Finding Our Funny Roots

Brendan Hawthorne (Centre) demonstrates his “sot nev”. Watched by, from left to right, Steve Pottinger, Dave Pitt, Emma Purshouse and Alex Vann. Photo by Gary O’Dowd.

Since March volunteers have been poring over archives and interviewing people for the Finding Our Funny Roots project. . The Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists were also running around finding things out, shooting vlogs and wondering what the shows would consist of.

During September Emma Purshouse locked herself away with all the research and produced an excellent script. Dave Pitt then burnt out a laptop or three making the videos and audio transcriptions make sense. Steve Pottinger kept us all together. Balancing everything like a plate spinning diva. We brought along to the party Dr. Brian Dakin for his insights into Black Country dialect and his very close friendship to Billy Spakemon. We brought in Brendan Hawthorne for his skits, comedic timing and loafers. We brought in Josianne and Paul from the University of Wolverhampton for their academia. We, of course, brought in Alex Vann because Alex Vann can do everything. He can communicate in sign language, play a guitar, write songs and help caption videos.

We emerged in the middle of October with something which made sense. We had a hectic day of rehearsals in the University powered on hope, coffee and a desire to share the work.

On the 17th October Creative Black Country and the hard working volunteers (and a few special guests) got to see a preview of the show. Would Pitt’s laptop survive the tech onslaught? Would Alex’s guitar stay in tune? Would Brendan’s loafers become self aware?

The show was a success. When the audience should have laughed, they laughed. When they should have listened, they listened. At the end of the preview people didn’t want to leave. They wanted to stay and discuss the show.

That is always a good sign.

On the 26th October, we performed the show again as part of the Funny Things Festival programme. Guitars stayed in tune, laptops survived and loafers stayed non-sentient. There were more big laughs, lots of entertainment and a warm, appreciative audience. And it was a sell out. It all came together wonderfully.

Yet we didn’t end there. Now the show has been reworked for other audiences and venues. The tech has had to be cut down because not every venue can project video; this also gives Pitt’s laptop and much needed rest.

On Thursday December 12th the show was performed for people at Verona Court in Wolverhampton. It was a splendid afternoon. We had heckling, we had folks beating us to the punchline, we had singing and percussion. After the show we stuck around and had a natter to residents and visitors about their memories of Black Country Comedy. One lady had been a singer and toured with a comedian, another recalled comedy monologues her mother had performed in church. The afternoon was fun and festive, giving an extra seasonal oomph to the Black Country version of the nativity that features in the performance. There were mince pies too!

The Curse of the Duck Whistle

The Curse of the Duck Whistle

Traditionally it is the crow which is seen as a harbinger of evil. Yet in Audlem on Thursday night they weren’t dark “goth eyeliner” feathers of a crow. No, they were the brown, teal and white of “kid with new pack of felt pens” duck plumage. Evil came to Audlem. And it was the sound of a duck.

Quack.

Yes, Thursday was The Audlem Festival poetry slam. Yes, I had to do the timings. Yes I had to blow the duck whistle when 3 minutes had expired. A honk which signified to everyone in the room that time was up. Maybe the poet has gone too slow. Or an introduction had gone on a bit too long. Or… the audience had responded to a part of the poem slowing the act down, eating precious seconds like a time hungry Pac-Man trapped in a maze of clocks being chased by the ghosts of a single pause for breath. Pac-Man’s inevitable death not being punctuated by a descending series of notes but by a single blow on a duck whistle.

Quack.

Yes Slams can be fun. Yes they can bring poetry to new audiences.

But they can also be cruel. 

And I was the servant of cruelty. I had to blow that duck whistle more than it had ever been blown before. In all our slams we have maybe one or two which go over. It happens. But we’ve never had so many go over as we did on Thursday. As I exhaled breath into that duck whistle every time the clock expired a part of me died. So much of me died I’m now a husk of a poet. A delicate shell cocooning rotten flesh. I await the gentle touch from a caring person which will then shatter me into a million pieces firing chunks of viscera over nearby walls thereby ending my misery. I love performance poetry but I am a slave to the clock. 

Quack.

So many went over that after the fourth I genuinely started thinking my iPad was running fast. This is something I’d fully expect Apple to do. “No,” someone would say while wearing jeans and a sports jacket, “running fast isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. It’s a way to get more done. It’s Apple Time.” I laid my Android phone next to the iPad and started the stopwatch on both devices together. These technological behemoths flashed in sync. Counting down the seconds until, yet again, I would have to blow that infernal whistle. 

Quack.

It’s not even a quack sound. It’s more a honk of nasal fizziness and disappointment. 

I’m not even a fan of ducks. Ducks are sneaky bleeders. All “look at me being calm” while under the surface they are panicking and swimming like crazy. Like your neighbour who looks happy with his new Jaguar on the drive but you know they can’t afford it on their wage. Ducks are your debt ridden neighbour putting up a pretence of financial stability. We can’t compete with ducks.

And I suppose the lesson here is… nor should we. 

3 minutes. Let’s keep it at that and let’s keep the ducks silent. 

Quack.

Dave Pitt
27th May 2019
Moribund

Talent Match – Poetry Journey

Just before Christmas the Pandemonialists ran a workshop for Gazebo Theatre. It involved young people on their Talent Match programme being given some advice in writing and performing. The clients produced poems and spoken word at an incredibly high level and their final performance was inspiring, hilarious and heartfelt. We are so proud to have been part of this journey and eternally grateful to Gazebo Theatre for the opportunity.

The video below was produced of the journey and features two of us pandemonialists waxing lyrical and eating porridge.

2nd Shrewsbury Literature Festival Slam

The high point in any poet’s calendar is a Poetry Slam hosted by Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists. 15 poets going head to head in a wild, fast moving, high energy competition. On 24th November, Purshouse and Pitt will be hosting the 2nd Shrewsbury Literature Festival Slam. Battle commences at 4pm in The Hive. Anyone who has seen a PPP slam will know how wonderful they are so get your tickets while they are still available.

Details

Date and Time: Saturday 24th November 2018. 4pm – 6.30pm

Venue: The Hive, 5 Belmont Street, Shrewsbury. SY1 1TE.

Cost: £8 (£5 concessions)

Final Performance Workshop

On Sunday 4th November we will be holding our final performance workshop. These free workshops, funded by Creative Black Country, help you to develop performance and microphone techniques. This gives your poems the best possible chance to shine when you are on stage. The two previous workshops have received excellent feedback from participants.

Sadly, this final workshop is full but if you want to be placed on the reserve list then please let us know but emailing us or by hitting us up on Twitter. It will take place at The Pretty Bricks in Walsall between 4pm and 6pm. Participants are then invited to stick around for Yes, We Cant that evening where they will be given a chance to try their new skills in one of our open mic slots.

Details

Date and Time: Sunday 4th November 2018. 4pm – 6pm

Venue: The Pretty Bricks, 5 John Street, Walsall. WS2 8AF

Cost: Free (Reserve spots available)

New Poetry and Storytelling Open Mic

On 30th October 2018 Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists will be hosting a new poetry and storytelling night at The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton. It starts at 7.30pm and slots are between 5 and 10 minutes long.

Of course, being a PPP event it won’t be a standard open mic and a certain degree of craziness will also be going on. This is your chance to try things out in a safe space and stretch those creative tendons without fear of anything snapping.

If you want a slot or more information then please email our very own Mr Pitt who will be taking a grip on proceedings.

Details

Date and Time: 30th October 2018. 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Venue: Arena Theatre, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton. WV1 1SE

Cost: Free

Website Launched

Well here it is, the Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists website. It’s complete. Look at this home we’ve created. It is filled with great content, stylish, and a bit silly (A bit like us). We feel it was worth all the blazing rows we had about Oxford commas.

So this website is complete. Please run around and click things. Obviously we’ll be adding new content regularly so don’t think you can show up here once and that’s the end of it. Keep popping back, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on Twitter.

For now all the Pandemonialists will sit back with a look on our face a bit like this:

No, we’re not sure what that brown thing in the background is either.

Purshouse Prevails In Shambala Slam

We are proud to announce our very own Emma Purshouse won the Poetry Slam at the Shambala Festival over the weekend.

Her prize is two tickets to next year’s festival as well as a gig there. It is also possible she will never talk to Dave and Steve again, although she is letting them share this video of the poem she read in the final of the slam. We hope you enjoy it as much as the audience did at Shambala.