If you’re into the creative vibe in Portsmouth, you might already attend spoken word events. But there’s a new group emerging, more or less fully formed, who are trying to do things differently. One of its founder members, Amanda Garrie, explains further.
T’Articulation is the offspring of well-loved BookFest events Premature Articulation and that antithesis to sickly-sweet love, St Valentine’s Day Massacre – each of which was raised, then nurtured, by novelist and S&C regular William Sutton. As the author of three, well-regarded, Lawless crime novels, a lecturer in creative writing, and a teacher of Latin, Will had his hands full. Passing over the reins for his spoken word schedule to performers from these events, he felt confident it would continue and grow. Christine Lawrence, Richard Peirce, Jackie Green and myself, all well-versed members of the inclusive Portsmouth Writers’ Hub, were ready to oblige.
The injection of energy has seen listings extended: accommodating new, hand-picked, talent – with stalwarts such as Will Sutton himself, Diana Bretherick and Matt Wingett still on hand to give advice. Premature Articulation’s drop-in played to a packed audience – who enjoyed a late lunch, or coffee, while they were entertained. The St Valentine’s event was moved to the iconic Square Tower, for a larger audience, where dark and comic tales, poems and songs were unleashed under dimmed lights, in an ambient setting. Performers, Bookfest organisers and audience agreed, all was a success.
Buoyed up, the team decided to expand the legacy and push forward to create more events. Deciding on an expansive model, they became T’Articulation, named for the custard tarts they ate in facilitation meetings at Casa de Castro, on Albert Road and because their attention is to ‘tart out’ more arts onto the local scene. They are keen to promote prose performance alongside the more usual avenues for poetry and song. With a policy of requesting new work for each event, they are pushing a tall order, especially when many writers also work or are involved in other aspects of city life. Nonetheless, it is welcomed by the membership, currently 45 strong. There is nothing like a deadline to make a writer focus their energies; any work produced for T’Articulation can then be used as the basis for longer pieces and/or ones to be sent off to competitions or publication. Of course, trialling material in front of a live audience is a surefire way of honing skills and seeing what really works. Without this, a writer’s life can quickly be one that is isolated and out of touch. T’Articulation are proud to encourage each other, learning new skill-sets and promoting authors’ work.
The sense of ‘on board’ up-skilling has led T’Articulation to begin an education programme – not only enhancing the potential of new members, but others in the city. Under the banner ‘Your Voice Matters’, workshops are scheduled encouraging the under-represented to write blog posts, articles, letters of address, stories or poetry that might later be performed at an event. Feeling your worries or concerns are not heard can be demotivating and destructive; the team want to make a real difference in that area.
The first facilitation takes place in early May and invites marginalised women to participate. (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.) Whilst later events will broaden the target audience, this one has come out of The Year of the Woman and centennial celebrations of ‘women over thirty’ gaining the vote. T’Articulation are supported in this venture by Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan’s constituency office although the free workshop is, itself, non-political. The broad T’Articulation membership boasts many skills that will be utilised to roll out further workshops, including under the BookFest umbrella next year.
Other opportunities for participation are the Typewriter Tales, the brainchild of the owners of independent cafe Southsea Coffee on Osborne Road. Business goes on as normal, while customers are encouraged to dabble with typewriters, use dip pens and other low-tech equipment to make their mark as they enjoy a latte, other specialist coffee, or a bite to eat. Work can then be shared in an impromptu, end of day gathering and via a zine, for customers to enjoy on later visits. T’Articulation again supported Will Sutton, alongside artist Los Dave, in the first of these and has, again, taken over planning and implementation of future get-togethers. The original afternoon was well attended, including by a class from Mayville School who entertained everyone with their work, amongst other contributors. The next opportunity is during the Portsmouth Festivities on Wednesday 20th June, 3 – 6pm.
T’Articulation are also offering a number of female-related spoken word celebrations, in the coming weeks, with performers drawn from both sides of the gender divide. The first of these, Strong Women at Canvas Coffee (11am – 2pm, Sat 5th May), honours women from history, fiction and other areas, through specially-written poetry and prose. The following day, in a happening called Suffrage and Plight, a smaller group will be costumed to echo a women’s hustings of 1918 and other social battles. They will deliver rants, roll calls, poetry, prose, eulogies and letters of address to iconic parts of the city. Proceedings begin in The Guildhall Square at 11.30 am, moving to the Dockyard Gate and other locations, en route to South Parade Pier – where the final set concludes at around 4.15. It’s anticipated the audience will be passers by, whom the group hope will engage with the spirit of things.
The third in this spoken word series, is an open mic event Finding Your Voice, at The Hunter Gatherer on Albert Rd (7-9 pm, Tuesday 8th May). A number of 4-minute performance slots will be reserved for newcomers, in and amongst T’Articulation’s own offerings. Early, at the door, sign-up is recommended. As above, entry is free, as is participation.
Look out also for DarkFest events, later in the year, where T’Articulation will be heavily involved. HolmesFest, at the beginning of July, will also bring the membership back to the cafe scene, as well as anticipated performances at the Square Tower.
Part of the remit for T’Articulation is to nurture not only existing and developing writer talent within Portsmouth but to support other creative artists and independent outfits. Many events have artists present, displaying work for perusal and sale, including from Headcase Curios and from James Waterfield. In addition, most events take place within independent cafes and other local hostelries. Premises are generously offered on the understanding those attending will, at least, buy a drink. With a cup of tea costing in the region of £2 and no other entry fee, it makes for an excellent level of entertainment, at very little cost. Chosen venues do, however, cater more widely and are chosen for their eco-nous and vegan-friendly fare. The team encourage you to sample these whilst there.
T’Articulation see themselves as complementary to other spoken word events: members regularly appearing at The Front Room; Substance; many one-off events across the city, including You’re Welcome, at the Aspex Gallery (Sunday 29th April), convened by the talented Emily Priest another group member and one of the S&C team, and MayFly (Monday 7th May) at The Square Tower. Members, importantly, also enjoy social gatherings that are designed to alleviate a writer’s otherwise, often, solitary existence.
As a fledgling non-profit group, T’Articulation hope to grow their audience and their repertoire. If you would like to become involved, pop along to any of the public events and speak to one of the organisers: Typewriter Tales, or Finding Your Voice, gives even more immediate opportunities to be heard (details above).
Image courtesy of T’Articulation.