When I received my tickets for Perspectives – Appreciate the Difference at Blackpool and Fylde College’s Gallery (housed at the University Centre on Palatine Road) I was, to say the least, excited.
The bill looked great; Meriel Malone, Trevor Meaney, and the ‘Count of MontiGristo’, Mark Grist, heading the list. You can imagine my surprise when, just before leaving my house, I received a message to bring some of my work with me.
Upon arrival I found out why. Malone had taken ill on her way to Blackpool and left the organisers with a headache. So Lisa Kelly, top brass at the Student’s Union, Ashley Lister, local author, poet and college lecturer, Steve Stroud, another Student Union big gun, performance poet Simon Hart and myself all got up to help cover for Malone’s absence.
It was all the harder, knowing Mark Grist was on after us. The last minute brigade, however, delivered some fantastic stuff; perfect for whetting the appetite of the poetry-loving audience.
Local college duo Ebeneze supplied a superb musical interlude between us and the main attractions. I have seen Trevor Meaney perform before at the Cafe Number 5, as part of the Wordpool festivities. His style is fast and funny, connecting with the audience by delivering modern poetry about the everyday ordinary stuff. He specialises in making the mundane interesting and slightly surreal. His energy was evident from his first piece, Hoover. He was landing performance punches from the off with his exquisitely delivered vacuum cleaner impression.
His stage presence allowed the onlookers to enter his world for a time, his poetry sharp and clever. There is a reason why he gets so many YouTube hits, and there is a reason why he is a big deal in the world of performance poetry. The audience devoured his delicious helping with gusto, even causing him to corpse at one point such was the reaction to him saying, “she is not a pork loin”.
His work done, the band returned and we waited for the YouTube sensation that is Mark Grist. As Grist started talking we began to understand why this man is making massive waves. Over the course of an hour he took us on a journey of how he went from nearly qualified English teacher to one of the most famous British poets around at the moment.
His soft, almost apologetic style allowed his amazing storytelling abilities to translate his life with self deprivation and great humour. He spoke about how the children in his class had issues, well I say issues, they were pretty bad lads by all account, but Mark tried to help by doing a deal. He promised to take part in a rap battle if the kids stayed out of trouble until the end of the term. They did, and he fulfilled his end of the bargain. This story led into the delivery of his first ever rap.
And that’s how it flowed; wonderful story leading to amazing poem. Engaging, enlightening, entertaining. He let the audience in to the highs and lows of being a professional poet. He explained that being a YouTube sensation was a godsend and a curse. He spoke of being destroyed by a university professor who told him his poems were rubbish and how he got over such a massive disappointment. The poem in question was Girls Who Read which got over one million views on YouTube over night with the current total over six million.
By the end of his set, each one of us there felt inspired, motivated and thoroughly entertained. It was the perfect launch for the new Student Union initiative, Riding the Roller Coaster, which aims to highlight the struggle of students and confront discrimination by celebrating those things that make us different. I for one think it’s a great campaign and fully support the work Lisa and her team are doing.
And I hope they put on more nights like Perspectives.
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