Poetry News – Scotland, June 2016

This month we speak to Jenny Lindsay about the end of Skinny favourite Rally & Broad, and the projects to rise from its ashes, before looking at the work of comedy-poet-libertine Mark Waddell

Article by Clare Mulley | 03 Jun 2016

This month marks the end of an era – after four years of events, workshops, masterclasses and spotlighting new stars alongside the established on the poetry and performance circuit, Rally and Broad are taking a final bow on 19 June. Jenny Lindsay, one of its curators alongside Rachel McCrum, explains that the decision to move on was not a hasty one. “Rachel and I have known for some time that we'd be wrapping things up this June,” she says, “so it's almost a relief that we've finally announced it. We couldn't be prouder of what we've achieved with R&B but all good things must come to an end!”

As the two have many other exciting solo projects lined up, Lindsay says they felt it was the right time to finish: “Rachel is going to be working between Canada and Scotland for the next while, on really exciting translation and bilingual projects, and she is also going to be taking up residency in France as part of the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in November. I've been working away for the last few months setting up my own spoken word production company, Flint & Pitch Productions.

“The thing I next want to focus on as a programmer is the crossover between spoken word and theatre,” she continues, “but I also want to retain the kind of late-night revue style shows that are so popular, and can be an ace way to mix spoken word and music in an accessible and entertaining way. Flint & Pitch will be programming the spoken word and music acts for the new Lyceum Variety Nights, as well as running smaller-scale revue shows on an ad-hoc basis. However, one of my major ambitions is to be able to programme longform spoken word shows, and this is where the Flint & Pitch Presents shows come in.”

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Lindsay explains how part of the trigger for this new venture was a gap waiting to be filled on the Scottish spoken word scene: “From my own experiences, I'm aware of how difficult it is to tour a solo show as a spoken word artist. In Scotland, what with the loss of the Arches alongside the lack of a dedicated spoken word venue, we not only struggle to showcase our own work in our own country, but we rarely get to see the solo shows of the fabulous spoken word artists elsewhere in the UK, because we have no programmers, save the odd literary festival who are dedicated to programming them. I'd like to make a start in changing that! Watch this space…”

As well as programming, producing and promoting, Lindsay is also busy creating solo material. She wrote her first show, Ire & Salt, in 2015 and hopes to complete her latest by the end of the year. “It follows the trials and tribulations of a new teacher called Brodie, struggling with the contradictions in the Scottish education system. I was a teacher for three years and it was the best thing I have ever done, and also in many ways the loneliest job in the world. You can't talk about it, the public barely understand what is involved in it, and yet it’s one of the most important jobs in society. As I am no longer a teacher, I am freer to talk about the reality of the role in a way that I couldn't really before.” As a fellow teacher, I can’t wait to see how it comes out.

The Printed Page

This month’s focus collection has southern roots, for a change – On the Cusp of Greatness by Mark Waddell (Valley Press), a self-professed ‘comedy-poet-libertine’ who has long been entertaining the inhabitants of Kentish Town with his own brand of street signs, the collection’s title being one of them. I went to its launch in a North London pub, which was suitably mad, complete with velvet-clad tap dancers and masked, punkish singers as part of the warm-up acts.

Mark is a charming guy – friendly with an un-edgy sense of mischief – and his poems have a definite stand-up flavour, full of quirky punchlines and raspberries at the establishment, and with a nifty combination of the lofty, humdrum, scary and irreverent thrown in. My favourites are the premature ejaculation appointment (‘of course / he arrived / early’), the blizzard, 2 columbian girls and a cake in my bed and the sound of a falling possum.

Other topics include finding the end of the sellotape to put the world together, slipping and freezing to death in a supermarket, a fistful of assholes, crying in space, a ferris wheel in Chernobyl, Pringle-triggered sex and a writer who starts a trend of burning his own work and house in order to inspire a bestseller. It’s all very entertaining. At one point, he uses the title I’ve gone completely blank and proceeds to leave the page exactly so. Not a completely new trick in the arts world, perhaps, but one which still affords a good giggle.

Rally & Broad's final shows are on 17 June in Edinburgh (The Bongo Club) and 19 June in Glasgow (Stereo)
Mark Waddell's On the Cusp of Greatness is out now, published by Valley Press, RRP £7.99