March has been a pretty ridiculous month. So much, in fact, that it warrents a blog entry (actually maybe two). I’ve well neglected writing here, apologies to those who follow!
I’m now into the last stretch of university. My four years of education are almost over and I can finally plunge into being a full pledged adult. Sort of. This month, although with dissertation looming, I’ve been manic with poetry. Shaking with nervous excitement for the most part has had it’s advantages. On Saturday 22nd March, International Woman Scream launched at the Art House. (I use the term ‘launch’ to mean the start of a promising new creative hive.) I had waited for the day to arrive for so long that for two days previous, I was a-twitch with those pre-show jitters that organisers get. I pain-staked over the pin-thin details to ensure I had thought of every possible outcome as to pre-empt any problems. Of course, as events go, this was unavoidable. But to the small concerns, a dozen wonderful things became apparent. The night was a storm, quietly moving in as the sun leaked into the horizon. By 6.30pm, the room was abuzz with intrigue. As compere, I noticed many new faces that I had not seen at local events which was encouraging. The back of the Art House’s upstairs cosey living room area was somewhat abolished to make way for a exhibition of art from female artists of Southampton. Pieces displayed depicted women’s issues from sexuality to oppression. An impressive collection of thought and feeling which set a precedent for the evenings theme, I had never incorporated art into my organised events, so this was a learning curve, although Celeste Ingrams, Sarah Filmer and Jilly Evans were amongst the artists who contributed work as well as curated. The first poet of the evening is a great favourite of mine, her page poetry gives me the same feeling of familiarity as reading Helen Dunmore or Jackie Kay. Sandra Gordon read a record amount of poems during her fifteen minute set, and each one revealed the intimacy of moments and relationships. Catherine Wright followed with a collection of poems from the five poet laureates of the UK, (all women!) and engaged the audience in an experience to write a group poem, which she revealed after the break. (I’m sure it’s floating around somewhere?!) Catherine Randle performed with a polished set. As well as her alter-ego Merciful Grace the Mechanical Maid, her personal work has matured into honest confessions of a graceful and quirky heart. Mo Foster read memories from the chapters of her book in a reading before the break. Her stories are a warm dip into a history rich in events of every-day life.
By the time the second half was in session, the room was a hum-drum of vibrant conversation, I had had a few beers, that’s was nice. Angela Chicken, introduced as ‘my partner in crime’ settled the crowd back down into their seats with reminders of why we were there. Her poetry ripe with feminist strength and intoxicating imagery, the perfect start of the second half. To depart briefly from my review, in November last year, Angela and I had coffee and talked over some poems-in-progress. We got onto the conversation of hosting a women’s event and before I really knew it, we had had our first meeting. Four of us turned quickly into about eight or nine as more people started coming to meetings. It really was a fantastic feeling to be part of an expanding project. So, thanks to Angela and coffee, something awesome materialised. Back to the evening and never was I so overwhelmed than by Jane Goldsack. This woman has an incredibly hauntingly beautiful tone about her usual sunny self. Her song on domestic violence, never to be heard again, humbled me and drove home again what Women Scream is all about. Carrie Bluestocking was our last local act of the night, I am always entranced when I see Carrie, her elegance and manner contrast against the rawness of her material; the force of her mind spews out into articulate riddles. She wrote something for me too, which was a lovely surprise :)!
One of the ‘small concerns’ I mentioned earlier happened about three weeks before the event when our anticipated headline act, the wonderful Sabrina Mahfouz had to cancel unexpectedly. I do regret that she couldn’t make it and hope to have her in Southampton as soon as possible! But it was my job to find someone else. This had not happened to me before but I knew it probably would eventually in my time as an events organiser. My first reaction was to mildly panic, haha! Once I had danced my way around my bedroom in a kind of crab-like shuffle, I got onto my boss-man Matt, who suggested a list of names. The first being a favourite; Rosy Carrick. I had first seen Rosie at the Shake The Dust regional final at the Nuffield where I volunteered for the event. She did a poem in the morning for the kids which I found really unusual and could never really figure out why. I had seen her again at Boomtown (2012?) and loved her (I loved everything at that moment, but she really was superb, and full of the unusual energy I had seen before). So yeah, obviously I wanted to get her down; and she said yes! Which was really cool. So, Rosie Carrick headlined International Woman Scream with a set worthy of everything her bio says about her. I particularly liked her Clark Kent folder and her confessional in-between banter which felt like we were having a drink at a pub. A perfect high note to end a showcase of exception female poets.
Hannah Collins then hosted the open mic, limited spaces but new, interesting faces amongst regulars to the Art House. The open mic, although on unusually late and after the headline act did what I had hoped it would achieve; to encourage new voices to stand and share their experiences. This end to the evening was the perfect way to bring a creative community together and we’re confident it won’t be the last.
I suppose this is a reflective entry about the night, I should say what I feel the strengths and weaknesses were an how I would change it. But, I really don’t want to change it. With all the quirks, the learning curves, the laughs, the crab-like shuffles, it really was the best event I could have hoped for.
A shout out to Matt West for being a trusting mentor and Pete Hunter for all your support!
A big thank you to everyone involved in Women’s Scream, if I haven’t told you already, you’re amazing!