I felt incredibly privileged, yesterday, to sample the fantastic array of poetry in Manchester, and to perform a feature slot at Evidently.
I’ve been to a few vibrant poetry nights up and down the country, and Evidently is definitely one of the best. The show is hosted by Kieran King with such energy and gusto as to be wholly infectious. His enthusiasm for every single performer radiates out and ripples across the audience like a Mexican wave. Every open mic poet is greeted with cheers and clapping and whoops, which must be especially exciting for a first-timer. How wonderful it is to see fresh talent being encouraged in such a way!
The venue is amazing. Google Maps sent me to a light industrial estate somewhere in Salford. I wondered if there had been an error, and as the mist began to roll in from the moors, (or wherever the mist rolls in from in these parts, as I’ve virtually no knowledge of Manchester or it’s geography), a strange magic overtook the night. Neon became blurred, the tower blocks loomed like tombstones, late night garages glared fluorescent light out into the gloom, and then, all of a sudden, the Eagle Inn appeared.
A beautiful old pub, preserved against the neighborhood, with brown tiled walls and architectural flourishes, fireplaces and flagstone floors, the place seemed perfect to evoke a Manchester of the past. As if to reinforce the image, a jukebox was playing The Smiths, and a young man at the bar was singing along, every now and then apologizing to me by saying, ‘They’re just wonderful, the Smiths, and this is my favourite song’.
Evidently is held in the back room of the pub. The back room has a stage and a balcony. The magic is reinforced by the subtle lighting of the room and the way it fills with souls coming in from the dark to spill their words to an appreciative audience. You could smell winter clinging on to their overcoats as the room filled to the brim. Others went upstairs and watched from the balcony.
My own set was a typical blend of Surrey whimsy and pink puppet shenanigans, the audience seemed to enjoy it very much. And then the open micers came on.
One thing that always strikes me about my own local scene in South Devon is the sheer variety. I’ve been to other towns, and each one seems to have its own style, but little variety. In London there’s rap, and it’s good rap, but after eight or nine rappers you begin to tire a little. In Bristol there’s the three-rhymes-per-line lets-all-be-nice-to-each-other style which is also very good and very effective but a little wearing after a while. But Evidently last night was different. It had variety, it had energy, it had humour and it had serious poems.
I wish I’d taken some names down. A poet did a wonderfully effecting piece about civil rights and police brutality which almost made me want to video it and show it to everyone. A young lady of 17 made her debut and recited a fantastic poem about what it means to be 17 and finding your place in the world. There was a chap called Alabaster (I believe), funny and engaging. Jamie Harry Scrutton was hilarious and energetic and I just wanted to take him home with me. Indeed,there were too many to mention here, and then to top it all off, Tony Walsh did a quick set about empowering women and women’s rights. Fantastic stuff!
Rose Condo did a brilliant set, too. Geography, the human spirit, bus stops, Winnipeg. She was hypnotic, truthful, she made me see the world through different eyes. In fact, everyone did.
So my first experience of Manchester was certainly positive and I feel that I should spend more time there. And yes, there was much derision over the fact that I flew up, further demonstrating that this poetry malarkey is just a glorified hobby for me rather than a business, but it only added to the sense afterwards of having had a very perculiar and very pleasant dream.
Here’s a poem I wrote while I was there.
I’m writing this poem in Manchester.
I’ve never been here before.
I didn’t know what to expect
But I wanted to find,
While I was here,
The real Manchester,
Something tangible and local that I
Can build on
As definitive proof,
(Apart from this poem), that
I have been to Manchester.
I found a Starbucks.
I found a Waterstones.
I saw on Google Maps
That there’s a Weatherspoons.
A man on the train said he was
‘going down tut pub’.
I saw another man
And he was wearing a flat cap.
I saw an advert for Yorkshire puddings.
Everyone sounds like
Daphne’s mum, from Frasier.
I feel like I’m
A long way from Guildford.
Ps, bit late now, but I’ve only just worked out why the night was called Evidently.