Write Out Loud talks to Shrewsbury Poetry
In the latest of our regular series on open mic nights featured in our Gig Guide, Write Out Loud talks to Liz Lefroy, organiser of Shrewsbury Poetry who have an event this week and their next in June.
How long has the Shrewsbury Poetry night been running? And what made you think you should set up a spoken word night in Shrewsbury?
The night has been running regularly since 2012. I walked into a The Coffeehouse in Shrewsbury one day in 2011 and thought - 'We could do poetry here'. I suppose it's sheer laziness on my part - having great poetry in the town means I don't have to travel far to hear work that I love. Since starting with a handful of people in the Coffeehouse basement, we moved upstairs and then had to find a bigger venue as the event grew in popularity. We've moved a couple of times and are now across the road in St Nicholas Café Bar.
Do you have guest poets? If so, how do you choose them?
We've had fab poets - James Sheard, Philip Gross, Helen Ivory, Martin Figura, Ross Donlon, Matthew Stewart, Katrina Naomi, Rosie Shepperd, Jonathan Edwards, Sophie McKeand, Deborah Alma. Many are friends I've met in my poetry travels. If I see a poet when I'm out and about listening at other gigs and I respond to their work, I might just go up and ask them if they want to come and read. I did this with Andrew McMillan (pictured) when I saw him in Wenlock - he said yes. He's been a fantastic friend to Shrewsbury Poetry ever since and is coming back in September when his new collection is out. We get requests from poets from all over the UK who may have a new collection our or have heard of us - when I say that we can't pay them, that puts some people off, but by no means all. We do try to reimburse train fares by having a whip round, but I've always resisted the pressure to apply for funding, charge a regular entrance fee, etc. For me, this event is about the community of poets in and around Shrewsbury - so many of our featured poets are part of the Shropshire / Mid Wales / W Midlands poetry community who have published a pamphlet / book, created a show, etc.
What are the highlights of running a night of this sort?
Emma Purshouse coming to read.
And the difficulties?
Getting the microphone sorted so that it's the right height ... neglecting my own poetry because I run out of time.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of setting up a Spoken Word Night?
The best advice I received was from my friend Fiona who'd experienced one too many drunken open mic nights in Manchester. She said, "Don't make it open mic - book the slots in advance". Slots must be treasured - when we read, we take up people's time and attention. That needs to be respected.