Luke Das, Wednesday 22 August 2012
The derelict warehouse in front of me is rather foreboding.
But when the bolted door slides open, a welcoming arts space is revealed within. A pianist in the corner plays a soothing jazz melody as people congregate for an evening of live poetry. The Last Refuge is still in its infancy and it is yet to define its role within the performing arts. ‘They are trialling a couple of different events here. I thought I would give it a go. I have plenty of experience managing events.’ explains tonight’s host Letitia Mckie.
Letitia is a performance poet in her own right. She is originally from Kent and she studied art history at Norwich University. ‘I wrote a lot of poetry when I was doing my degree and I just caught the bug. I have been obsessed with open mic poetry since I discovered the concept,’ she explains. ‘I thought the bill for tonight was amazing and I would like this poetry night to be a monthly thing. There is a good opportunity to tap into the talent from the local student population.’
Satirist Anthony Fairweather begins warming up the crowd with poems that build lyrical momentum amid lashings of comedy. As a veteran performer he has a formidable stage presence. After his performance, he removes his trademark black hat and shares his thoughts on poetry with me. ‘I write primarily for the purposes of performance. I tend to get very miserable if I do not write. I sneak my humorous side into things when I can and rhythm and rhyme are important to me too.’
I spy a familiar face – poet Edward Unique – and make my way over for a few words before he takes to the spotlight. ‘I heard about tonight from the Sage & Time anniversary show,’ he tells me. I ask him more about his personal work. ‘I want to evoke an audience response with my poetry but I like to write for myself too. It is all about getting the balance right. It is a big world out there. So what is there to not write about? I write about life, politics and I like to raise social awareness about topical issues through poetry.’
Letitia takes her turn with a frank appraisal of the blessings and curses of her ginger hair. I find it makes an inspirational topic for a poem and the audience is receptive to her comedic insight. ‘My poetry can be quite serious but mainly I write to entertain. Most of my poems are funny. Well I hope they are funny. At the moment quite a bit of my poetry is rage driven. Which could be a good thing or bad thing!’ she laughs.
Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, and with the off-stage contributions of Adele Mckie, Letitia’s mum, who merrily attends to the guests, the event is sure to become a favourite among poets and spectators alike: ‘I provided the chocolate brownies for tonight and it appears I am being put to work!’