Fen Speak: Bringing open mic to the Fens

by admin on October 29, 2013

Fen Speak logoElaine Ewart (Fenland Poet Laureate 2012) discusses creating a perfomance space for poets in this guest post on Ely and Wisbech’s new open mic evening, Fen Speak.

Anyone who attended the recent Creative Ely meeting with Wendy Cope will know that a surprising number of poets and poetry fans lurk in this cathedral city.  Yet, until now, Ely and the fens have lacked a regular space for poets to perform their work in public.  This is what I and fellow poet Leanne Moden (current Fenland Poet Laureate) wanted to put right with a new open mic spoken word evening, Fen Speak, which held its first event on 16th October at the lovely Babylon Gallery in Ely.

We were fortunate that Jane Wilson of Arts Development East Cambridgeshire (ADeC) shared our vision and supported us in making it happen.  The idea was simple – to provide an opportunity for both novices and experienced writers and poets to share their work in front of a friendly audience.  ADeC provided us with a venue, simple sound equipment and a drinks bar to lubricate those vocal chords, and advertised the event via their contacts and on their website.  Leanne and I were also kept busy, leafleting and posting in local poetry groups on Facebook, and recruiting a small team of volunteers to make sure the evenings ran smoothly.  Artist and photographer Lizzy Doe kindly provided us with a very fine logo, and Creative Ely helped us spread the word on their Facebook page and let me give a plug for Fen Speak at last month’s meeting.

Word got around, but even so, we were overwhelmed by the response on the night.  There was no need to book in advance, so we didn’t know how many to expect, but in the end the gallery was full to capacity (about 40) and we started to run out of chairs!  Twenty people put their names down to get up and read, and Leanne ably compèred an amazingly high quality and variety of performances, from fenlanders of all ages and experience.  We had words that were comic and poignant, whimsical and political, in poetry and prose… and even a song!  Best of all, everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and we’ve had some great feedback.

Fen Speak events take place on a monthly basis, alternating between Ely and Wisbech.  Please join our Facebook group to keep up to date with the latest news.

Our next event will be on 20th November, 7.30pm, at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum. The next event in Ely will be at the same time on 18th December at the Babylon Gallery. They’re free to attend, there is no obligation to perform, and we’d love to see you there!

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