It almost didn’t. In the 72 hours prior to the event, I had three performers drop off the bill, which obviously threw everything into flux and got me in quite a flap. Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to be acquainted with two extremely classy, very brave and super dedicated female poets who were willing to step into the breach with less than 48 hours to prepare. They are Rose Ritchie and Elizabeth Rimmer, and without them the slam might well have been cancelled! Thank you so much, Rose and Elizabeth. You literally saved the show.
So cancelled it was not. We arrived at the Banshee Labyrinth to find our room beautifully set up for us: chairs set out, a projector screen with my hastily-felt-tipped poster glowing upon it, and even candles lit on stage to provide some ambience! Edd, who runs the Banshee, is the coolest, most laid-back, and most accomodating venue manager I have ever worked with. He’d even rigged up a TV link in the next bar, so folk who couldn’t get a seat in the main room could still watch the action and hear the poems — by my next event (which will almost certainly take place at the Banshee — I can’t imagine ever going elsewhere), he says the bar will have the capability to record performances, too. SO. TOTALLY. COOL. Thank you, Edd, and all the lovely staff at the Banshee. You, quite literally, rock.
It was evident that folk were pretty keen about this whole slam business, because by 7.15pm we were already running out of chairs and the space was full of excited chatter. All my performers showed up, some of them very nervous, but all with notebookfulls of great poems to share. As many of them were slam virgins, I’d emotionally blackmailed three brilliant male poets to volunteer as “sacrifices” — to read first at the start of each round, break the ice and warm up the room for our competitors. This was a pretty intimidating gig for these guys, I’d imagine: a room full of poetry feministas vying for prizes of wine and chocolate! But they stepped up to the plate with aplomb. Total pro Harry Giles went first, followed in the second round by Matt McDonald. Matt took the opportunity to declare himself a rape survivor ally, and his piece was poignant, quietly angry and beautifully hopeful. Many an audience member came up to me to say his was their favourite poem of the night. Finally, Colin McGuire came up to introduce the final and brought the house down, as usual. Thank you a million billion, guys: you are legends.
Then, of course, it was the turn of my wonderful bill of competitors. They’re all people I’ve seen read before, at open mics, stand-up readings or “quiet” slams, and they’re all people whose work I’ve been desperate to hear more of. I wanted the focus of the event to be the promotion of lesser-known female poetic talent first and foremost, and if possible, I also wanted it to be as intersectional — something that can be problematic in Scotland — as possible. I’m happy to say that I think the event succeeded on both counts — no thanks to me, but thanks to the bravery of the women who were willing to say “yes” to my invitations. The stage played host to explorations of such themes as nationality, sexuality, gender orientation, relationships, travel, writing and creativity, and of course, food! The poems we heard were by turns hilariously funny and deeply touching, seethingly angry and sweetly loving. Above all, the quality was consistently, breathtakingly high.
Thanks upon thanks upon thanks upon thanks to Gayle Smith, Hayley Shields, Tracey S Rosenberg, Rose Ritchie, Elizabeth Rimmer, Theresa Munoz, Katherine McMahon, Rachel McCrum, Sally Evans, Katie Craig, Camilla Chen and the last-minute ever-so-nearly-wildcard Lara S. Williams. You were all so excellent — the judges must’ve been tearing their hair out…
…and yes, the judges. Slam aficionados, all of them, and yet scoring these ladies’ words must have been a damn hard job. A great big tip of the hat to Kevin Cadwallender, Jenny Lindsay and Sophia. You did well, young Jedis.
Big thanks too to Stephen Welsh, who helped put up posters, carried things, calmed me down when I raged and fretted, made endless bar trips on the night, and acted as primary score-keeper. And to Helen Askew, who worked as secondary score-keeper, keeping Steve right, as well as taking photos of the event while I bobbed up and down to and from the stage all night. (She also carried some things.) You were INVALUABLE, you two.
Finally, last but by no means least — in fact quite the opposite — THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who sent words of encouragement, who promoted the event on their Facebook or their blog, who spread the word to other interested folk, and who came along on the night. Best of all were all the people who dropped some pennies into our fundraising bucket. From your small change, we managed to make £70 for Scottish Women’s Aid. THANK YOU A MILLION GAZILLION SQUILLION!
Now… what should we do next International Women’s Day?
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