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Pub Poets Welcome Mark Grist

Mark Grist Pub Poets show at Bootleg Social

The Bootleg Social on Topping street is not just another down town bar, it plays host a number of different nights from movies to music. The first Sunday of every month, under the streets of Blackpool, there is a gathering in this place, a group of people known as ‘The Pub Poets’

It’s a very welcoming evening with a couple of open mic section where anyone who wants to share their words with a very warm and encouraging audience can with ease. Organised by Lisa Bower and hosted by the very talented (and very adult themed) Ashley Lister, this night has become established as a fun, safe pace for poets both new to the scene, and established, to came and entertain, and be entertained.

Recently they have started bringing guest performers to the town, with the likes of Sara Hirsch and Christopher Bowles. However, on 2 October Lisa pushed the boat out and brought the incredible Mark Grist back to Blackpool.

Mark came with his new show, and boy is it worth seeing. One of the things I really like about Grist is his lack of arrogance on stage. Here is a man with hit Edinburgh shows, top table commissions and the number of YouTube hits that very few can every even dream of getting, yet as he comes on stage there is a nervous energy about him, an almost apologetic “I can’t believe I’m here” kind of a vibe.

He throws out a couple of well received pieces that get the audience going. One of them “Girls Who Read” already has over 3.5m views. Only this time he tells us the story of why it was written, which in turn, was how he met his wife. It allowed him to move the narrative forward to his future mother-in-law not approving of her daughter bringing home a ‘poet’ and exposing him for his lake of knowledge about his historical peers.

“Being a teacher”, he says, “you just get in a cycle of information, you don’t really know anything.”

And so he embarked on a journey to find out more about the ‘Dead Poets’ and try to write piece, not so much in their style, more about their themes. So down comes the projector screen, up pops Power Point and Mark’s journey of poetic self discovery begins. And it is a master class of delivery and word skill.

He moves from the place he grew up, explaining about a bird called the ‘Bonxie’ and how it became the name of the only punk band on the Shetland Ireland he called home. This information would become a visual gag delivered with perfect timing when trying to explain Ted Hughes Lineage poem.

Piece after piece about dogs and horrible people getting married followed. Then two of the best pieces I have ever witnessed, which is quite the thing to say, but I am not exaggerating here. The second one was a rap called “100 bad guys in two and half minutes” which was set to a beat and a video edit. If was funny and the timing was just spot on. But the first of these 2 was like nothing I’d seen before.

Giving us the premise from four long gone poets that there are four things needed to make a good poem: nature, politics, barbarism and cheese. With a volunteer from the audience to choose one for these four themes at given pauses, Mark delivered a poem created using the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston method of choosing which direction the poem should go. With four choices, that means we heard only 1 of millions for possible out comes, and it was brilliant. Funny, engaging and original.

It’s safe to say the by the end of his set the crowd were calling for more. A truly wonderful show that needs to be seen.

I have to say though, it wasn’t just Mark Grist that made this a memorable evening. The open mic section was also bursting with amazing talent from the likes of Steve Stroud and Dean Park. Though the highlight of open mic section had to be Joy France with her ‘Nelly the Elephant’/Donald Trump parody which brought the house down.

A wonderful evening that is well worth a visit, even when Mark Grist isn’t on. November will have Sara Hirsch making a return to promote her new book, so write it on your calendars for the first Sunday.

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