Well done Emma Pursshouse for organising the second Audlem Poetry Slam at The Bridge Inn last night. Apparently the organisers of the village’s music and arts festival needed some convincing when she suggested they hold a slam last year. Was the sleepy canalside village ready for a gritty, urban spoken-word attitude-fest?
It must have been because they hosted a second at The Bridge Inn and the place was heaving. Some 13 poets competed for an impressive trophy (which looked rather like a double-glazing sample) and a £50 prize ... or for the sheer fun of hearing the sound of their own voice ...
‘Come and have a go if you think you’re bard enough,’ came the challenge from Emma’s flyer.
And there was some ‘bard’ stuff in there too, it has to be said, alongside some truly scintillating performances. I’ve done plenty of readings but it was the first slam I’d entered and I was impressed. Ok, I didn’t make it through to the second heat but with 8.4 for both writing and performance and 8.6 for audience reaction, I was happy with the scores. That wasn’t the point though. The point was taking apart and watching some accomplished performance poets in action. Those that got to the closing heats were very, very good indeed. It would be churlish to single them out but Ben – you were brilliant.
There were some cool and sassy performers, over from Stoke or up from the Midlands. They were up against blue-rinse local talent (poems about Amy Johnson, charity fundraising and WI type subjects) and somehow the rural/urban mix worked, somehow it all gelled. Perhaps we’ve all come of age. Perhaps performance is a melting pot. Who’d have thought that Audlem would ever host a poetry slam? Still less that the winner would be an openly gay performance poet whose repertoire included a tenderly romantic poem addressed his boyfriend (a fellow performer)?
There were ‘ahhhs’ and ‘ooohs’ and ‘oh, that’s nice ...’ from the blue-rinse set as he performed this piece. Very accomplished and moving it was too. When I got home the sense of a ‘disconnect’ was increased when I found Ian Paisley Jnr railing at Peter Tatchell on Question Time.
‘Ulster,’ I thought, ‘Take a look at Audlem. Take a leaf out of their book.’