Welcome to 2022. We kicked it off (poetically) with Yes We Cant on Sunday, and our little collective will be meeting up next week – over a virtual pint and virtual battered chips, which we know full well won’t be a patch on the real thing – to hatch our plans for the coming year.
We know there will be poetry slams, and Wolves Lit Fest, and Yes We Cant already. We’ve also chosen the local charity whose work we’ll be supporting (see this blog for how we do that). Last year, we focussed on The Well foodbank, who do so much to alleviate the worst of the poverty and hunger in our city. This year, we’ll be raising money for the equally invaluable Wolverhampton City of Sanctuary, who help and support asylum seekers and refugees locally, and challenge the hostility and discrimination they face. You can read about their work here.
Thanks to you, we raised over £300 for The Well in 2021. That’s poetry, and poets, making a difference. Let’s see what we can do in 2022.
The final Yes We Cant of the year is almost upon us, and what a night it’s going to be! We always aim to bring the best in UK poetry to our events, and we’re delighted that Jane Burn – whose work is consistently placed in poetry competitions, who has been nominated for both the Pushcart and Forward prizes, and whose collection ‘Be Feared’ is now out on Nine Arches Press – will be our headline poet. She may even bring her ukulele. We’re also decidedly chuffed that Rick Sanders (aka Willis the Poet) will be beaming his whimsical goodness down the Internet from Dudley to be our ‘Alf Ender, and that we’ll have ten open-mic poets (there’s just one spot left at the time of writing) completing this cavalcade of poetry!
Jane will also be running an online poetry workshop for PPP that afternoon (Sunday December 5th) on the theme of mythology and fairy tale. It will run from 2-4pm, will have a maximum of 14 participants, and will cost £10 per person (payable in advance). We still have a few places left on this, so if you’d like one, get in touch sharpish! In order to make this workshop as accessible as possible, PPP will cover the cost of two places for folk on low incomes. If you need one of those, let us know when you apply.
2021 is simply flying by. We’ve one more Yes We Cant and one more helping of PASTA for the year, and we’re already up to our eyes in preparations for Wolves Lit Fest (February 4-6, 2022). We’ve a date for the poetry slam at the Arena Theatre – one of our favourite nights of the whole year, if we’re honest – a day devoted to local writers’ groups running at the Lighthouse, and a great selection of Fringe shows lined up in a brand-new venue on the Saturday of the festival.
Ahead of all that, the Wolves Lit Fest poetry competition is open right now! It’s bigger and better than ever, with more money available in prizes than ever before, new prizes for poems from a WV postcode, and Birmingham poet laureate Casey Bailey as our judge. You’ve got until midnight on December 31st to enter, and all the information you’ll need (as well as the all-important Paypal button so you can pay for your entries!) is here. Please read the rules carefully – and good luck!!
Sometimes – like over the past few weeks – we’ve so much on that writing a blog to let the world* know what we’re up to just falls off the list. We’ve been busy feeling our way out of lockdown, and working out which events can safely return to being ‘live’ and which will have to stay online, for now at least.
PASTA had a highly successful return to the Arena Theatre last month, and how utterly marvellous it was to be in a venue with other poets again. We didn’t quite realise how much we’d missed it. We’ll be serving it up once more on Tuesday October 19th, when the theme for the first half is ‘new partners’. Entry to this event is free, but audience numbers in the venue will be capped at 25, so we advise booking your ticket early. You can do that here. There are an unlimited number of livestream audience spaces. We’ll once again be accepting a small number of audio or video contributions – for either half – from people who can’t come along on the night. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to grab one of those.
Meanwhile, this Wednesday 13th October, our latest episode of Home & Away will take place online. It’s the last of our ‘Home Nations’ events, with three excellent poets from Wales – Dominic Williams, Lottie Williams, and Mark Lyndon – performing in the second half, and the Midlands represented by ourselves with support from Ann Atkins, Anne Babbs, and George Bastow. It’ll be a pay-as-you-feel event, with money going to pay the poets from Wales. Get in touch to book a place in our audience, and be ready to enjoy a night of considerable wordcraft!
*at least the small part of it which enjoys poetry and follows our blogs!
P.S. Here’s the info on the Welsh poets taking part in Home & Away. We hope to see you there!
Dominic Williams is a poet, a performer and a creative collaborator he has performed at festivals in Sweden, Wales Ireland and the USA. He is the MC of West Wales most established spoken-word open-mic night Cerddi yn Cwrw and is one half of the improvised performance act Your Strangest Friend along with Swedish contemporary dancer Stina Nilsson.
Lottie Williams is full time mum / part time MA Creative Writing student at Swansea University. She has poetry and flash fiction published in magazines, and has taken part in Being Human festival, Coracle Europe Festival and Landed Festival 2021. The beauty of poetry and spoken word make her feel alive!
A retired teacher, Mark Lyndon is a performance poet and singer from Swansea who has read at myriad festivals. Mark is often inspired to write about his native South Wales. He has also published two books of his poetry and has had numerous pieces included in one British and two international anthologies.
On Saturday May 29th, in conjunction with the Black Country Living Museum, and as part of their ‘Loff Out Loud’ festival, we’re running six online poetry workshops. These workshops are part of Creative Black Country’s ‘F Words’ project, working with people across communities to focus on fun, fabulous, feel-good ideas that bring people together. Find out more at creativeblackcountry.co.uk
If you fancy having a go at writing poetry which celebrates our region, our dialect, and our heritage, and you’ve 45 minutes – or an hour and a half for the longer ones – spare at some point during the day, come and join us. You can book in for one workshop, or choose to come to more. It’s up to you.
We’ll also be creating a PDF booklet of all the work produced on the day, so everyone who takes part will have the chance to see their work in a digital collection – hopefully emailed to them by the end of the day. It’s going to be a lot of fun. There’ll be plenty of poetry. Oh, and it’s entirely free. What’s not to like?
In June this year, our night Yes We Cant celebrates its fourth birthday! We started back in the Pretty Bricks in Walsall in June 2017 – with Jonny Fluffypunk headlining our inaugural event – and we’ve not looked back since. Apart from taking August off each year, with the vague plan of making it up to the Edinburgh Fringe (note: we managed it two years in a row) we’ve not missed a month. Yes We Cant has continued to run, even though the pandemic has meant we’ve now migrated onto Zoom.
It’s been an incredible success we don’t make anything like enough noise about. We’re proud as punch to have brought one outstanding headliner after another to our night in the West Midlands, and over all four years we can’t think of a single one who hasn’t delivered. Jonny got us off to the best of all possible starts, and Yes We Cant kicked on from there. Among the poetry stars who’ve stepped up to the mic and entertained us with their words are folk like Elvis McGonagall, Joelle Taylor, Liz Berry, Gerry Potter, Antipoet, Malaika Kegode, Luke Wright, Casey Bailey, and – most recently – Liv Torc, whose performance last month was off the scale wonderful.
But Yes We Cant isn’t just about the headliners. Each month we’ve had a reading from our ’Alf Ender, a poet who’s got a book or pamphlet of their work for sale, and we’ve also given local poets the opportunity to share their work in the open mic, which is a hugely important part of what PPP are about. Since we set Yes We Cant up, over 140 different open mic poets have performed at the night. That’s over 140 unique voices getting the opportunity to share what they have to say. We’ve watched them grow in confidence, learn to craft their work, and spread their wings. It’s been great.
And we’ve done all of this without any funding. Not because we’ve anything against funding of course – far from it – but because, well, because Yes We Cant is up and running and thriving on its own. It’s always been a pay-as-you-feel event (because we’re absolutely adamant that being skint shouldn’t stop you having the opportunity to enjoy a good night out) and we’ve always been able to pay our acts for what they do. It’s a success, and next month it’s going to be four years old. That’s going it some, in the poetry world. Huge thanks from us to everyone who’s helped make it happen.
P.S. We’ll be celebrating Yes We Cant’s fourth birthday on Sunday June 6th, when our headliner is Sophie Sparham, and Holly Magill is our ‘Alf Ender. Come along. Join us. It’s going to be superb.
In 2018, looking for a fresh way of presenting great poetry talent, and giddy with Wolves ascension into the Premier League, we hit upon the idea of a poetry event we called Home & Away. It would be a game of two halves, each of 45 minutes (see what we did there?) and feature two teams of poets. In the first half we’d have sets from three established Midlands poets, along with three cameo appearances from local rising stars. The second half would feature the ‘away’ team: three poets from another town or city, each doing fifteen-minute sets. The aim was to showcase what was happening elsewhere in the country, and have some fun doing so. And that’s exactly what we did, successfully bringing in teams from Derbyshire, Worcester, Stoke, Swindon, Milton Keynes, and Leeds before Covid put such things on hold.
It’s taken us a while, but we’re delighted to announce that we’re resurrecting Home & Away, and putting on an event on Tuesday 20th April. It’ll be on Zoom, of course, but we’re taking advantage of that to bring in a team of very talented poets all the way from Northern Ireland: Cat Brogan, Nathan Elout-Armstrong, and Michael Wilson, who’ve an array of awards and glowing CVs to their names.
Because we’re itching to do a gig ourselves, the three members of PPP will represent the Midlands: Our three rising stars – each of whom will bring their considerable talents to the night – are Priyanka Joshi, Sandra Robinson, and Gracey Bee. It’ll be a pay-as-you-feel event, and it’s going to be an absolute belter! Oh, and we absolutely and categorically promise that we will not be utilising VAR on the night. Or any other night, come to that. There’s no way we’re letting it ruin the free-flowing poetry entertainment we love so much.
Drop us a line if you’d like to be in the audience. We’ll send out the Zoom link on the morning of the event.
As it becomes ever clearer that we’ve got to adapt to the impact of Covid on our lives – at least till the promised vaccine is rolled out – more and more events are making the decision to keep going by setting themselves up to have a digital presence and livestream their programme. We’re very happy that Shrewsbury Literature Festival is joining in and ensuring it continues to provide top-quality arts and entertainment for folk in Shropshire (and beyond). Festivals like Shrewsbury are generally run on the hard work and goodwill of a small band of volunteers, and if you can support them in any way, please do. They’ve some great events in their line up and you can find them all here.
We’ll be running the poetry slam once more, on Saturday 28th November at 4.30pm. The line-up of fifteen poets is currently busy with intensive training so they’re in peak condition as they compete for your applause, appreciation, and a paid gig at next year’s festival. Meanwhile, our MC Dave Pitt is busy cleansing his chakras. Apparently that involves a lot of PS5.
Maybe you know a poet who’s taking part? Perhaps you’ve never seen a slam and want to see what the fuss is about? Or it could be that you’re at a loose end next Saturday, and want to support a small festival who are doing their best to bring the arts to their part of Shropshire. Whatever your reasons, we can promise you the slam will be fast-moving entertainment with all the usual pandemonialist fun and games, and some excellent poetry. Tickets are on sale here. Come and join us.
This photo is of a fully sold-out Arena Theatre. A photo of 150 people waiting expectantly for the start of the Wolverhampton Literature Festival poetry slam last Saturday.
That’s 150 people. For poetry. In Wolverhampton. On a mizzly Saturday evening in January. Not bad going, eh? When poetry has a great night like that it’s only right to make a song and dance about it, so yes, we are blowing our own trumpet, just a little. Because – from start to finish – we’re chuffed to bits with how the night went.
Any one of the fifteen poets could have won it, and there was some truly excellent work for the audience to savour. And some truly difficult decisions for our judges to make. And some truly heroic galumphing round the theatre by NOFB Pitt as he collected the scores. Sterling work, that man. He deserved that mid-show pint.
Our thanks to everyone who came along to cheer and applaud the poets who took part, to our judges for their vital contribution to the evening, and to the Arena Theatre for being a perfect venue. Scores were close all the way through, with just a point or two separating poets who went through to the next round from those who didn’t. Our final was a contest between Ben Davis, Clive Oseman, and Colin Wells, with Ben’s hilarious poem just pipping the other two to the winner’s podium.
By winning, Ben has bagged himself a paid gig at the 2021 Wolves Lit Fest. This Friday, Nick Lovell – who won the slam last year – will be taking up his paid gig by supporting the sublime nonsense of The Antipoet at Wolves Art Gallery. Those of you who’ve seen them before will know you’re in for a treat. As for those of you who haven’t seen them… trust us, you should. You really, really should. Tickets are on sale here. Get ‘em while you can!
It seems only yesterday that we sat in a pub over a beer or three (or four) and had the bright idea of setting up a regular poetry night in Walsall, and to be honest we’re not entirely sure where the time’s gone. But this month, Yes We Cant is two years old.
That’s two years of bringing top-notch poetry and spoken word to our part of the Black Country, and it’s all been done without any kind of funding. What’s more, we took the conscious decision that Yes We Cant (like so many of the nights we put on) would be a pay-as-you-feel event, so that anyone could turn up, take a seat, and give poetry a try.
It’s not only worked, it’s worked splendidly. We’ve brought poets like Johnny Fluffypunk, Brenda Read-Brown, and Elvis McGonagall to the function room of a real ale pub (who’ve supported what we’re doing from day one, thanks) and packed that room out. We’ve had excellent support slots from poets as diverse as Nellie Cole, Casey Bailey, and Paul Francis, all with books to sell. We’ve given a platform to a huge number of local poets who’ve stepped up behind the mic for the first time at Yes We Cant, got bitten by the performance bug, and come back again and again and again.
And now, we are two. This Sunday we’ll be celebrating as only the pandemonialists can. So come along to the Pretty Bricks for another night of great entertainment, for inclusive, exciting, top-notch word wizardry. Our headliner will be the effervescent Joe Cook, while Graham Attenborough travels in from Shrewsbury to take the ‘Alf Ender slot. If you’ve never been before, drop in, we’d love to see you. All of you are welcome. Again and again and again.