Lit Up (part one)

This is the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, where I spent Thursday and Friday exploring issues relating to performance poetry, literature and spoken word. This showcase was devoted to promoting live literature to arts professionals and on Thursday evening I was part of a panel that explored what live literature meant to the artists who perform and create it. Shout-outs to John Siddique and Neil Rollinson who were my fellow panelists (and very provocative they were too!) and Malika Booker who chaired.

It was quite frightening to sit in front of an audience that was mainly composed of the people who commission and hire live lit practitioners and debate what we do and why we do it (and how we could do it better) because, necessarily, the debate came down to what didn't work.

So what did we decide didn't work?

Marketing. John and I certainly agreed that our own marketing efforts more often contributed to bums on seats than the marketing of events organisers. We felt that often marketing people didn't know how to talk about live literature and so ... they didn't bother.

And what did?

Everybody, including the audience, seemed to feel that once audiences got to hear live literature, in whatever form, they enjoyed it and wanted more.

Although we debated, often hotly, for an hour, we didn't even begin to scratch the surface of the many issues we could have covered: multiculturalism and live literature; audience age and how it affects audience participation; innovation in literature and whether it helps or harms the printed word; evaluating the effects of live literature on audiences; live lit for schools, hospitals and other centres; improvisation versus rehearsed peformance; competitive live lit (slams etc) versus traditional live lit (poetry readings etc) - I could go on for hours!

It was fun, tiring and thought-provoking and I hope the 'arts professionals' gained a little insight from it. This practitioner certainly learned from the debate.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the actual reading with Tell Tales - the highs, the lows, the sudden panic (oh yes!) and the way we were received and reviewed.