Things We Love: Edinburgh's spoken word scene

With David Grieg's first Lyceum programme featuring spoken word, Rebecca Monks looks at why she loves it

Things We Love: Edinburgh's spoken word scene

credit: Chris Scott

Page or stage? This is a question most poets have probably pondered nowadays (and happily, it's one that rhymes). 'Page poets' write in books, pamphlets, websites, blogs and other places where words can be printed. Their work is meant to be read (to my mind by a thoughtful individual wearing a smoking jacket, swirling a glass of brandy by firelight), which is great. Reading literature of all forms is a wonderful, valuable experience. But it can be a solitary one. After all, even if 20 people read the same poem quietly together, they are still reading alone.

'Stage poets' on the other hand write work that is meant to be heard and experienced by the masses. It is often loud, and almost always performative, as words leap off the page and into a microphone. It's a gorgeously-strange hybrid between literature, theatre, performance art and (sometimes) comedy, and it's becoming increasingly popular all over the country, especially in Edinburgh.

There are several well-established spoken word nights in Auld Reekie that run regularly (Rally & Broad, Neu! Reekie! Loud Poets, Blind Poetics, Freak Circus and Inky Fingers to name but a few), and this week it was announced that under David Grieg's tenure as Artistic Director of The Lyceum, there will be spoken word programmed by Rally & Broad's Jenny Lindsay as part of the theatre's big stage variety nights. Spoken word is having a bit of a moment alright, though it's certainly not for everyone. It is, however, for me. Here's why.

The Inclusiveness
Many of the city's regular events run an 'open mic' policy. Blind Poetics and Inky Fingers, for example, have a featured performer booked for every event. This is often an established writer or returning regular, and they usually get a performance time of around 20 minutes. The rest of the night is for anyone who fancies it, with five-minute open mic slots up for grabs. You don't need to have three books and a literary agent to get booked – anyone can have a bash.

It's not just the performance aspect that's inclusive. These spoken word nights are held in pubs, cafes and clubs. They are by a wide variety of people for a wide variety of people, and the general public are encouraged to come along. Art is for everyone and spoken word nights are for anyone.

The Creativity
Edinburgh's spoken word nights often feature other art forms. Neu! Reekie! has a strong music lineup, and regularly features short films and animation, as does Rally & Broad. In a recent event, they even had an artist live-drawing the action. These nights encourage creativity in performance, wordplay and collaboration, and that's a great thing indeed.

The Opportunities
Those who operate in creative industries (such as writing), will often hear the phrase, 'you need to get your work out there'. For poets, what better way to do this than by standing up on a stage and letting the world hear it from the horse's mouth? Open mics leads to bookings, bookings leads to recognition, and recognition leads to more opportunity.

Read more: Things We Love - Auld Reekie Roller Girls.


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