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From Southbank to a slam up north - the road to Wigan on poetry's big day

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So, how was National Poetry Day for you? For the last three years I’ve enjoyed listening to an aray of leading poets at the Royal Festival Hall’s Clore Ballroom on London's Southbank, part of the NPD events organised by the Poetry Society. This year I decided to go the extra mile – or several  -  and so Thursday night found me in Wigan, for the final heat of the Commonword Superheroes of Slam contest (the final’s in Manchester on 23 October).

The Wigan heat, organised by Write Out Loud, almost provided a fairytale finish.  Eighteen-year-old Eva Curless, a first-year student at Leeds University, stormed through to the final, to come out joint first with Trev Meaney. However, there has to be a winner – and in a run-off Eva was just pipped by Trev, pictured, who had a show at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, and who was another big hit with the audience and the judges.

Before that we had poems about the plight of migrants at sea, going grey at the age of 16, a young girl’s first sight of a young boy’s manhood – albeit one that was set in stone, life as a supermarket worker, the shower hell for chaps of a certain kind of shower gel, adolescent anxiety, a rap parody, and a tale of sex trafficking and rape.

The presence of a film crew added to the sense of occasion. The overall standard - the passion and the craft and the skill  - was impressively high, as it was on the previous night in Huddersfield at Bar 1:22, at another Commonword heat also compered by Write Out  Loud’s Julian Jordon, with Canadian Rose Condo narrowly beating Marina Poppa – an event run in collaboration with Huddersfield University’s creative writing department.

Mention must also be made of Write Out Loud’s assiduous gig guide editor, David Andrew, who put in sterling service at both events with scoring, timekeeping, correcting the compere, and applying the hooter to the occasional poet that overran their three-minute allotted span.

There have been other heats in Manchester, Leeds, Leicester, Sheffield and Liverpool, and the other poets that will be contesting the final at Manchester’s Three Minute theatre on 23 October are Paris Kaur, Rebecca Audra Smith, Alex Webb, Jenny Hibberd, John Compliant, Sarah Thomasin, and Raven Maguire.

Thursday night's Wigan event was introduced by a previous Superhero of Slam, Joy France, who told the audience at The Old Courts that winning the Commonword final in 2013 "changed my life". She recalled starting out five years ago at Write Out Loud Wigan's regular open mic event, and feeling "terrrified". Now, she said, "I do this all over the place, and lots of other things, too."   

Paris Kaur won the overrall Superheroes of Slam title in the Manchester final a few days later. You can read more about the final here  


See more pictures from Wigan and Huddersfield

Background: Lighting up the UK



◄ Forward prize winner Liz Berry on Fenton Aldeburgh first collection shortlist

Deadline nears for Out-Spoken's £500 poetry prize ►

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kane man

Mon 7th Sep 2020 10:07

He looks adorable and his work too
<a href="">mls mred</a>

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Greg Freeman

Fri 9th Oct 2015 17:58

Graham, you will be very much missed at Marsden. At least let me take the opportunity to say how much we all appreciate the hard work you put in on Write Out Loud, in welcoming newcomers, raising important topics in the discussions, and trying to make sure everyone knows what's going on, inasmuch as any one of us does.

I am told a lot of Last of the Summer Wine was actually filmed in Marsden. I won't be drawn on who's who among the WOL team ...

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Graham Sherwood

Fri 9th Oct 2015 17:38

Thanks Greg!!

I read this......

For David and me, strolling along the canal from Marsden to Slaithwaite today, partaking of warm pork pie and mushy peas in the Cafe by the Canal, it's very much a Last of the Summer Wine kinda thing

..... and all I could think was about last year's meeting at JJ's and the fact that I can't make it this year. say hello to everyone from me.

By the way, were you Compo or Cleggie??



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Fri 9th Oct 2015 16:57

It was a great night - and well done you Greg for getting the review up so fast!

I loved all the performances but agreed with the overall winner, much as I'd have liked the fairy tale ending. Luckily for Eva, she's young and very talented - I'm sure she'll be on that podium one day!

I'm interested by Cynthia's question. I think too rapid a delivery CAN give you brain overload and make it harder for you to appreciate the nuances of the poetry and the cleverness in the use of language. There might have been occasional words that flew over me with Trev, but it didn't mask the cleverness of his poetry for me.

That being said there is definitely a place for the slower performance where you can really appreciate the weight of each well placed word. I suppose variety really is the spice of life!

What springs to my mind after a slam like this is how much the audience is influenced by sentiment and feelings. I think it will always be harder for a comic poet to win over the more weighty subjects - unless they are outstandingly clever in delivery and use of language. There should be special slams for comic poetry. What I liked about Trev's poetry is that it was light hearted and upbeat but with that little poignant twist that caught you. I do enjoy subtlety.

Congratulations to everyone who went into the slam - there were some stonking performances and many worthy winners. I so wish I'd been up there!

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Greg Freeman

Fri 9th Oct 2015 16:42

Cynthia, I have to tell you that David employed his hooter at least once on the previous slam night in Huddersfield. You are not alone!

Laura, our trip up for the slams was very much a spur of the moment, last-minute thing, after we had persuaded Julian that we wouldn't be too much of a nuisance. For David and me, strolling along the canal from Marsden to Slaithwaite today, partaking of warm pork pie and mushy peas in the Cafe by the Canal, it's very much a Last of the Summer Wine kinda thing - if that isn't too much of a northern stereotype ...

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Laura Taylor

Fri 9th Oct 2015 13:37

Oh WELL DONE Eva!! You absolute star! That is fantastic! Trev's been going for years, so you played a proper blinder there girl - proud of you!! Keep going, you are a true poet, a real natural.

And Greg - I wish you'd told me you were coming to God's Own Country!

Cynthia - I got 'horned' out too at the last one I did. It was poor David Bradley and I swear I could have happily leaped off that stage and throttled him haha :D Course it was my own fault for doing pretty much what you did - getting so stuck into the performance that I simply over-ran. Never again. Slams are not for me. Can't stand the pressure or the competition, it is ruinous for my delivery.

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Fri 9th Oct 2015 13:33

Now, Greg Freeman, you are too kind. I, Cynthia Buell Thomas, was the ONLY one 'horned' out. It was embarrassing, but I do know what happened. After countless practices to the beat of an egg timer, on stage I simply got caught up in the story and the audience's responsive faces, and possibly the flavour of my own words, and I lost sight of the end goal - TIME. So, now, I know better, and I shall compete again, a smarter participant, with a shorter poem - a faster tongue - and a new egg timer (just in case my current one is up to soft boil but not timing poetry to the nth second.)

Congratulations to the winners. I really enjoyed everyone's contributions.

I have one question, just out of interest. Does anyone else have a problem with remembering any special details of a rapid-fire delivery? Or is it just me? Maybe it's the same principle as tossing back a good whiskey instead of sipping a fine sherry.

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