Dim the lights for spoken word: Speakeasy at the Sip Club, Stretford, Manchester
Reading our work in public, whatever the style or genre, can be a daunting experience, even if we have some practice. For the beginner or novice it can be even more scary; sometimes to the extent that we avoid such situations and may choose to keep our work private.
It’s important not to underestimate the achievement of taking a leap into the unknown and sharing what are, often, our most personal thoughts and feelings on life. The rewards are often worth that initial show of courage though, as it’s usually the case that we grow in confidence of ourselves and our work; constructive feedback may be offered, allowing us to develop as a writer; there’s a fun element in sharing our writing with a captive audience; and of course it’s a chance to make friends with fellow writers.
As an ideal testing bed for reading and sharing our writing, I would wholeheartedly recommend Speakeasy. This is a spoken word and performance art event, hosted by the Sip Club, Stretford, and run by Steve Smythe, assisted by Andy N. The tone is friendly and the organisers are supportive and understanding of what it’s like to be a newcomer. It’s fine to just listen to the other readers, if that’s comfortable for a while (and may actually be a good idea if one is socially anxious or shy). A slot can sometimes be arranged on the night; though ideally it’s a good idea to let Steve know you are interested in advance through the Speakeasy Facebook page.
Originally set up by Dave Hartley around 2015, the running of Speakeasy was taken over by Steve Smythe and Andy N in December 2016. Dave now runs Vinyl Fiction: another spoken word event in Chorlton.
Speakeasy runs from 7.30pm on the first Wednesday of each month , and is free. The format is flexible, with slots of either six minutes or two minutes. All forms of writing can be read: anything from poetry to plays and experimental fiction and non-fiction.
The venue itself is quirky and uncanny, with an array of lampshades that remind me of a David Lynch film. Indeed, the atmosphere and low-key theatrical vibe of the space help to give Speakeasy its own distinctive identity. With a warm and convivial bar area, and a quiet back room devoted to the performances, the overall feel is welcoming, informal and encouraging; the people I have talked with have always been easy to get along with and approachable. This inspires a relaxed reading and attentive listening experience:
What I particularly like about Speakeasy is that all the readers/performers are the headline acts. So there’s no sense of hierarchy. This contributes to the feeling of inclusivity, no cliques, and mutual respect. There’s a great deal of diversity too with the participants, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and reasons for writing and reading. There’s a good balance struck between new readers and those who attend on a regular basis. I encourage anyone interested in writing to attend and support this event, which of course survives by your participation.