'Amazed, and humbled': Steve Pottinger on Write Out Loud nearing its cash appeal target
Write Out Loud’s chief executive Steve Pottinger launched an appeal before Christmas for £1,000 to help with our running costs and to enable us to develop some new ideas. We’re close to hitting our target – so many thanks to all of you who have contributed! (we’re still open to donations – however large or small – to help us with that final push over the line, so if you’ve been meaning to do it but not yet found the time ...) As January 2017 marks a year since Steve took on the job at Write Out Loud, news editor Greg Freeman asked him in an interview about his thoughts so far:
You’re a busy man in the spoken word world, Steve, touring as a popular and experienced performer in your own right, and you have a regular paid job as well. What made you decide to add to all that by getting involved with Write Out Loud?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure I’ve got an answer. I was chatting with Julian Jordon online, talking about the history and the ethos of Write Out Loud, and he encouraged me to get involved with helping shape its future. One thing led to another, and, well … There have been moments when I’ve wondered what on earth I was thinking, but overall it’s been good. I’ve been welcomed by the team and it’s a joy to work with them.
What do you see as Write Out Loud’s role in the poetry world? How did you see us before you joined the team? Has that view changed at all since?
I originally became aware of Write Out Loud – as a lot of other people do – because I was looking for somewhere to post some of my poems and, hopefully, get some feedback on them. I started by posting blogs, and reading what other people had posted. Then I started using the Gig Guide, which is another one of Write Out Loud’s strengths, to help me find potential gigs in other parts of the country. Since getting more involved, I’ve grown increasingly appreciative of the wonderful news section of the website – the breadth of subjects it covers is unparallelled – and really enjoy reading that. Above all, I’ve become very much aware of the hours of work put in by the hard-working team of volunteers at the core of Write Out Loud. They are integral to its success and development.
A regular visitor to this site could not help but notice that since you took the helm Write Out Loud has introduced a new feature, Poem of the Week. How do you think that has gone?
It’s actually the re-introduction of an old feature which had lapsed, and there was – understandably – a goodly amount of debate among the team about bringing it back (see the comment above about hours of work). I think it’s proved to be a wonderful addition to the site, and very successful. Poem of the Week is an excellent showcase for the amazing range and quality of work on Write Out Loud, and I think it’s entirely in keeping with our ethos to pick one poem each week and give the person who wrote it a chance to introduce themselves to the wider readership. That’s important. I remember from my early days as a poet how much of a shot in the arm it is to have your work recognised, and how it inspires you to get on with writing more.
How do you feel about the response to your cash appeal?
Amazed, and humbled. It’s never an easy thing, asking people to put their hands in their pockets to support what you do, and I very nearly pitched for a lower sum on the basis that £1,000 was wildly over-ambitious. Now, we’re all but there, which is incredible. All through the generosity of Write Out Loud members who’ve pledged £5 or £10 (and occasionally more) to help us get within touching distance of our target. If we ever needed a reminder that people appreciate and enjoy Write Out Loud, we’ve just got it.
Without leaving too many hostages to fortune, what do you see as the future for Write Out Loud? How would you like to see the site develop?
Poetry and spoken word always bubbles along at a certain level, regardless of whether it’s “in vogue” or not, but right now it’s enjoying a boom in popularity. This brings opportunities for Write Out Loud to build on its success as a welcoming site where anyone – from established poets to people taking their first tentative steps into the adventure of writing poetry – can post their work. At the same time, it means we can’t rest on our laurels, and will need to develop and change in order to keep our place and ensure people continue to choose to come to us when they want to read poetry and share their own. It’s a great time to be part of Write Out Loud. As for specific developments … wait and see.
It seems like an exciting time for spoken word, with the still evolving Nationwide building society ad spots on TV emphasising the point. Do you agree?
The great thing about poetry and spoken word is that anyone can do it. It’s accessible to everyone, and it gives everyone a chance to voice their thoughts, whether on love, politics, or what they saw on their walk through town. Hearing these genuine voices in a world of press-management and spin can make a refreshing change, and – I think – has a lot to do with the growing popularity of poetry and spoken word. Long may that continue!
In my opinion, it’s great that poets have been recognised for the Nationwide ads, and had a chance to put themselves in front of a bigger audience who may very well be surprised to see what real poets look and sound like, and have their expectations overturned (how often do you hear people say that the last time they read poetry was when they had to do it in school, and that they hated it?). All the poets have put the hard work in to get there, and the Nationwide (as Matt Abbott has pointed out) is a building society, not a bank or a tax-dodging multinational, or an arms manufacturer. If watching the Nationwide ads encourages just one person to pick up a pen and scribble their own words, or come to a poetry night, or get up behind a mic and share what they’ve written, then that’s A Very Good Thing. More of that, please.
PHOTOGRAPH: UNHOLY RACKET