Spotlight on Open Mic: Taking The Mic

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Tim King talks to Write Out Loud about ‘Taking the Mic’

How long has the 'Taking the Mic' night been running?
The event was started in 2008 by Liv Torc (who many of your members will know from the Hip Yak Poetry Shack and the WOMAD festival poetry stage). It was originally conceived as a launch pad for people just starting out in Spoken Word and I try to keep that open-access and peer-learning ethos at the centre of what we do.

What made you think you should set up a spoken word night in Exeter?
I gave my first solo poetry performances at Taking the Mic. The warm welcome I received and the confidence I gained from those early appearances were crucial to my development. I feel such nurturing should be available to everyone starting out. When Liv relocated to Frome in 2011 I was keen to keep the night running and Liv generously offered to allow me to take over. Seven years on the night is still going strong.

Do you have guest poets?
Yes we do! That said, one of the main problems with attracting guests is funding. The night has always been entirely free to enter. The local arts centre donates the room and also pays a small fee which
is passed on to guests. Ultimately, this money comes from the grass roots development portion of the venue's ACE grant. I am hoping to attract additional funding so we can afford to pay guests a little
more in the very near future.

Often the guests are people who started off performing at the event for free and have become accomplished enough to warrant a paid slot. Sometimes I bring in folk I have spotted on my travels who I think will be good; at other times regular performers suggest people they would like to see. A couple of months ago we had a group of young people I had been working with in local secondary schools. Other times we might have someone who's recently been published by Burning Eye, or a local theatre producer or even the odd stand-up philosopher. Individuality and quality are the main criteria. Whoever headlines the event is primarily there to inspire; to demonstrate another aspect of the possible.

What are the highlights of running a night of this sort?
For me the best thing is being there at the beginning of someone's career and seeing people going on to bigger and better things. Our alumni include some fairly well-known spoken word artists: Jasmine
Gardosi, Aishling Fahey, Alexander Rhodes and Amani Saeed all gave their debut public performances at TTM. Witnessing the emergence of a new voice is always spellbinding.

 And the difficulties?
It's really not that hard. I guess the worst thing is when people are inconsiderate of others and over-run their time, or do their bit then disappear without bothering to listen to anyone else. Fortunately
we have a very supportive and attentive core audience and an astonishingly high standard, especially considering there is no bar to entry. There's also a very healthy cross-over between the 'page' and
'stage' poetry communities in Devon and a great deal of mutual respect and openness. Self-aggrandising types tend to feel out of place and rarely return.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of setting up a Spoken Word Night?
If you're interested in listening to and learning from others, then do it. It's an excellent way to build your profile too, so long as you remember the event itself is not about you. Your role as host
and organiser is to ensure things runs smoothly, the performers feel valued and the audience is entertained. You will be offered plenty of opportunities to shine at other people's events if your event is
successful. Be welcoming. Be attentive. Forget yourself for a while and revel in the genius of others. You won't regret it.

◄ Brace Yourselves. This is Holy Shit from ZatarS

'Sex' by Hallielle Rose Dawson is Write Out Loud's Poem of the Week ►

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