Nottingham Playhouse is the place to be on National Poetry Day.
Hosted by Ben Norris and featuring performances from a frankly ridiculous line-up including Dizraeli, Liz Berry, Caroline Bird, Vanessa Kisuule, Debris Stevenson, Bohdan Piasecki, Will Harris, Georgina Wilding, Jamie Thrasivoulou and Michael Southan, A Quite Enormous Poetry Event promises to be just that: enormous. And doubtless, very, very good.
The main stage show is preceded by several hours of poetic amusements and distractions in the shape of The Poetry Funfair, curated by Becky Cullen. Kicking off with a free poetry workshop at 5pm, and a chance to see films produced as part of the Poetry Pulse project, we celebrate the National Poetry Day theme of truth with a fanfare of activities, including guess-the-weight-of-the-truth, poetry hook-a-duck, a poetry fortune teller, juggler, and ghost train.
Roll Up! Roll Up!
Poet, producer, MC and multi-instrumentalist, Dizraeli is a genre all of his own. Having composed the soundtrack for parallel-universe drama, Tripped on E4 , won the BBC Poetry Slam Championship and led the groundbreaking band Dizraeli & The Small Gods, he has built himself a cult following around Europe and played to audiences of thousands around the world. He’s supported Saul Williams and Mos Def on their UK tours, worked with Kate Tempest and Scroobius Pip and had his music played on BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, Radio 3, Worldwide FM and 6Music. Now, after 3 years studying percussion in Senegal, immersing himself in the world of London grime and bass music, working with refugees in Calais and finally, living through a mental breakdown, he’s back with The Unmaster, his first self-produced album and an electrifying new sound, leaving behind the folk experimentation of previous projects for new territory: hiphop meets garage, grime, and the chaos of the world we’re in, shot through as always with Dizraeli’s trademark musical innovation and lyrical dexterity, by turns frantic, tender, heavy and ecstatic, and always driven by tearing basslines and beats that demand frenzy. The explosive live band features musical direction from Kwake (Sampha , Kate Tempest ), keys and samples from Raffy Bushman (Unit 31), live drums, vocals and xylophones, plus Dizraeli- who has a legendary reputation as a live performer – on vocals, dance and multiple percussion instruments.
Liz Berry was born in the Black Country and now lives in Birmingham. Her first book of poems, Black Country (Chatto 2014), described as a ‘sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands’ (Guardian) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, received a Somerset Maugham Award and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014. Her pamphlet The Republic of Motherhood (Chatto, 2018) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet choice and the title poem won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018. Her poem Highbury Park is shortlisted for the same award this year.
Caroline Bird has five collections published by Carcanet. A two-time winner of the Foyles Young Poets Award, her first collection, Looking Through Letterboxes, was published in 2002 when she was 15. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 2002 and was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2001 and the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2008 and 2010. She was one of the five official poets at the 2012 London Olympics. Her fifth collection, In These Days of Prohibition, was shortlisted for the 2017 TS Eliot Prize and The Ted Hughes Award. Her sixth collection, The Air Year, will be published in 2020.
Vanessa Kisuule is a writer and performer based in Bristol, UK. She has won over ten slam titles including The Roundhouse Slam, Hammer and Tongue National Slam and the Nuyorican Poetry Slam. She has been featured on BBC iPlayer, Radio 1, Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, The Guardian, Blue Peter, Sky TV, Don’t Flop and TEDx, and performed nationally and internationally in Vienna, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Bangladesh, Barcelona, Oslo, Finland, Romania, New York and Brazil. She has two poetry collections published by Burning Eye Books: Joyriding The Storm (2014) and A Recipe For Sorcery (2017) and her work was Highly Commended in the Forward Poetry Prize Anthology 2019. She was the recipient of The Jerwood Micro Arts Bursary and The Leverhulme Arts Scholarship in 2017 and her one woman show SEXY toured with the support of Arts Council England in 2017/18. She is currently the Bristol City Poet for 2018-2020.
Bohdan Piasecki is a poet from Poland based in Birmingham. A committed performer, he has taken his poems from the upstairs room in an Eastbourne pub to the main stage of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, from underground Tokyo clubs to tramways in Paris, from a bookshop in Beijing to an airfield in Germany, from niche podcasts to BBC Radio. In the UK, he regularly features at the country’s most exciting spoken word nights, festivals and readings. He enjoys the creative chaos of big field festivals just as much as the composed concentration of literary events. Bohdan founded the first poetry slam in Poland before moving to the UK to get a doctorate in translation studies. He has worked as Director of Education on the Spoken Word in Education MA
course at Goldsmiths University, and was the Midlands Producer for Apples and Snakes between 2010 and 2017, as well as the lead tutor for the prestigious Roundhouse Poetry Collective.
At 16, poetry enabled Debris Stevenson to decipher her dyslexia. She now teaches poetry as an alternative vocabulary in education, sexuality, disability and mental health. Debris has performed her poetry from the National Theatre Zagreb to a street corner in San Francisco. She has been followed by Channel 4, commissioned by BBC Radio and had her debut pamphlet, Pigeon Party, published by Flipped Eye in 2014. A Curve Theatre Associate Artist, Jerwood Arvon Mentee and Artistic Director of Mouthy Poets CIC, Debris can often be found dancing sober and alone to Dubstep, Dancehall or Moombahton.
Will Harris is a poet and critic from London. He was shortlisted for the 2018 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and received a Poetry Fellowship from the Arts Foundation in 2019. His pamphlet, All This Is Implied, was shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award by the National Library of Scotland. Mixed-Race Superman, an essay, is published by Peninsula Press in the UK and Melville House in the US. His poems have been featured in the Guardian, Poetry Review, and the anthology Ten: Poets of the New Generation. His debut poetry collection, RENDANG, is forthcoming from Granta in February 2020.
Georgina Wilding is a born and bred Nottinghamite who, after studying Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Nottingham, went on to set up the poetry publishing house, Mud Press. She has performed her work both nationally and internationally at events such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and Off Milosz festival in Poland. She has been commissioned by organisations such as the Royal Shakespeare Company and BBC Radio Nottingham and her work has been published in literary journals such as The Rialto and Kontent, and in anthologies such as Peace Builders Small Acts of Kindness and Jubilee Press’s The ‘art of Nottingham. In 2017, she was crowned Nottingham’s first Young Poet Laureate, and in January 2019 was awarded a new position as the Creative Director of Nottingham Poetry Festival.
Jamie Thrasivoulou is a writer, poet and educator from Derby. His work has been published in The Morning Star, Low Light Magazine, The Arsonist, Glove and Here Comes Everyone. Silhouette Press published his debut collection The Best Of A Bad Situation in 2017. His second collection Our Man, was published by Burning Eye in July 2019 and also tours as a one-man-show to the Edinburgh, Greater Manchester, and Buxton Fringe festivals. Jamie won the 2018 Culture Matters: Bread and Roses Award for Spoken Word that contributes to the working class narrative. His work won in three separate categories of the 2019 Saboteur awards including Best Spoken Word Performer in the UK. He is a member of the University of Birmingham slam poetry team that won UniSlam 2019 and the 2019 Hammer and Tongue poetry team slam. Jamie is the official poet for Derby County Football Club where he has recited poetry to crowds of over 34,000 people. His work has appeared on BBC radio and ITV Central television, and he is the BBC Local Poet for the Midlands for National Poetry Day 2019.
Michael has worked as a playwright since 2013 and is relatively new to spoken word. Born and bred in Wolverhampton, he likes those quiet stories with heart and humour at their centre. His Mum once told him she wished he’d write something a bit more exciting.
Ben Norris is a poet, playwright and actor from Nottingham. Two-time national poetry slam champion, *Ben *has appeared everywhere from Latitude Festival to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, via the upstairs/downstairs rooms of many, many pubs. His second poetry pamphlet was published in May 2019 by Verve Poetry Press, and was described by Colm Tóibín as ‘the real deal’, by Andrew McMillan as ‘moving, witty and beautifully-crafted’, and by his mum as ‘obviously fairly painful to read’. Ben’s work has been broadcast across BBC Radio, his debut solo show won the 2015 IdeasTap Underbelly Award before touring the UK and Australia, and his first short film, commissioned by Channel 4, was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award. He is a Creative Associate at Nottingham Playhouse, and current writer-in-residence for Nottinghamshire Libraries. He also plays Ben Archer in The Archers on BBC Radio 4.
With the Poetry Funfair co-ordinated by…
Becky Cullen is a poet and Research Fellow at Nottingham Trent University. Becky’s poems have been published in various journals and in Carcanet’s New Poetries VII (2018). Her award-winning poetry pamphlet Majid Sits in a Tree and Sings is published by Smith|Doorstop. She is currently an M3C postdoctoral Cultural Economy Engagement Fellow at NTU, working in collaboration with Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature. Her Poetry Pulse project is scoping ways to harness digital technology to capture, showcase and curate the work of Nottingham’s 1000 poets.