Saturday 7th December 2019
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Words: Richard Daniels
Featured in the October 2016 issue

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In most of the large towns and cities in our region you will find poetry collectives. Writers of poetry come together to share their work and to encourage more people to make their voices heard. Until recently, Lincoln did not have such a collective group of voices.

Gemma Baker wanted to change that with a troupe known as the Mouth Piece Poets.

Gemma moved to Lincoln two years ago – she had already begun writing poetry; writing her feelings had helped her to understand her emotions after a period of severe depression.

“I discovered a local writers group, Lincoln Creative Writers, run by Steve Cawte,” she explains. “I was extremely apprehensive about attending, unsure of what to expect, and terrified of reading my writing out to others, but I needn’t have worried.

“The group were hugely supportive and encouraged me to attend the Jolly Brewer’s Spoken Word open mic night. It took me several months to work up the courage to get on the mic, but with their support I haven’t looked back since.

“Many of those original supporters are now members of Mouth Piece Poets, and more importantly my closest friends. Mouth Piece was started for them, to give something back to those people, and to create a platform for others to voice their opinions and experiences, to help others like it helped me.”

So that was how Lincoln’s poetry collective began and now Gemma and her group have taken another big step forward in celebrating Lincoln’s poetic talent. In June the first Word of Mouth event took place; a dedicated night of poetry and performance at the Drill Hall.

Gemma continues: “I had spent a lot of time travelling outside of Lincoln with Mouth Piece Poets member Ron Booth, attending spoken word nights. We found that every city had a set evening of spoken word, every city apart from Lincoln! We have the wonderful open mic at the Jolly Brewer but felt that Lincoln needed and deserved a set evening (and we were getting increasingly exhausted all the travel and petrol expenses!).

“We were in the process of looking for a venue when Adam Pownall (artistic director of Lincoln Drill Hall) emailed me, and after a rather nerve-wracking meeting he offered us the café space to use every month. That’s when Word of Mouth really started to become a reality for us. Without the incredible support from Adam and all the Drill Hall staff we wouldn’t be able to put on such an incredible event.”

Indeed it was an incredible event. Gemma was blown away by it. “Our launch night really did surpass all our expectations; to get over sixty attendees to a spoken word night is difficult even in the larger cities, but so many members of the community turned out to support us, it was wonderfully heart-warming. I don’t think I stopped smiling all night!”

Gemma and the other Mouth Piece Poets are now hoping to build on these successful beginnings. “We want to bring in talented headline acts from around the UK, inspiring the people of Lincoln to pick up a pen and share their words with us. Our open mic section at the beginning of the night gives anyone the opportunity to get up there in a supportive environment and give it a go.

“Audience members also get the opportunity to submit a poem to our annual audience anthology. We’re really hoping that we can acquire a regular sponsor for the event; all costs (such as guest poet and musicians’ fees) are taken from the donations that we receive from audience members on the night, but to keep the event going we really need a regular investment.”

The guest poet in July was the alluring and visceral Toria Garbutt from the West Yorkshire based A Firm of Poets, along with co-founder and punk poet Matt Abbott; Mouth Piece Poets that performed included Franky Barton, Debbie Eley and Sam Harrison. It makes for an eclectic mix of styles and subject matter, giving the audience a wide-ranging emotional voyage.

Talking with Gemma, it is easy to see her passion and commitment to poetry and the nourishment it can provide: “Poetry and spoken word connect people on a level that is often lacking in modern society,” she says, a little bashful. “Whether it is performed with humour, or vulnerability, when people get up and share their experience of the human condition, there is something rather magical about it, you realise we are all basically the same, and I think that is hugely important.”

As if to clarify this, Gemma explains all the ideas that the collective have. “We are currently in the planning stages of a spoken word play, a political satire, which we’re rather excited about. One of the great things about our troupe of thirteen-plus members is that we have a spectrum of skills; we have playwrights, actors, narrators, musicians, artists, photographers…

“We are also planning to record a spoken word CD and cross-collaborate with other local artists, organisations, festivals – the list is endless. Oh, and we will be setting up a ‘mini-mouthpiece’ group for teens. I was recently on the judging panel at ‘SlamJam’ – a local spoken word competition for teenagers, and was amazed at the level of performance and writing across the board. Unfortunately after the annual competition ends, these talented teens have nowhere else to carry on their passion for poetry. We want to give them that opportunity. In September we will have our first teen Mini-Mouther performing, Chloe Chuck.”

It is clear that Gemma and the others are thinking big and providing something important for the people of Lincoln. Word of Mouth takes place once a month at the Drill Hall. October’s event takes place on Wednesday 19th. If you would like to support the Lincoln poets with sponsorship or simply find out more, contact Gemma: gemma@mouthpiecepoets.co.uk or visit the website at www.mouthpiecepoets.co.uk

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  1. Sue Hammond October 01, 2019

    I got diagnosed with Parkinson’s and found I started suffering with insomnia. Then began writing poetry in the dead of night. I can’t really remember them in the morning. I decided to put them in a book to raise money for Parkinson’s. They seem to be appreciated. I would love to share some off them with other poets to get their feedback.

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