Sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone is a good way to develop confidence and skills. Whilst on holiday I read that there was an open mic night at The Union Inn in St Ives. Having walked past the pub the previous night, with my wife Maggie, it was clear that this is not a quiet venue but one filled with atmosphere and noise – great for the musicians who would perform but challenging for a poet – and I was the only poet!
There was plenty of music from wannabes to experienced musicians and the mood was loud and lively. Maggie and I watched, and listened to, a wide variety of performances from folk to rock and the crowd were tapping feet and singing along almost as soon as things got going a little after 9.00pm.
At around 11.00pm, after plenty of music filling the crowded bar, Mickey, the host and lead performer for the night, told me I’d be up next.
Facing a very crowded pub with a busy bar full of punters I was unsure of how they’d react, they’d come for a drink and to enjoy the music so having been introduced I led off with Standby – good for my confidence as most people tend to understand the theme and quickly get engaged. Sure enough almost as soon as I had introduced myself and started my first poem, Standby, with the words; “My old television had a big old switch, on and off, with a clunk” the whole crowd, at least 60 or 70 people crammed in, stopped chattering and I had a really appreciative and attentive audience. (You can read Standby here: here)
I followed with my anti-war poem Dead Eyes about child soldiers and you could hear a pin drop and there were tears in a few eyes. A brief pause to let the poem sink in, or just caused by the impact of the poem and then they applauded, a kind of polite applause at first then building up as the audience appreciate the feelings they’ve just experienced. (You can read Dead Eyes here: here)
Mickey asked me for one more poem so I went with Different Dad which can always pick the audience back up and they were happy, smiling and cheering with their applause as I finished and said my thank-you’s. (You can read Different Dad here)
We stayed until midnight listening to more music, tapping feet and singing along. I declined Mickey’s offer to join himself and fellow musicians at the microphone, this time to sing along, he may have been impressed by my poetry but I’m not so sure about my singing voice!
We would certainly recommend this night for anyone visiting St. Ives and if you are a poet then why not step outside that comfort zone, take that risk – I did and it paid dividends giving a massive buzz, building confidence and reminding me that my poetry doesn’t have to be delivered in the traditional “friendly, supportive” setting.
What a night, what a buzz!