Acclaimed ‘LIVEwire’ Spoken Word Night comes to Leeds - Matt Abbott

Tony Walsh - poet, performer and writer.Tony Walsh - poet, performer and writer.
Tony Walsh - poet, performer and writer.
Don’t get me wrong – virtual poetry events have been brilliant. I’ve interviewed poets in Indonesia, taught A-Level classes in Denmark, and hosted live one-on-one performances with poets in Nigeria, Germany and Pakistan. It’s opened-up tonnes of doors brought loads of unexpected bonuses. But you can’t beat an in-person gig.

When the pandemic struck, my spoken word record label – Nymphs & Thugs – was three-quarters of the way through a national theatre tour. It was our biggest and most ambitious series of events to date and was gaining a lot of momentum. Our ‘LIVEwire’ events were rapidly establishing a reputation as one of the best spoken word poetry nights in the country.

So, when Carriageworks Theatre offered me the chance to programme something in their space, I jumped at the opportunity. We’ll be returning in front of a live (socially distanced) audience for the first time in 16 months, and not only that – we’ll be doing so in Leeds.

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One of the best things about seeing live poetry is that you don’t need to have heard a poem before to connect with it or be moved by it. Whenever you see a band play live, you’re waiting for the songs that you already know. But with poetry, it’s different. And don’t get me wrong – I get why a lot of people would be baffled by the thought of other people choosing to watch live poetry. But it’ll surprise you.

Nowadays, we suffer from information overload. There’s a lot of fake news, sensationalist reporting and endless ‘doom-scrolling’. It’s hard to make sense of the world and find clarity of thought. Also, after nearly a year and a half of being glued to our screens, we’re all lacking genuine human connection. Live poetry can provide both of those, in heaps.

It goes without saying that I pushed the boat out with this line-up. It had to be done for our first gig back – especially in a space like Carriageworks. Tony Walsh received a standing ovation at the BAFTAs and has been rubbing shoulders with the likes of Noel Gallagher and Bono. Kayo Chingonyi has a fleet of awards and accolades. Maria Ferguson has won several awards and was recently Highly Commended by the Forward Prize for Poetry.

But here’s the thing. They’re all normal folk, like me and thee. Telling brilliantly crafted stories in a way that anybody can relate to – not just folk with a Masters in English Literature from Oxbridge. I get the general perception with poetry and why it’s not many people’s obvious choice.

But for several reasons, this’ll be a night to remember. A night of electric spoken word poetry. And it won’t just change your mind – it’ll blow it.

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