In 2013 I had been living in Leicester for a year having moved back from Liverpool. I had spent that year being involved in the Roundhouse Poetry Collective and travelling down to London two or three times a week as well as to any open mic event going in the Midlands. There were a few nights I went to regularly that I really loved – Bang Said The Gun and Hit The Ode in particular – and which I felt nailed what it was to be a high quality event which isn’t snooty and provides a warm, supportive atmosphere for emerging poets to perform for an audience. I looked around for something similar in Leicester and couldn’t find it so decided, probably naively, to set up my own. How difficult could it be?
Our first event was at Upstairs at the Western in its very early days when it really was just a room above a pub with the windows blacked out. We featured Sean Mahoney and Izzy Brookes (because they were my friends and didn’t mind coming to it for very little money!) and had a handful of open micers. From there the night moved to Attenborough Arts Centre, to The Cookie and finally back to Upstairs at the Western, now as a fully formed theatre, where we’ve been for the past three years.
I’ve always maintained that what I wanted was to create a high quality monthly event, where the headliners are worth paying the ticket price for which has a friendly, community feel where open micers are comfortable to get up, try things out and make mistakes even if they haven't done it before. There has been a raft of trial and error but I think that after 5 years we’ve just about achieved that.
At times it’s been a slog; headliners have dropped out ten minutes before doors opened, we had nights early on where no-one signed up for the open mic and I had to fill every spot so it just became the Jess Green show, there was the time the theatre double booked us with another event, we’ve had heckling, barking, baby’s crying and that time the stage was trashed right before our headliner, who had travelled all the way from Ireland was about to come on.
But there’s also been times when it’s felt really worth it. The night Brigitte Aphrodite got half the audience up on stage performing as part of her final piece. The amount of open micers who on their first performance are shaky and apologetic and 6 months down the line own the stage. The speed poets who have had 3 bizarre themes from the audience and an hour to write something but by the time they’ve finished reading the whole audience are in tears.
Recently, I forgot to bring any raffle tickets, Dave came up with a way to run the raffle without any but wasn’t able to articulate that to anyone. The raffle entirely fell to pieces but our brilliant audience took it completely in their stride.
We’ve now been shortlisted for Best Regular Spoken Word Event in the Saboteur Awards and I couldn’t be more pleased. It feels like a big thumbs up for all the work that's gone in to the past 5 years.
Thanks to everyone who nominated us and thanks to everyone who comes back each every month to watch and to perform. We’d love for you to continue to support us now by voting for us to win and to tell your friends to as well - https://www.saboteurawards.org/
See you on 18th April