Pub Poets: Big Charlie Poet Interview
Cometh the month, cometh the 1st Sunday, cometh the Pub Poets Speakeasy, for another night of wonderful words. April’s guest is definitely no fool. Big Charlie Poet is one of the most respected poets on the scene with some big names from the world of spoken word professing to being fans of his work. AltB’s Colin Davies managed to catch up with the host of Working Title in Lancaster, for a quick chat.
Colin Davies: So how did you get into performance poetry?
Big Charlie Poet: I can tell you that it was October 2012. I’ve always written stuff and shared a little bit with some colleagues at Sainsbury’s where I work. They convinced me to try the Spotlight Slam at The Storey in Lancaster and it felt really good, so I tried it again.
CD: How did you progress from local nights to ones around the region? That’s quite a big step.
BCP: You can blame Trevor Meaney a lot for that. I came second to him at that Slam in October, which was the first time I had ever performed, and then got to know him a little from seeing him at work. From then I used to travel to nights he was performing at and taking part in the open mics. It was one of these that got me a surprise gig at Blackpool and Fylde College. Lisa Bower had booked Mark Grist for a headline night. Trevor was on the bill with another poet who fell ill on the day and couldn’t perform. Trevor asked me if I could do something, so I did “It’s the Grit.” Performing on a stage with the likes of Mark Grist was terrifying, especially as I still felt very new to performing, but it does give you a massive confidence boost.
CD: From open mics to hosting your own night, that’s another massive jump.
BCP: Yeah, that came about after I got a guest spot at Evidently in Salford. I had been there a number of times and performed at their open mic. Kieren and Ella put on a great night. They invited me to do a 10 minute guest spot which meant I could perform “It’s the Grit” as it’s longer than the 2 minute open mic slots. One of things they do there is film all the performances. So for the first time I had a video of me on stage. Then the Guardian put a call out for spoken word video submissions. I asked Kieren if they could enter my video, which he did for all the people that contacted them, and “It’s The Grit” got picked as the first spoken word performance of the week. That was a massive surprise. I have to admit, I was chuffed to bits and if anyone even showed the slightest interest I would show them the video, on the Guardian website. One of those people was the landlord of the Three Mariners in Lancaster. I had gotten to know him a bit through chatting to him at work, and knew he was putting on music acts so I jokingly said he should put on a spoken word night, oh and here’s my video. 3 weeks later he can back into work and asked me if I wanted to set up the night. Working Title was born. We are now in our 3rd year and have a full guest list booked up until the end of the year. I do have to admit that I stole the entire format from Evidently, but don’t tell them.
CD: And now you are performing your first ever full solo show?
BCP: Yes, soon I will be. I’m hoping to have it finished in the next couple of weeks, but there is still a lot of work to do. Whatever happens there will be plenty of pieces from it at the Pub Poets.
CD: What’s it about?
BCP: It all came about last November. I wrote a piece about Bonfire Night, well more about going to a firework evening with my fiancée and her son. On this night I was struck with certain emotions and observations about how I felt, being part of this family, my family. Moments connect us and this was one of them. I started looking at how I was feeling about becoming a dad. I always knew I wanted to be one. I wrote a poem about it which has always been well received, but here I was, becoming one. I wasn’t replacing this boys real father, but I was starting to become his dad. So the show is about that. About coming into a family unit and being accepted, and accepting them into my world. And of course, about the challenges that have to be faced in that process.
CD: You’ve always had such great humanity in your work, as well as a massive slice of surreal humour. Would you say this was a departure for you?
BCP: Departure, no. My work has definitely evolved. As I have grown as a person with the help of my wife to be and our wonderful boy, my work has grown with me. I write about what I see, feel and hear. This is what has changed for me. I’ve always had an element of the personal in what I write, but increasingly I feel secure in exploring that side of things more. Writing about people buying ‘mouses’, and kids with laser beams for eyes are still very much part of who I am, but it’s not necessarily where I feel my writing going. This new body of work comes from a place I never really knew existed. It’s wonderful, and scary. It’s also something not many people talk about. There are many reasons why new parents come into the lives of others. It’s never usually a good story as to why there is a space there in the jigsaw. In all relationships there are compromises. You grow together, learn each other. When there is already a family there these times are very different. There are a whole set of choices you make, and rules you agree to. This show reflects that, explores that and hopefully connects to others that have been through it, or at least gives an insight for those who have never encountered it.
CD: What are you hoping to do with it once it’s finished?
BCP: Like I said, if it’s ready, I will perform the whole hour long show at the Pub Poets. Ultimately though, I would love to tour the show. Get it on in places where you might not expect to see spoken word. I’m good friends with Joy France, it’s her mission in life to take poetry to people that don’t normally listen to poetry. I love that idea and think a tour based a little on Joy’s poetry plan would be great.
CD: Are you looking forward to Pub Poets?
BCP: Do daffodils flutter and dance in the breeze? Hell yeah. Lisa has put together a great night, and with Ashley as the host, you’d be pushed to ask for better. My regret is I don’t get to go as often I want. They have some great guests on.
CD: So who do you like from the Spoken word scene?
BCP: There are too many names to mention really… I love what Sophia Walker and Adele Hampton do. They are phenomenal writers and performers and every time I have had the opportunity to see either, they have blown me away. Closer to home, there are people like Rose Condo, David Jarman, the ever wonderful Joy France… so many. One performer I do really want to see but have not had the opportunity yet, is Ross Sutherland. So many people have said so many good things about what he does. I need to see him.
CD: Have you got anything else lined up?
BCP: I was reading an interview with Matt Panesh today, who was a guest at Pub Poets a couple of months ago. He was talking about the Morecambe Fringe, a new arts festival he’s organising. In that interview he mentioned that I was going to be doing a show there. It was the first I’d heard of it, but it’s on the calendar now. I’m also a member of the OWW with Joy France, Ashley Lister, Trevor Meaney, Rose Condo and you. I know we’re doing something for the Shakespeare festival in July. Not a full troop compliment but it should be fun. I’m also hoping to get myself in gear and start getting out to nights further afield, so any interest in booking me would be greatly appreciated!
CD: The floor is yours. Why should people drag themselves off the sofa on a Sunday night to come and see you?
BCP: They shouldn’t come just to see me. They should come to an amazing night of spoken word. Yes I will be there, giddy as a kipper giving it my all on stage, but I am just one of many things, many reasons to come and be entertained.
CD: Thank you so much for sparing the time.
Big Charlie Poet will be performing at Pub Poets Speakeasy at Bootleg Social, Topping Street on the 2 April 6:30pm to 9pm. Check out the event page for more information.
Images courtesy of Charles Leek.