This week I was at an Open Mic poetry night in Leamington Spa - PUREandGOODandRIGHT - which is held in a very chic bar-restaurant on Warwick Street called TOYK. Sean Kelly is the promoter and MC, a man famous for his poem about penguins and his song about Spiderman - if you ever meet Sean, get him to do the Spiderman song for you, it's genuinely hilarious and deserves to be aired on national television - and he was in fine form this evening, managing not to introduce me as a snooker player (unlike last time) and even forgiving me for hitting him in the face with the microphone. (An accident, I should add. I'd have hit him a lot harder if I'd intended to.)
Like the first PUREandGOODandRIGHT it was a star-studded evening, a sort of 'Who's Who' of West Midlands poets.
We had Julie Boden, former Birmingham Poet Laureate, though she was being part of the audience for once rather than shaking her booty at the mic. Dreadlockalien - aka Richard Grant - current Birmingham Poet Laureate, was also there, giving us his honey-tongued 'I wanna hear poetry' vibe. (Yes, mellifluous.) Plus Andy Conner, one of the 'Six of the Best' artistes from this month at the Birmingham Library Theatre, who gave us more of his long poems from memory - an impressive talent for memorising, this guy, and a quirky style of delivery.
To my great pleasure Roy McFarlane, gifted performance poet from Wolverhampton and a central member of the New October Poets, gave us an excellent ten minute set after the interval; ignore the quiet unassuming manners of this very polite man, Roy McFarlane is one of the most talented and politically motivated poets I've heard in the West Midlands and deserves to be more widely known in the UK. Then there was Jus B, a new talent and smooth groover from somewhere round the Birmingham area - didn't quite catch where - who laid it all on the line for us. Several new faces too tonight - new to me, that is - including Sue and Cherie, both of them very confident and impressive.
Oh, and I did a short set myself, and was accused afterwards of not reading any 'rude' poems. I thought I'd gone too far last time with my rudery so chose a slightly tamer selection this month, thinking the older members of the audience would appreciate the gesture. Shows how wrong you can be.
I will be MCing this Leamington open mic night myself on July 17th, while Sean Kelly is away on his hols, which is something I'm looking forward to, in spite of the ribbing I know I'll get at the hands of dear Dread & Co. I'm just arranging a few guest poets at the moment, so watch this space for further details.
I can highly recommend PUREandGOODandRIGHT if you live anywhere in the West Midlands; the restaurant and bar are excellent, the clientele appear to be well-hooved young professionals who are quite happy to listen to a spot of live poetry whilst unwinding with a large glass of Chardonnay, and the atmosphere is intimate, friendly and encouraging to new performers.
The next PUREandGOODandRIGHT will be held on Monday 19th June at 7.30pm. TOYK, Warwick Street, Leamington Spa.