Three the Hard Way @ The Lyric Lounge! – 15th April 2014
The Lyric Lounge is a site specific, touring festival of poetry and spoken word, led by the lovely Writing East Midlands and first launched in Leicester back in 2009 at The Y Theatre. In it’s first incarnation it was a seven day and night extravaganza of workshops, one-ones, open mics, free food and big shows. In it’s second year it moved from The Y to New Walk Museum for three jam packed days and nights across an even broader canvas – supported by a troupe of circus performers and team of sixty young volunteer artists who filled the venue with ‘Happenings’, alongside the usual complement of activities and shows. In the same year the festival spread it’s wings to begin what would become a long and highly successful tour of the region – that is still ongoing.
Each of us has our own very personal and positive history with the Lounge – Jean as the overall Patron, Alison as it’s original ‘Bookdoctor’ and me as creative developer and artistic director for a number of years. Given this – we were all really looking forward to our return as a trio.
We began our preparation by working with several local groups in advance. I focused on the Peripheral Poets, a group of writers with experience of drug and alcohol issues. Alison worked with an all female group of ukulele players, LookALady-Ukulele – organised by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust and the Peepul Centre. We both then worked with a large group of writers attending five, 3THW sessions at Westcotes Library – a library based on Narborough Road, in the heart of one of Leicester’s most culturally diverse communities. On the festival day itself Jean, Alison and I all led a session, exploring Jamaican DJ culture and deconstructed rhythms, just before the show.
Never has a curtain been raised so throughly. Come the hour of our performance all four groups took to the stage, introduced by the rising star and very lovely poet & compere for the day, Jess Green. One after the other and working both together and individually, each shared their varying outcomes. There were poems about drug addiction and broken boilers…George Osbourne and Tony Benn…’Praise Poems’ to body parts and then there were lyrics…
‘The LookALadies’ belted out two freshly written songs for Leicester – which included references to Leicester’s famous ‘left wing cheese’ (Red Leicester, for those not familiar with the region’s culinary delights!) as well a rousing football-esque chant – inspired, of course, by Leicester City’s promotion to the Premier Division. The second of the group’s songs included – by chance (!) a reference to Jean’s ‘Mi Duck’ poem. You can see this here – and a selection of the songs and poems written by people as part of these Leicester workshops here.
The festival workshop brought well known, internationally touring artists like Mellow Baku (who’d been attending the day to perform as part of the programme earlier) together with others, writing poems for the first time. Working together this group of 20 strong created a lyrical piece in just over an hour – divided into three parts and sung as a round to the deconstructed rhythms of ‘Taxi’ – a well known Jamaica instrumental used by many Jamaican DJ’s as a basis to layer tracks over.
By the time we took to the stage for the show itself the packed out audience (which included other lovely festival organisers, like Peter Flack from Everybody’s Reading and great local artists like David Parkin, Carol Leeming and Ishi Khan-Jackson) were throughly primed! In the spirit of Three Hard Way we set about remixing both our order and choice of poems – introducing new pieces not shared at our launch and delivering others in adapted ways. Creating for this particular audience a more family focused arrangement, we moved from pieces like Alison’s (re-named for the occasion!) – ‘If you don’t want to be in a Poem, Don’t Kiss a Poet’ …to more new poems from Jean’s veranda – and for my part, my mother dancing in front of a television and several pieces on women in politics.
We had such a wonderful time and can only encourage people to get along to the next Lyric Lounge, wherever it may be – as well, of course – as our next tour date…which will be at Lincoln Drill Hall on May 8th!
Many thanks to Writing East Midlands and The Lyric Lounge, plus Westcotes Ward for additionally funding activity around this tour date.
– Lydia Towsey – secretagentartist.wordpress.com