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News Good times at gong bash

TIM WELLS reports on the thoroughly enjoyable Saboteur poetry awards

AWARDS realness over two days kicked off with a party at East London’s Vout-O-Reenees, full of young people in freshly laundered clothes and older ones in new suits.

Poets plied their trade, starting with Dominic Berry thesply projecting, while Lucy Durneen got everyone laughing with a good poem about bad sex. There was knocking on the back door, posing the vital question: “The fucking worst or the worst fucking?”

After that we all needed a drink and the marvellous Maria Ferguson then read with a gin shine, she was working herself to the full glory. She brought humour, reality and punches.

Special guest Hera Lindsay Bird (pictured) is one of the brightest talents writing at the moment. I asked the Kiwi poet about British spoken word and she replied she’d not seen a lot but had a great time reading Hollie McNish and Kate Tempest.

She was looking forward to seeing more and liked what she’d seen. Hera had a broad accent and I expressed concern about her catching my London: “Everyone is having trouble with mine,” she told me, “I read the other night, a man said he couldn’t understand the first 10 minutes but he liked the last five.”

I asked Hera about the important cultural issues. Her favourite English swear word? “Cunt.” Her favourite flavour of crisps? “Salt and vinegar.” The room fell silent and she gave a much anticipated reading, which simply slayed.

She opened with Bruce Willis You Are the Ghost from her latest pamphlet, then read Monica from her eponymous collection and finished with a hilarious piece of Leonardo da Vinci fan fiction.

She amply showed the joy in using wit and intelligence and held the room by both the North and South Islands.

Next day was workshops and readings leading up the evening's prizes. Access adviser Abi Palmer pointed out chairs reserved for people with disabilities, a signer worked and it’s good to see Arts Council England funding used this way.

There were poets from far and wide: Leyla Josephine — interrobang/poetry as fuck — Chris McQueer and 404 Ink, who took the most innovative publisher title, represented Scotland. I was delighted to see a zine workshop, the young people had to be taught how to pronounce “zine.” There was no sniffin’ glue.

Spoken word show-winner Jackie Hagen observed in her acceptance speech that “working-class artists have to drag up as middle class.” Again, the inclusiveness and diversity of the Saboteur Awards is welcome with people like Jackie getting much-deserved recognition.

Best collaborative work winners Ruth Stacey and Katy Wareham Morris, with Inheritance, said that “this proves two women in their 30s can be as cool as other people.” Sexually active 61-year-old Martin Figura cheered loudly. Best spoken-word performer crown went to Shruti Chauhan.

Abi Palmer caught the mood: “It’s nice to see everyone get emotional. I loved Jackie Hagan’s speech and heard a poem read only for community spirit. It’s what it’s all about.”

 

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