In the summer of 2017, determined to bring top-notch poetry to our part of the Black Country, we put on the first ever Yes We Cant – ‘cant’ as in ‘natter’, to rhyme with ‘ant’; not can’t rhyming with aunt, for those of you desperately seeking the apostrophe – upstairs at the Pretty Bricks. And we’ve kept it going ever since. Month after month, we’ve featured outstanding headliners, excellent ‘Alf Enders, and startlingly good poets in the open mic slots.
To keep YWC going through the pandemic, we moved from the Pretty Bricks onto Facebook, and found our audience came with us, mostly. Folk from other parts of the country, and other parts of the world, joined in. People from closer to home who’d been unable to make it to Walsall on a Sunday night for one reason or another popped by too. And the poems and video links from an event stayed up for a week or so, which meant anyone could drop in and enjoy them later. It was great.
But… we still missed the thrill of a live gig, of being gathered together in one place at one time to immerse ourselves in poetry. So last Sunday we moved Yes We Cant onto Zoom for the first time. Our headliner? Rising star Casey Bailey (who’d been announced as poet laureate of Birmingham just a few days before). Poet Kevin Reid stepped forward as ‘Alf Ender, and the open mic spots were taken up by a glorious mix of new faces and old favourites.
All we needed was an audience. And by god, we got one. A typically warm, appreciative, and generous audience who enjoyed a night of truly stellar poetry for whatever they chose (and were able) to throw in our virtual hat. We were able to pay Casey and Kevin for their craft, set some money aside for our chosen charity this year, and get that special buzz that comes when the three of us work together on making our night the best it can possibly be.
It doesn’t get much better than that. Our thanks to everyone who came along and made it such a special night, whether as performer or audience. We really couldn’t do it without you.
The next Yes We Cant? Sunday November 1st. 7.30pm. when our headliner will be Cathi Rae, and the ‘Alf Ender slot will be taken by John Mills, who’ll be reading from his brand-new collection No Guiding Light. Put it in your diary. We’ll see you there.