As Southampton woke on overcast Saturday morning, the sounds of city changed from the usual humdrum of high-street shoppers into an exciting hive of local music and poetry across Guildhall Square. ArtfulScribe had been ask to organise the Chatterbox Stage for this year’s SO:FEST, taking over a busy pub on the high street. A variety of voices overflowed from the PA at the Frog & Parrot from midday until well into the evening and attracted ears like bees to a picnic.
ArtfulScribe delivered an incredible array of spoken word acts that compelled spectators throughout the day. To kick off the festivities three local poets took to the stage and set the bar high for performances that afternoon. Matthew West, Children’s Poet Laureate of Southampton warmed up the stage with wool-hearted stories of childhood and his A-Z of animals jolting the pub awake for Bournemouth based poet and Pachango Vibes frontman, Joseph Selby whose rhythmic beats stirred melodically into cups of coffee. Roundhouse Slam Winner Antosh Wojcik followed with modern romantics presenting within unique strands of imagery.
As the afternoon buzzed with growing crowds, the Archimedes Screw Showcase Champions took to the stage to share their words. Local youth services advocate Issa Farrah started with all the boom of a mountain range expressing his spiritual passion of peace and protest. Benjamin Hayes came from London to grace the stage with all the sincerity of a young poet with love and poetry in mind. Rob Casey elaborated on those awkward social moments with humorous rhyme to get everyone chuckling whilst I followed with some new and old poems. Lastly but no means least, Archimedes Screw Showcase runner-up from July 2013, Dave Allen brought back the comedy and ended the champion’s set on a high.
Raymond Antrobus (Chill Pill founder and author of Shapes and Disfigurements of Raymond Antrobus) and Adam Kammerling (Chill Pill poet and Hammer and Tongue Slam Champion) performed an hour long set together, interchanging their styles and stories amidst a comfortable flow of stage banter. Adam spoke with a quick tongue and dry humour over topics of squirrels and meeting strangers on trains, showing off his rap skills with hip-hop track at the end of the set. Raymond’s smooth rhythm soaked his poetry in sentiment, misting the eyes of the audience with pieces such as Conversation with Grandma. They ddeparted to rapturous applause, demonstrating the quality of performance poetry at a national level.
MC and Beatbox Noisy Parrot filled the pub with a unique sound, using his voice to create ambient hip-hop beats and political lyrics. As the afternoon drew on, ten nervous poets gathered at the side of the stage for the Slam competition. The judges were introduced, Matthew West, Pete the Temp, Adam Kammerling, Raymond Antrobus and Holly McNish and the audience cheered on the first round in which all ten poets performed; Dave Hubble, JPF Goodman, Syd Meats, Simon Riciardi, Peter Allen Eaglesfield Clark, Mobile Poet, Rose Drew, Ben Lawrence, Dave Allen and Mark Lang battled out three minutes each and were judged on their performance, quality and time. But only three could go on into the final round; Simon Riciardi, Ben Lawrence and Rose Drew. The final was tense, each poet performing with impressive force, keeping the judging close so that it all down to compere Rob Casey to count the scores and reveal the winner. Ben Lawrence deservedly took the title of SO:FEST Slam Champion and finished with a short but beautiful piece on the intimacy of a New Year countdown. Congratulations Ben!
The evening drew in and with it the sultry tones of Kayleigh O’Reilly (Archimedes Screw Local Choice Poet) sounded over the PA, quietening the gathered spectators in the lure of her words. Archimedes Screw Showcase Champion Stewart Taylor followed in complete contrast, delivering a high energy set filled with laughs and parodies of modern society. The last of the local poets to perform, Kayleigh and Stewart demonstrated the variety of local poetic talent.
It had been a long day at the Chatterbox Stage with a consistency of strong voices that enraptured curious ears that wandered past and stopped in, as well as die-hard poetry fans who had stayed throughout the day. As the pub lights brightened, the last two acts of the day were readying to perform. The first being Pete the Temp, London based poet and UK Hammer and Tongue Slam Champion who immediately stormed the place with passionate performance. His slap-stick comedy was complimented with beatboxing and a fury of movement which received nothing but cheers. The day ended with the greatly anticipated Hollie McNish, recently gone viral with her poem Mathematics, the audience swelled to hear her deliver a set on the physical, formula milk and Transformers. Casually chatting to the audience between poems and sporting a pasta necklace made by her daughter, Hollie brought a down-to-earth attitude to performance poetry that the entire pub admired; a perfect headline act for the Chatterbox Stage at SO:FEST 2013.
Overall, I had a great day, I always really enjoy the busy atmosphere of these local festivals. Lots of people to meet and talk to. I always have the best conversations and greatest inspiration from watching other poets do their thing. This was my last festival of the summer and what a way to end it! I feel fully charged for the next run of Archimedes Screw from November and even more excited to be working with some lovely people. Watch this space…