On August 19th I’ll be reading a new essay at the The Real Story‘s third regular live event, headlined by highly respected Forward, Costa and Whitbread Prize-winning poet Michael Symmons Roberts. The Real Story is a group run by Kate Feld and Nija Dalal-Small, dedicated to publishing works of creative nonfiction.
The first public reading I ever did was at The Real Story’s inaugural live event back in January. Until that point the closest I’d come to spoken word performances were the PowerPoint presentations I was obliged to do at work. Cold, ugly affairs that required me to point at charts and parrot business non-words while my soul turned black and leaked into my shoes. In short, these presentations made me feel that public speaking was only slightly preferable to being shot at.
Writing and reading for The Real Story changed that belief, transforming me from a shy man who didn’t dare show his work to anyone into a shy man who now regularly stands on spoken word stages reading his private thoughts to strangers while shaking as if subjected to his own personal earthquake. Small but significant progress.
As well as Michael Symmons Roberts and myself, Kate and Nija will be reading, as will novelist Marli Roode and my good friend Nick Thompson. It’ll be a good time. These events are always a good time. There will be no PowerPoint.
p.s. Entry is free/donation-based. Like buying a Radiohead album.
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.
This coming Monday will be a big day for my family.
I’ll be reading one of my stories during the open mic portion of Verbose at Fallow Cafe, Fallowfield. Alison Moore, Nicholas Royle, Conrad Williams and a whole bunch of wonderful writers will also be performing. We’ll be doing so in front of an audience that is as likely to heckle as it is to collectively leap into the sky and kick the moon into the heart of the sun.
Meanwhile, down in London, my mother and sister will be on the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, performing a dance routine live on national TV before a studio audience and roughly 10 million viewers. They will then be judged by four celebrities and, more broadly, the internet.
While our experiences will be *slightly* different, all three of us will be so possessed by nerves and performance anxiety that we’ll want to vomit until our eyes drop out of ours heads. But we’re all stepping out of our comfort zones anyway because that sort of thing reminds you you’re alive. And vomiting.
So, if you could come along to Verbose that would be lovely. If you can’t, please vote for my mother and sister to get into the final of Britain’s Got Talent (which you can do for free). If you can do both, I’ll kiss your hand and call it ice cream.
Following my first public reading at The Real Story: LIVE! back in January, I’ll be doing my second at the Bad Language event at The Castle, Manchester on March 25th, taking one of the open mic slots below headliner Chris Killen and reading an excerpt from my short story The Wall.
I’m terrified of public readings and would rather wrestle a lion than stand in front of a small group of people and recite something I’ve written. But not having access to a lion, and knowing it’s for my own good really, I’ve no choice but to read. Literally no choice at all.
Bad Language is a great, free event, held monthly at The Castle and in various other venues across Manchester, where you will hear some fantastic stories and poetry. Seeing as I’m involved for the first time it might be a little less fantastic than usual but Chris Killen is great and I’m only on stage for four minutes. You could use that time to visit the toilet or the bar. Or simply to sit back, listen and think about punching me across the face and neck. Especially if you’re from Liverpool as I will be attempting a scouse accent, largely based on that of the boy from the “Accrington Stanley” milk advert.