How did you first hear about SpeakEasy and when did you get involved in co-hosting the event?
It came about by chance actually I think from my Father who heard about at Stretford Library somewhere around June or July of 2015 and I ended up going down to the 1st
Although I was / am an experienced writer / reader, I was out of practice at that stage (long story which I won’t go into great detail) and I can remember feeling a little bit nervous by the excitement. The welcoming, low key nature of it (advertised as living room literature — the room where it is hosted reminded me of a living room) won me around and I became a regular for the next two years or so.
At the end of summer 2017, Dave who had been running Speakeasy had to step aside and Steve agreed to take over at the end of that year. Steve couldn’t host one of these events at the start of 2018. I came on board to do guest MCing (or hosting) and since then I’ve kind of just stayed on-board assisting Steve to run it ever since.
Manchester has a lot of spoken word nights. How is SpeakEasy different from those?
One thing Dave started off when he created the night — which me and Steve carried on — is that all of the readers are the headline acts. Everybody who reads is treated the same and given the chance to read out their poetry across two halves, a total of six minutes’ worth of poetry, short stories, flash fiction or creative non-fiction. I am also proud of the supportive atmosphere, whether experienced or brand new to reading out work. SpeakEasy is a place free from Ego’s, filled with nothing but encouragement. It has a vibe I haven’t experienced in any other venue, which feels like you are reading out in the company of friends. That’s probably the reason why I agreed to help Steve out with the night originally. I’m a regular at quite a few other nights, but Speakeasy is something special. I read it described elsewhere as “The venue itself is quirky and uncanny, with an array of lampshades that remind me of a David Lynch film.”
Indeed, the atmosphere and low-key theatrical vibe of the space, helps to give Speakeasy its own distinctive identity. With a warm and convivial bar area and a quiet back room devoted to the performances, the overall feel is welcoming, informal and encouraging.
What would you say to anyone who wants to read their work out, but feels nervous?
Just do it. Personally, I think the main battle is to get up and just do it. I found when I first read, I was shaking beforehand, but was buzzing afterwards. Over ten years later, I haven’t stopped since in one form or the other. I took it slowly and found the nights that suited me as a person and a writer. I’ve have carried on since, writing a few books, performing in a lot of places, I’ve fronted a few bands and now run a few Podcast series — building myself up slowly.
Can you describe the first time you performed your work in public?
The first official time (although there was a few minor times before that) was at Manchester Central Library at the start of 2008. I joined a poetry discussion group the year before called Poetica. The guy who ran it announced at the end of 2007, he wanted to do a low-key reading showcasing the group. He told us all not to worry to as it would be a quiet little reading and just a bit of fun. It wasn’t as there were over 50 people there. I was shaking like a leaf right up until I got on stage. What perhaps helped me out with this was asking a friend of mine Tony to come onto stage and read out the third piece with me called Airport which was a spoof about Airport Security. That piece went down really well, but I always remember it more than anything for the way I delivered the punchline four lines early. It was pointless carrying on owing to the laughter I got off the audience there. It was great fun, but I was shattered afterwards.
What is your favourite thing about performing your work at SpeakEasy?
Seeing people’s faces who are new to reading or listening, when they realise what can be said with the spoken word.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell people about the night?
SpeakEasy is on the first Wednesday of each month’s at Stretford’s Sip Club 7.30pm doors open for a 7.45pm start. Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/speakeasymanchester/ or bookings can be taken by Steve on firstname.lastname@example.org