Last night saw Trinity Church in Leeds play host to Word Emporium, an open mic event with the aim of sharing stories and telling truths. As part of the Love Arts Festival, one of the aims of this event is to get people talking openly about issues that effect them, including mental health experiences and our attitudes towards them.
The venue is perfect; Trinity Church is a beautiful Georgian church that has remained an integral part of the city’s architecture, despite the enormity of the shiny new Trinity shopping centre that is its new background. Rommi Smith, our host for the evening, comments on the appropriateness of the venue:
‘Creativity is my faith’ she says, and I think as artists we do put our faith in our word or our pictures; they give us hope and something to reach towards; they let us constantly improve ourselves, far more than most religious practices.
The night starts with pieces by Leeds Survivors creative writing group. The opening piece, ‘Don’t Bother’ has the room roaring with applause and I smile, knowing this is clearly going to be a good night.
The Baggage Handlers , another creative writing group facilitated by Rommi, perform a group piece accompanied by Samuel Moore on spanish guitar. Each takes short phrases that speak of their own stories and these wind together to become a much larger tale, reminding us that we each have our own uniqueness, and this should be celebrated.
The open mic itself is fast paced and has to be in order to fit all the poets in! 12 in all I think, and that’s just the first half. Phew! Each poet does one poem and is limited to 3 minutes, so the evening moves along very quickly indeed. I decided to do a poem about anxiety, which is a new piece penned only two days ago. I’d felt like this was one of the most honest and open poems I’ve ever written about this condition, but within the oceans of truth surrounding us this night, I was merely paddling near the shore.
During the ten minute interval (ciggie break for me, so much for Stoptober, oh well) the judges scored the poets and six went through to the second half, culminating in three winners: Maureen Rich, Addie P. Abbott and Davy Charles. All three prizes were well deserved; Maureen shows a vulnerability that takes incredible courage to put into words, and moved may of the audience to tears. Addie’s stories of journeys and the metaphors he uses are so relevant to, well, anyone really and the rhythm and sheer energy with which he performs are inspiring.
The overall winner was Davy Charles, with his two very different but equally impressive poems; the first about growing up with a stutter, and using the rhythms and rhymes within poetry to overcome this. This performance is one of the most engaging I have ever seen, and the way he incorprates a musicality and the organic nature of his own heart beat into the words is magical. The second is a love story, or a story about love stories, looking at the premise of meeting someone in a previous life, then meeting them over and over, getting the chance to fall in love all over again. Love poetry is dangerous as it can so easily fall into the banal, and Davy is as far from banal as can be! This tale is told with humour, lightheartedness and a genuine sense of yearning that (cliché alert!) tugs softly at the heart strings.
Talking to people afterwards, there was a general sense of warmth and wellbeing that comes from being in a safe environment where one can say what one wishes; where one can be the person one desires to be.