On June 24th, Manchester’s award-winning spoken word night, Bad Language celebrates its 50th regular event. Operating out of The Castle on Oldham Street, it’s a free night where poets, storytellers and writers of all kinds get to stand on a stage and share their work with an audience of supportive strangers. As always the event features a notable headliner and the 50th show is topped by renowned poet Jo Bell. Compered by Fat Roland and Joe Daly, it’s always an entertaining night and you should come. You really should.
I first read at Bad Language a few months ago and frankly, it almost killed me. It was only my second ever public reading and prior to performing I was suffering from such a virulent form of anxiety that, given the choice, I would have opted for being eaten alive by a bear over stepping on stage. But I did it and it was okay. People were kind afterwards and I was largely glad that I had chosen it over the bear. Still, I felt I’d dropped the ball.
I read a so-so excerpt from a story and although the audience responded in an encouraging “Well done, tiger!” kind of way I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d stunk up the stage. As a desperate exercise in validation, it wasn’t funny or memorable or any of the things I’d hoped it would be. The next day I suffered a migraine akin to that scene in Casino where Joe Pesci put that man’s head in a vice. I took this as my body’s suggestion that I was rubbish and should probably kill myself. Instead I sat in a darkened room listening to Ivor Cutler albums until the agony passed, which is generally how I cope with things.
A couple of months later, I was asked to read at the fantastic Verbose in Fallowfield so I thought I’d give public reading another try. Otherwise distracted by my mother and sister performing in the Britain’s Got Talent semi-final on the same night, I did okay and left the stage feeling like I wasn’t pathetic, which if you know it is one of the better feelings. My mojo reinstated, I felt confident enough to beg Bad Language to let me have another go and they were kind enough to do so, adding me to the line up for the 50th event.
This time I’ll be reading my short story, The Language of Dogs, which requires me to repeatedly bark aloud a sexual slur. This may be one of the worst decisions I have ever made but it should at least be memorable. And if it all goes wrong, I have lots of Ivor Cutler albums.