It’s Sunday 5am and I’m awake and actually moving. Ahead of me sits half a day of travel from Bristol to Norwich and back again. Over the next 48 hours I will spend 14 of them on a coach. And probably another 6 wondering around lost. But, between the outbound journey and the return leg is one of the best experiences I’ve had since I started performing poetry 4 years ago. When you see open submission calls on Facebook part of you never expects them to go anywhere. There are a lot of time wasters out there in the poetry world, but between Billy Pilgrim and his cousin, the Heartsease Kid, rarely will you see so much ambition. Not to mention kindness. BPTHK and their family and friends are some of the most open and welcoming people I’ve ever met. From their first hello to their final goodbyes there were smiles on their faces, warmth in their hearts, and drive in their eyes.
Billy Pilgrim and The Heartsease Kid love what they do and they are going to show you. They aligned the resources, got the studio time, found some knockout poets, produced the music, edited the tracks, printed the CDs, had the artwork made, booked the venue, and gathered us all here.
Sunday night. Norwich. Packed venue. 9 nervous artists. There’s a trepidant air. Few of us have done this before, But then bang. We’re off. No turning back. The open mic’ers are warming the crowd. One by one to whoops and cheers. I’ve not seen Norwich’s poetry before but these guys could give London a run for their money.
Before we know it. It’s our turn. Billy is on stage announcing Tamar is to open the preceedings. She does this with the form and grace you rarely see in someone so young and new to the scene. Minty is second with a weird trip of a poem about hostages and sausages that stabs you with hidden meaning.
Billy himself is third with a love poem that matches the track in the background so fluidly is clear this isn’t his first rodeo. Now it’s me. I have to be honest I was bricking it. More than when I performed at the Albert hall. This requires perfect timing. But before I even realise it’s over. I’m jumping the stage wishing I could go again as strangers and new friends clap my back.
Imogen’s Scottish accent rings out behind me and I turn around to her piece marrying beautifully more traditional slam style poetry to the rhythmic lowfi beats. Zoka takes next and rocks a proper lo-fi hip hop poem/rap that has the whole room bopping to his natural rhythm. Piers performs a poem about life between cigarettes that vibrates your heartstrings through the feeling of his words and his deep amazing voice.
A few of us jump up to do second pieces before Ella gets up to do an all-too relatable poem about relationships feeling like scabs. Piers is last to wrap things up with a final piece and a big thank you to the whole room, and an ad-libbed lot of love to Billy, and of course, the Heartsease kid, whose beats the entire night were nothing other than godlike. Lo-fi with kick and retro vibe. Flawless.
All too soon it’s over. I’m being whisked away from the after party to stay the night with Billy and the Kid’s family, Who are lovely and woke me up with coffee and absynthe. A few short hours later. I’m on the coach home. To soon. Sometimes. When you see open submission calls on Facebook it’s a waste of time. Sometimes 14 hours of travel is nothing but miles you could have missed. But this? This was perfect.
Thank you so much to everyone. To Billy and the kid. To the words with friends artist’s. To Paul and Sharon. To the open Mic’ers. And to everyone who came.