Our 2019 Festival featured some wonderful performance poetry, from the Ted Hughes Award-winning poet and author Hollie McNish to local stars from the Midlands including Dan Webber, Nafeesa Hamid and Rupinder Kaur.

The Midlands has a lively and dynamic performance poetry scene with several monthly events in Derbyshire alone and many more in Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, Burton and beyond.

We’ve been speaking to the organisers of Open Mic performance poetry nights (where anyone can come and read their work) across the Midlands to find out why they started up an event and why they’re so important to the local poetry scene.

Becky Deans, Word Peace

Belper

Becky is a Derbyshire poet, musician and copywriter

Why did you set up Word Peace?

Becky: There was an ambition for there to be a regular spoken word event for Belper (as Word Peace was the first, or first for a while anyway). I volunteered to do that when it was discussed at the Belper Goes Green festival last year after I curated the spoken word.
I also wanted to set up an inclusive and safe space for people to share their poems and showcase local talent and talent from further afield.

How important are Open Mic nights to the poetry scene?

Becky: Open mic nights – particularly those with featured poets and slams – are really important because without events including Word Wise in Derby and Speech Therapy in Nottingham I wouldn’t have seen such a range of spoken word talent to inform my poetry. Selling books is also a key way that poets make their money.

I am going to be curating an event at Fleet Arts in October called Word Peace, and our Belper Arts Festival evening in May was very well attended so the show goes on!

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Leanne Moden, Crosswords

Nottingham

Leanne is a performance poet and former Fenland Poet Laureate who this year will be taking her first full-length solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Why did you set up Crosswords?

Leanne: I set up Crosswords in 2015 just after I moved to Nottingham. I remember that was really impressed by how vibrant the poetry scene was in Nottingham and I really wanted to contribute to it in some small way.

I had previous experiences of running open mic nights back in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, and I wanted to provide a platform for all the talented local writers and performers to share their work, experiment with new styles, and try their hand at performing in a relaxed and friendly environment.

I also wanted to share my favourite local and national poets with the city, booking featured artists to perform alongside the open mic, and give people a real flavour of what the city (and beyond) has to offer.

How important are Open Mic nights to the poetry scene?

Leanne: Open Mic nights are vital for local grassroots poetry. They give new writers a platform to try new things, share their work and gain confidence performing in front of a crowd, and are a really important practise ground for writers wanting to move into careers in performance poetry, theatre, acting or writing full time.

They give audiences the chance to see new talent, and support poetry at a local level, and the variety of themes, approaches and abilities mean you never see the same show twice!


Thanks to Becky and Leanne! Find out more about Crosswords and Leanne’s show Skip Skip Skip on Facebook.

We’ll be back again for another look at local poetry nights, but don’t forget to read our last blog with Mike Took and Jess Green.

If you’re looking for a local performance poetry night and don’t know where to start, we recommend the excellent Write Out Loud gig guide.

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Derby Book Festival

29 May – 6 June 2020

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Derby Book Festival is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales Number 1159763