30 for 30 // Attend a Spoken Word Event

It's surprising, sometimes, what Aberdeen has to offer if you only know where to look. I hold my hands up and confess that I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to complaining about Aberdeen's lack of cultural offerings, or lamenting how far it lags behind other parts of the country. Pause long enough to scratch beneath the surface, however, and it turns out a hidden undercurrent of artistic events and endeavours runs straight through this little city.

I wrote previously (a long time ago now!) about my love of spoken word poetry - a fondness that was first sparked by Sarah Kay's popular TED Talk, then fanned into flame by a whole (internet) world I hadn't known existed - a world woven with beautiful words, wrapped up in powerful performances.

Spoken word poetry makes me laugh out loud and sob silently; it gives me goosebumps; kicks me in the gut, repeatedly; tells truths I didn't know how to speak; and makes me feel understood - less alone in my pain, my quirks, my flaws, my embarrassments and my experience of humanity.  I bloomin' love performance poetry. I knew it had to make an appearance on my list. I didn't necessarily expect to find it in Aberdeen! 

Once again, I underestimated this city.

Thanks to the power of social media, I stumbled across a local event called Speakin' Weird - a mostly-monthly open mic night, specifically showcasing spoken word pieces. Hosted by city-based performer Sparklechops, the event takes place on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, currently based at Spin on Littlejohn Street.

I roped in my ever-accommodating friend and headed along to their January event to check it out. 

The recipe for the evening was fairly simple: split into three parts, a featured poet would perform in the middle slot, sandwiched between two open mic sessions, for which anyone was free to sign up.

We grabbed a cheeky gin and settled in, ready to hear the first performers showcase their work. The opening segment contained a myriad of pieces, widely varying in style, theme, content and - let's face it - standard, with one or two regulars taking to the stage alongside some first time performers. What stood out to me most was their raw exposure and honesty - there is something very vulnerable about standing up there with nothing but a microphone and your own words, so I take my hat off to each and every one of them for their bravery.

The second segment was occupied by a more seasoned performer - invited guest Leanne Moden, who made the journey north of the border especially. Based in Nottingham, Leanne seems something of a well-kent face on the spoken word scene, performing at events like Bestival and the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as reaching the finals of multiple established poetry slams. It was easy to see why. This was a lady well-versed in her art: one who knows how to capture an audience's attention, as well as how to craft her words carefully. I found myself giggling at the likes of  'It's Not Like in the Movies' (a piece about sex and its Hollywood-free realities); I was moved by her work on the experience of a young refugee; and 'Brixton' - a poem about the unifying power of live music - had me nodding along wholeheartedly. I very much enjoyed her set, as well as the videos I've watched online since then.

Unfortunately, I have to confess that I made a bit of a swift exit after Leanne's performance - a nasty cold sending me home to my bed feeling wiped out and pretty damn poorly. I gather that I missed a second open mic slot, which seems to have been occupied by some regulars on the Aberdeen poetry scene. I've since stumbled upon a few of their pieces - primarily through local mental health podcast Mood Swings (which I can't believe I hadn't found previously!) - and I'm keen to see them perform live at a later date.

I'm disappointed that I didn't make it through the whole evening, but I thoroughly enjoyed the event and it's certainly whet my appetite, leaving me curious to venture further into this unexpected poetry scene in Aberdeen!

If you're at all interested, check out the following pages for future local events:
Until then, I'm just going to sit here smugly, enjoying the fact I've ticked the first item off my list of '30 for 30!'


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