Part Time Poet Is Changing

Memoirs From London

So, 2013 will always have a place in my heart as being one of the best years of my life – partly due to 2012 being generally considered a low-point; partly due to me doing an internship in Camden Town; and partly due to my return to the stage as my new alter-ego stage persona ‘Part Time Poet’.

Before my trip to London, my first steps back on the stage made for riveting life experiences – opening shows in Leicester, performing in small Nottingham cafes to crowded rooms, and the eventual near-highlight of the year: gigging in main auditorium of the Nottingham Playhouse at Say Sum Thin 5.

However, things got cut short when I was called off to London – my media career beckoned, and I lost my poetical momentum more or less overnight. During my six month period away, I performed on whatever evening I could, doing occasional gigs in Bermondsey, Camden Town, and even RADA. My most frequent place of visit was the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, where I gigged at ‘Poetry Unplugged’, run by my friend Niall O’Sullivan (who also did a great show at the Camden Fringe titled ‘Now Is Not The Time For Politics’ – be sure to catch that one if you can!)


Slam Time – The Farrago Poetry Slam is the longest running poetry slam in London, held every month usually at RADA. My one visit to perform here bagged me three new contacts, although I didn’t perform my turn until near eleven o clock in the evening. Having had a full eight-hour day, needless to say, it was not one of my sharpest performances! 

Poetry Unplugged helped to guide my Say Sum Thin 5 performance, as I was unable to attend the workshops in Nottingham leading up to the event. I also penned ‘Faces From The Upwards Escalator’ during this period, along with ‘Funny Time Of Night’ – a few of the more serious pieces to be added to my resume.

Different City – Different Audience

One thing I found hard to get my head around at first was how different the crowds were. I normally play for laughs in Nottingham, as from experience I can say that ‘up norf’, all folks would really want to do is hit the town with their ‘better half’, get some drinks in and ‘ave a laugh. In my hometown, I feel obliged to cater to this need as a performer.

Don’t get me wrong – I love serious poetry when it’s done well. Time and time again I speak about how poetry has returned my confidence to me, and how it has helped others to develop themselves. It is one of the best art forms out there today – cheap to produce, easy to consume, and with virtually a hundred percent creative freedom within the art form itself.

But in London, performing ‘The King’ (which went down brilliantly at ‘Find The Right Words’) didn’t get the audience laughing (except when we filmed it, as you can hear below!). Actually, more often than not, it was met with the one expression besides boredom that you always want to avoid – confusion. My audience didn’t get why I was using an art form so stereotypically serious and having fun with it (or maybe they didn’t get the regency reference!) Either way, it got me thinking. I was jumping the gun being in London anyway (but hey – no time like the present), but I really needed to understand my persona better if I was ever going to perform in the capital effectively.

It was great meeting Lemn Sissay at Say Sum Thin 5 – there was a guy who could pull off both deep, complex poetry to sate the academics among us; and yet also perform a four-line poem about a magpie to a Nottingham audience, and make them howl with laughter. I knew I would need to up my game on both the academic and comedic fronts to develop myself professionally.

David Bowie Is… Inspiring!

I visited many museums during my weekends in London (partly to continue my education; partly because they were all free!), but I’ll have to give the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A a special mention here, for showing the importance of ‘stage character’. Bowie had loads of personas he adopted during his shows, and I thought long and hard for ages about how I could develop a style of my own.

BowieThe David Bowie Cafe – They even made the orange juice machine into an art sculpture!

I played about with the idea of an eyeliner-drawn star over one of my eyes, but I thought this would be a backward step towards my ‘awkward teen’ years. I thought about going full-blown hipster (with hooded top, dog-tag, and all), but that wasn’t exactly being original, was it? In the end, I realised I already had a costume of sorts – my suit. It made for relatively formal attire during my shows, but an acquisition from Camden Town blended the formality of my black clothes with a touch of ‘oddness’ that I’m sure will go down well at my next gigs. It never hurts to look smart, eh?

New Year – New Phase

Upon my return to Nottingham, I realised that the days of ‘Two Minutes’ and ‘The King’ were effectively over. They worked in the Midlands. They failed in London. Using that knowledge in this new year, it is time to start writing once more. ‘Faces From The Upwards Escalator’ and ‘Funny Time Of Night’ both have films that I’m currently creating for them. ‘The Night Jimmy Got Laid’ is one I am keen to perform at future shows in the new year, although it will likely be a rarity due to it’s length!

Say Sum Thin 6 has now started being prepared, where I have decided to stick to my comedic roots. Despite now acknowledging that my middle-class dry humour will never impress the academics out there, I still believe it is the audience that drives my writing. The theme of the next Playhouse event will be ‘transformation’, and in an ironic idea that only I could have come up with, I’ve done a poem about being stubborn and not transforming one’s own artistic integrity… even when you should!

Poetical TV got some films and interviews done with me – this was the longest poem I’d ever done in one go at the time. I’ll be seeing them again in the new year; before the next Say Sum Thin event, to be precise!

In the mean time, my more serious works are being developed behind closed doors. If I cannot distribute these works to the public en masse confidently, I will need to find distributors who can look on it with professional eyes. Competitions, publishers and editors are all on the cards in the new year, to allow my more complex works to be accessible to the correct audiences who can enjoy them.

Hopefully I’ll be revisiting London on and off in the new year to test some works out down there as well – ‘Bang Said The Gun’ and ‘Come Rhyme With Me’ are two nights that I never had time to perform at during my internship, and they are two pieces of ‘unfinished business’ that I’d like to clear up at some point during my performance career.


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