Open Season

The names of the innocent have been changed to protect the guilty.

I love open mic nights. At their best, they are supportive environments where you can share your work, and revolve around a cadre of regulars who know each other’s styles, plus a changing cast of occasional attendees. You can leave your ego at the door, please. I prefer nights with a strong poetry bias (or exclusively poetry) as I think prose is harder to pull off well in recital, but that is probably just personal taste.

Some nights have an “anything goes” ethos – poetry, prose, stand-up comedy, often devolving into just about anything someone is prepared to stand at a microphone and say. My experience is that they are so diffuse, they have less of a recognisable community feel. Also, you get some very odd things showing up.

Take last night. A guy had travelled some distance to regale us with his “celebrity stories” from his time working “in showbiz”. This turned out to be that he once worked for Ant & Dec (PJ and Duncan, actually) on tour and one night they went to bed early. But, the girlfriend of one of them stayed up.  And they got drunk. Also, he once worked as a DJ at a Caribbean resort and one day Ulrika Jonsson came into the bar and spent the evening with a bloke off Brookside.

That was about it. At one point he said “I’m sure you are all fascinated by Hello! magazine and celebrity culture…” He was talking to a room half-full of poets. I can’t imagine any single group of people more likely to publicly burns stacks of Hello! in defiance or as performance art. To say he misjudged his audience was an understatement.

If you bumped into him in the pub and he started on this, you would either tell him to sod off, or find another pub, depending on your tact level. A couple of people I knew there looked as though they wanted to throw him off a cliff. It went beyond bad, into the territory of nauseating and tedious. One of the later poets faked tripping up when he took the mic, and apologised as he hadn’t spotted the names lying about on the floor….

That’s the thing – set your stall out as welcoming people standing up and doing “anything” and you can get, well, anything, and it ain’t always pretty.


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