Review: The Quiet Compere

Poetry, as someone once said, can be a rattle bag. Words dug from the soul wrestled out and committed to paper. Stemming from such a personal source, the results can range from the touching to the horrific. The Quiet Compere evening of poetry that happened recently is a perfect example of this rattle bag in action.

In the Churchill Room of the Imperial Hotel, ten poets gathered, as did a large number of poetry admirers to hear their wares. After a very expensive pint in the Hilton Hotel, that the ticket I held told me was the venue, I ran to the Imperial and joined the throng.

The Quiet Compere is a national tour that gathers ten poets, some locals, some from further afield, to a special venue and has them read after being beckoned by a simple name call; no whistles and bells, they each let their words speak for themselves for ten minutes without any preamble.

The Quiet Compere is herself not so quiet and Sarah L Dixon read a poem or two of her own whilst ably steering proceedings along at a merry pace.

With the ethos of The Quiet Compere in mind, I will be short and concise in my thoughts of the poets on offer.

Steve Stroud was first up, recognisable from his involvement in many Blackpool events over the last few years. Steve kicked off the evening with a lively and enjoyable mixture of love on a bus earthy poetry, then performed a flawless from memory reading of a intelligent and insightful look at relationships and the human condition. It’s great stuff.  His energy and delivery is enviable.

Fresh from the plane over to England, Ruben Woolley turned the dial up a notch and his short ten or so poems spoke of female oppression in Gaza and beyond as well as the horrors of war. The setting of the Churchill Room jarred a little for me with the subject of these poems and I found an uneasy tension was forged, but his words were sharp and he had the room captivated.

Christopher James Heyworth, Blackpool’s Dead Good Poets’ first entry to proceedings, brought a pedagogical authority to the evening. A more formal approach than the younger poets in attendance but solid enough to be worthy of inclusion.

Laura Alice Nation was next with her poems of awkward fly away romances and she was followed by Joy France who has a linguistically complex body of work that explores memory and the construction of found text. She performed a crowd-pleasing list of chip shop names from Blackpool.  Fried potato will never be seen in the same light again.

A short break then followed to recharge pints under the painted glare of past prime ministers in the bar before The Quiet Compere retuned with another of her poems to introduce the second half of the evening.

Sean Brookes burst on to the stage with a set of poems that were both confidently read and confidently written. Badger culls and mining closure were among his subjects.  Both were pitched correctly for the room in which the past leaders of the country have sat and probably discussed policy that brought about both.

Blackpool’s own powerhouse of poems and plays, David Riley, stood to give us a solid and poignant collection of his latest work. All is as we have come to expect with David; strong words delivered in in understated way.

Lara Clayton is a poet of haunting commitment.  A spare delivery provided a ghostly, fragile aspect to her powerful and very beautiful word.  Her poem about a lost friend was the high point of the evening for me. One to keep an eye out for in the future.

Big Charlie Poet dominated the stage not just with as his named physical stature but with his forthright and insightful poetry. With delivery like a boxer he hits hard and precisely as his poignant and funny words slam home the wisdom of the lessons of youth against the cruelty of the same youth. Big Charlie Poet is popping up all over the place at the moment and to see him perform is worth the trip.

Then came the finale, the big finish.  For a poetry evening, how does one do that? It’s hard to get a rock n roll explosion going with the tools of words and no screaming guitars and flashing lights. Colin Davies, the final poet of the evening, somehow manages anyway.  Exploding on to the stage with a bellow as loud as the room can take, Colin Davies almost assaulted the audience with a high octane performance of poetry that actually left him with a physical injury from hitting the table so hard. He gave an eclectic mix of his poems ranging from the, frankly, embarrassing self-abuse based to the touching and moving kind. Davies knows what he is doing on stage and is happy to do it well. All the bravado and cocky assurance would fall flat if his poetry didn’t have the weight of quality writing behind it, and it does with loads to spare.

A wise and considered choice for The Quiet Compere to have picked his as the last performance as he would have been a difficult act to follow.

The Quiet Compere tour continues at the following venues.  If you can reach one of them, and Blackpool’s performances are anything to go by, the rest of the tour will be a word-based stunner.

September 26th Sheffield
October 26th Lancaster
November 3rd Chester
December 7th Stockport

Details from the Facebook page.

The Lancaster event will feature the following poets:
Lisa Bower
Elizabeth Burns
Carole Coates
Jennifer Copley
Rich Davenport
Steve Fairclough
Pauline Keith
Rachel McGladdery
Trevor Meaney
Ian Seed


The Gregson Centre
33 Moorgate

Doors: 7:30 for 8pm start.

Price £6 on the door or £4 through We Got Tickets.

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