he feels “a bit more distant from it”.
Before that the highlights included, from the first round, Laurence O’Reilly’s “This is for the shy people we’ve been ignoring all our lives”, Tracy Starreveld’s “Tease them out, then reel them in” on online dating; and Frog Morris’s extraordinary double act with an angry badger glove puppet. The second round included Rose Drew's powerful political tour of the 70s, “the love child of the 60s”, David Lee Morgan on Santa Claus, the man who inspired him to become a revolutionary communist, and Laurie Bolger, from Bang Said The Gun, condemning “a booz-ah” in trendy Shoreditch – trendy for how much longer? - “a poncey place with Moroccan cushions”. The third third-round competitor was George Chopping, with an uptight demeanour reminiscent of Basil Fawlty.
Not at all uptight was Tyrone Jones, who in his retirement speech included among the highlights of the last 10 years “hosting my own Utter! funeral, with some people actually thinking I was dead”. He added: “I’ve had the support of a plethora of artists too numerous to list, so I’ll just name-drop the famous ones …”
He spoke of a “lot of laughs, and a shedload of bloody good nights” – I think he meant that bit – before listing all the possible reasons he was quitting, such as doing an MA, going into property management, because “no one reads my self-pitying blog”, or because the “best works I’ve ever produced have been my funding applications”.
Cranking up the emotion and the irony, he asserted: “Spoken word will not defeat the Tories, or bring about social justice”, and included a few gentle jibes at other figures in the world of spoken word. He talked of the “professionalisation” of the spoken word scene over the 10 years of Utter!’s existence, something he has mentioned before, in an interview shortly before last night’s gig with Write Out Loud. Seeing me scribbling away, he shouted out: “You could headline the article, ‘Richard Tyrone Jones loses 10-year battle with ... failure’.”
Nonsense, of course. The evening ended with a rousing chorus of “For he’s a jolly good fellow” – and, despite his protestations, he clearly is. Very well done, and good luck for the future, Richard.