Through doing

“Leading through practice”. What is this? I’m still not sure. One example might have been with the Hyperlexic gig I ran at the Saville Exchange last Saturday.  (Or as we rechristened it for the night, the Jimmy Saville Exchange, now then, now then, now then). It was something I initiated, based on my long held belief that spoken word and live literature benefit from good venues as partners to events.  Steve Bishop, Arts bloke at North Tyneside Council convinced me he’d be such when we spoke last year. He’s supported the event generously, and though the lovely little North Shields Arts Centre doesn’t have a strong history of similar events, once Apples and Snakes also came onboard with financial and marketing support, it felt like we had a really strong set up. The council suggested the centre’s youth theatre group be offered places on the masterclass with excellent stand up poet John Hegley. That led to a rather magical afternoon workshop where teenagers and new and established poets worked together beautifully.

The night gig saw an audience of over a 100, many new to live lit events, and a wonderful line up of Tyneside and Teesside talent-Simma, Scott Tyrrell and Michael Edwards plus London based, nationally known John Hegley. Several poets new and old entered the Dead Poet’s Slam (idea I nicked from Matt Harvey’s Wondermentalist Cabaret in Devon) and we got to hear the words of Baudelaire, Adrian Mitchell, Julia Darling and Philip Larkin among others, alongside the mainly comedy focused sets of the booked acts.

Leading up to the gig I had my usual reservations about organising things-the space in my head taken up with details, the mild frustrations and worries in giving up control of the event to other people-but then during the event, when it was a big, buzzing success I felt enormously chuffed to be so supported by so many competent people in having an idea coming to fruition. Also, though I’ve much wanted shiny events in shiny venues, I was glad that lots of new performers took to the stage too and benefitted from the workshop-and it feels like more will be inspired in the future. Just a good gig might still have left me feeling a bit empty I think- it’s the part where you know that it might have an impact on what people choose to speak and hear in the future that I find particularly exciting and fulfilling. Also, that it took place in North Shields-not a usual poetry place, and saw local people having somewhere that was theirs- and where they might speak in future.

I’m thinking about putting my part of the fee from the gig into starting up Hyperlexic as a Community Interest Company with a remit to spread quality words around. Gigs, publishing and workshops I think. The mild brain explosion that occurs when I get involved in something like this doesn’t seem to make the event itself suffer. And I even wrote two poems during the day during John’s workshop and sort of emjoyed compering. So maybe there are ways to fulfil lots of my creativities at once and bring a benefit to more people than just me at the same time…

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The point

I’m inputting more than I’m processing at the moment, but a few days off over Easter, walking, eating and buying rhubarb may have helped a bit.

Talking to Paul Summers, North Shields based poet and extraordinary worker with young people is always interesting. As another writer had said the week before “You go on a project and Summers has always been before you and done amazing work, which bears his stamp and more people should see it”. I would do an injustice by summarising what he said, but his passionate belief in people working from…passionate beliefs (or clearly thought out principles and aesthetics) struck chords and rang bells.

At just the right time, or wrong time, I was also reading Valentine Wandenor’s critique of Creative Writing courses “The author isn’t dead, merely somewhere else”. She questions the lack of clear theories underpinning the now ubiquitous creative writing courses. On those she says (sort of) it’s as if literary theory never happened. I know that would make lots of people most chuffed. But it did.

Those writers have connected with some of the ideas (about ideas) swirling round my leadership-placement addled brain. Tomorrow I’ll be facilitating a session with some young writers who first came together as part of the South Asian Music and Arts Festival in Newcastle. Wondering if my underpinning beliefs about the value of people having a voice and expressing it well in speech and writing are enough.

Also, on watching Britain’s Got Talent, I wished some of the amazing dance troupes would also speak. Perhaps some poetry from them would embody one of the ways I’m imagining for the individual and the collective to merge usefully and interestingly. I’m nurturing mad ideas about how to make this happen, whilst already anticipating (imaginary) voices saying “It won’t work because”…