Sunburn: Ouch! Insect bites: 6 Poetry mug: Overflowing.
Latitude was the festival that really got poetry stages working, and popular at festivals. This year was no exception. There was a fine line up of established poets such as Don Patterson and Elaine Feinstein, as well as spoken word regulars Mark Gwynne Jones and Attila the Stockbroker alongside up and comers such as Emily Harrison and Bridget Minamore.
For the poets it’s as much an AGM as a chance to lounge in the sun with a beer and a chance to wander about listening to bands and posh people. The only bands I knew anything about this year were Squeeze, who were excellent, and New Order, who were never my cup of tea. I did get several people believing that John Barnes was gonna do his rap on World In Motion, so they at least gave me some comic potential.
I didn’t get there ’til satuday lunchtime so missed a fair bit, but the first turn I saw was the amiable Martin Newell. The Essex lad is a solid performer and brought humour and charm to his set, and the day’s best outfit.
Martin Newell and Tim Wells
Tim Wells did both a sober set and a drunk set on Saturday, and is gonna get a good review ‘cos he’s the one writing this.
Emily Harrison followed Tim and showed why she was best Spoken Word Performer of 2016. She gave us a set of poignant poems that were funny, engaging and the crowd warmed to. Her poetry about experiences in mental health wards are written in a way that invite the audience into her life and see her as just another person rather than scream “I am a victim!” It’s this care over meaning that makes her so good. Emily’s Quinoa Is Only Spelt Like That To Out The Working Class was perhaps my favourite Latitude poem. Great writing, and the right audience. Politics can dress well and have a sense of humour. Pulling the rug from under someone whilst you smile is a far better political tactic than just stamping your muddy trainer all over their rug.
There was a great moment when Attila the Stockbroker exclaimed “So that’s how you pronounce quinoa!”
The lad himself turned in an hour long set and kept the pace frenetic. As you’d expect no shortage of political opinions there, and no shortage of humour either. Great to see him gigging as ever.
Tim Wells, Bridget Minamore, Attila the Stockbroker
Bridget Minamore is another fine young poet, and one who’s been doing a few Stand Up and Spit gigs too. She’s also direct and has a sense of humour.
Holly McNish read from her diary as well as doing some poems about motherhood from her recent collection Nobody Told Me. She had people in the crowd crying, as so many people recognised their own experiences in her sensitive, and human, work.
I managed down an ample supply of lager, the boss of the poetry backstage, Lisa, was an absolute star who kept everything running smoothly and was both helpful and a good laugh. Big up Stephanie on the gate too.
I shared a few jokes with a woman called Jack and she took me for salt beef beigels. Predictably the beigels were spelt bagels and were in fact just bread rolls with an ‘ole and the mustard was Dijon. But still better than quinoa.
It was also good to have a chat with Robin Ince and Josie Long, and to share a few beers with the ever-theatrical Alan Cox over at the Literature tent. Back to Poetry and Henry Normal sat down at the edge of the stage and did a lovely reading of his work. I know he’s a busy lad, but I wish he’d gig more.
Beer, beer, beer and back to the tent. The tent next to mine was I think the best of the festival.
Sunday was one hot day, and the poetry matched up. Helen Mort was the first act I caught of the day, and she’s always a joy. The audience liked her and she was a great start to my poetry day.
Jenny Lindsay is also someone who’s put in the poetry graft, she’s organised so much poetry in Scotland as well as campaigning for Scottish independence. Both feature in her hour long set, one that she’s having to frequently re-write as the political events of the UK (it is at the moment!) unravel ever faster and ever more threadbare.
Chimene Suleyman took part in a panel reading from the anthology The Good Immigrant. She read an interesting piece about her name, it’s various misspellings and different way it’s used. Chimene always writes emotionally but always brings an objective view and a sense of humour.
After a chat with the charming Isy Suttie it was back to Poetry, with a share of Literature beer, half of those pwopah authors just don’t drink. Don Patterson had a bottle of whiskey and wasn’t sure how much to cane it before this reading. I suggested half sober/half drunk and keep the dramatic tension. His reading was quality and he, rightly, shifted plenty of copies of his Sonnets.
I caught Lisa Luxx in full flow and then there was a run of the grime type acts. Some of these just let the label do all the work for them, whilst others really delivered. Yomi ‘GREEdS’ Soli in particular was a lot of fun, nice bloke too, and a great set from him.
Special mention to Michelle Madsen, Rosy Carrick and Johnny Fluffypunk for some excellent hosting, never intrusive they built the atmosphere and kept the poetry flowing. Not to forget the rabbit who visited us several times backstage. Latitude is famous for it’s brightly coloured sheep, which myself and Kyra went to find. They seemed bemused by their new pinkness, but bright pink they were indeed.
Beers with Jemima Foxtrot
John Hegley wound up the poetry with a textbook set. He involved the whole crowd who sang along and danced. He’s the most loveable grumpy teacher I know. Thereafter we managed a few beers and were delighted to meet Adrian Mitchell’s grand-daughter. The last time I’d seen Adrian was at Latitude where we shared a portacabin. I as checking my poems before going onstage and, reading after me, he was checking his false teeth were in firmly. “Always be prepared, Tim” he told me. He’s a sad loss to both Latitude and Poetry but Poetry marches ever on. Based on the bill curated by Luke Wright it’s in good health.