Poetry in the Outer Hebrides: Stornowords in Lewis moves to new home

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An open mic poetry night in the Outer Hebrides is having a “housewarming” at its new venue on Saturday night, 12 November. Stornowords, which showcases established and local poets as well as holding an open mic, has moved to An Lanntair, an arts centre in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis.

Host and organiser Matthew Nicholson said: “There are big plans in place for the new year with the aim of attracting big names in the poetry world from the mainland to headline the event. The plan is to have the headline act running a workshop prior to the evening event so they can share their experience and expertise with local writers.

“I have been genuinely taken aback by some of the discussions and expressions of interest I have had with established poets and performers from across the UK, including as far south as Manchester! Due to the travel required to get here I was concerned that many poets would not be prepared to make the journey. I could not have been more wrong. We have a growing list of interested performers which should mean some exciting nights ahead.”

Those interested in appearing at Stornowords should contact Matthew at  matthewnicholsonpoet@gmail.com.

He added: “There is a rich history and tradition of storytelling in this beautiful part of the world. Pauline Prior-Pitt has been running a very successful poetry event in Uist, which I believe has been a fixture here for well over a decade. They recently had the new Scottish makar, Jackie Kay, which was a bit of a coup, but proved that the islands have a place on the poetry map of the UK."

Matthew is originally from Leeds, and first performed his poetry just over two years ago at poetry nights in West Yorkshire. He said: “I first performed at the start of 2014 when a friend convinced me to attend Spoken Weird in Halifax.

“I met Dominic Berry, John Darwin and Winston Plowes who were all massively supportive. I remember being a bag of nerves but I must have done okay as Winston booked me to appear in Hebden Bridge and Geneviève Walsh asked me back to headline. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I have a lot to thank Gen for as she was the first person to give me a chance to share my work with an audience.”

After undergoing personal problems around the time of his mother’s death from cancer, he went to live with his father on the Isle of Lewis. “I saw an advert in the local paper for a poetry slam at the start of 2016. My folks took me to the event as a spectator, but when I got there I decided to sign up to take part. I was humbled to win the event and qualify for a place in the Scottish National Poetry Slam Championships at the Tron theatre in Glasgow.

“I decided to organise a poetry night in Stornoway back in June which was a bigger success than I could have imagined. The event has now moved to the local arts centre and I am thrilled. It gives me a chance to perform a little again, but I am delighted to give others a chance to perform. It is my way of saying thank you to the people here and the services who have provided so much support.

“I see poetry as a big part of my recovery and will hopefully be able to travel back to perform at some of my old haunts in the new year.”

Western Isles poets on the bill at Stornowords on Saturday include Ian Stephen and Peter Kerr. More details and Map

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