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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Cockrill’

Saboteur Awards 2013: Performance

In Performance Poetry, Saboteur Awards on June 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

-in which James Webster sums up the categories he presented at the awards –

saboteur awards - performer

Best Performer

When it came down to the final day, Best Spoken Word Performer was the most closely contested of all the categories, with first place going back and forth several times and only three votes separating the winner and runner-up. That runner-up was Dan Cockrill, who deserves real credit for pushing the winner all the way to the wire, receiving many enthused comments from voters along the way. One such person said they voted for him “Because he is funny, engaging and full of bags of energy. And you never get bored of him however many times you see him!”

The other nominees also deserve a lot of kudos, Raymond Antrobus (who is one of the co-hosts of Chill Pill and whose pamphlet The Shapes and Disfigurements of Raymond Antrobus was published this year) reportedly “has a way with words, is unique in delivery and is spinetingly inspirational.” While Emma Jones (regular at Bang! Said the Gun and virtuoso performer) has “A tongue so sharp they call it a mouth knife. FACT!!” and an “Uncanny ability to absorb a character and present a perspective rarely seen.” Fay Roberts (host of Hammer & Tongue Cambridge and founder of Allographic) was said by one voter to have “a range and depth that I envy. Her poems combine beautiful word-smithery, wisdom and wry humour and her highly original delivery is a delight.”

The winner, however, was Vanessa Kisuule. A phenomenal poet whose performances are often heartfelt, often funny, and always excellent, and have delighted audiences all over the UK.

Winner of a multitude of slams and a regular at festivals, she “combines warm humour with beautifully measured emotion and a sprinkling of bite, Vanessa Kisuule is simply one of the best performing poets around.” Another voter said “Vanessa’s poems actually steal me and take me on an adventure”, while another commented “Vanessa has a depth and maturity to her work I’ve never seen matched in spoken word”. The most prevalent commendation, however, was her uncanny knack of expressing the inexpressible, she has “the ability to articulate feelings previously considered ineffable; a skill as rare as it is wonderful” and “has the most relevant poetry to so many people, she finds the perfect words to express what so many people think but can’t vocalise because they don’t have her words. She is a total boss.”

Best One-Off

Another close category, with the intriguing events that were Penning Perfumes (exploring scents through poetry and vice-versa) and Poetry Parnassus (an almost unprecedented conglomeration of poets from around the globe) coming in joint second. Penning perfumes was called “innovative, bold, mixing genres and going outside poetry audiences to engage through use of the senses with a wider audience” while Poetry Parnassus was praised for being “a once in a life time gathering of poetry and poets and community and sharing and wisdom.”

Also in the running was Poetry Polaroid (mapping Edinburgh through poetry) that was “a beautiful concept that drew a lot of people into exploring the city and thinking about it in different ways”, while Binders Full of Women (beautifully hand-made binder celebrating poetry of writers who identify as female, trans, intersex or gender-neutral) that was “urgent, organised and awesome: a combination of creative publication and lively gatheration, with a side order of campaigning poetics”.

But the winner was the massive nationwide platform that was Shake the Dust. A mixture of performances, workshops and other events, it gave a platform to young people across the UK to explore poetry in a way that “visibly changed young lives, connecting the poetry and spoken word scenes around the globe with new rising stars. Total brilliance.”  In fact, several people commented on the power of the event that was “really changing young people’s lives through poetry”, that “provided so many opportunities for so many young people who were able to come together for a unique and special event on such a large open scale. it changed many lives” and that was “bringing together the disparate youth in art and spoken word; an undervalued gift”

Overall: “An amazing celebration of the voice of youth”

saboteur awards - one-off

Best Spoken Word Show

Some truly wonderful shows of different kinds were celebrated in this category, from the Wandering Word Stage that brings poets to new crowds at various festivals and provides “a marvellous sanctuary in the daytime and a hubbub of insanity at night”, to Dirty Great Love Story‘s fusion of verse and theatre, winning a Fringe First, touring to New York and according to one voter being “truly awesome inventive ninjas and made me cry”. And Emergency Poet (Deborah Alma) who provides rhymes in a crisis from a real ambulance: “The world’s first and only emergency poetry service, in a genuine 1960s ambulance, do you really need to ask why it should win?”

Runner up, Lucy Ayrton: Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry (a selection of feminist fairytales and dissection of the power of children’s stories) got a lot of love, one memorable remark saying she “not only harnesses the seductive power of fairytales to make powerfully incisive and beautifully made points about gender and society, but also she has lovely hair”

But the winner was Whistle by Martin Figura, a heartbreaking, yet uplifting, tale drawn from his own childhood that has toured throughout the UK and abroad. “It made me want to cry and I never want to cry except in the bank” said one fan, while others commented that this “Immensely personal tale of tragic upbringing yet hugely enjoyable” and that it “Invaded my dreams and will stay with me forever”. It’s a show that truly seems to have matched content to performance, with audiences saying: “Whistle is a bravura performance and a valuable text that makes no concessions to simple delivery but is delivered with great dramatic conviction.”

Finally, the comment that perhaps most sums it up is this one: “The most heartening true story of human resilience told in stunning poems I’ve ever seen in such an intense, understated show.”

 saboteur awards - spoken word show

Best Regular Spoken Word Night

It was a running joke on the night that we would repeatedly refer to categories as having been ‘an incredibly close race’ or having gone ‘right down to the wire’. This was not one of those categories, the winner of Best Regular Spoken Word Night was clear and deserved.

That is not to say the other nominees didn’t put up a fight, Come Rhyme with Me (blend of food and poetry) earned plaudits because “the poetry is consistently amazing both from the headliners and the open-mic-ers. Plus it’s worth going simply for the food!” While Hammer & Tongue Oxford (founding branch of the national network of slam poetry events) was praised for its “friendly and funny organizers, great community, and excellent performers”. Inky Fingers (inventive and inviting Edinburgh based collective) “provides a welcoming and open space for new spoken word artists whilst also showcasing some top spoken word talent to inspire”.

The runner up, Jibba Jabba (multi-disciplinary and superbly supportive open mic in Newcastle) really looked like giving the winners a run for their money (read: rosette) for a while with their “great performers, great venue, great audience & words that sear into your chest & stay with you for days”.

But in the end there was only ever going to be one winner: Bang! Said the Gun, whose anarchically fun and involving events have consistently raised the bar for poetry events. As the voters said “BSTG show us all how it should be done – fun and eclectic and challenging and loud and quiet and generous. They’ve also mastered the fact that poetry nights should be engaging to look at as well as listen to!”.

It’s an event that voters pointed out isn’t just good, but is also always colossal fun: “Rock and roll poetry, why shouldn’t it win?!” Plus, it always gets the audience going: “Let’s shake, rattle and roll with poetry. Need I say more. Absoposifrigginlutely BANGTASTIC!!! The best show for miles.”

Finally, Bang! Is such a unique night because it opens poetry up to new audiences: “Weekly and sometimes on the telly too. Poetry’s best chance of a tv breakthrough.” and because it “makes poetry electric and sexy”.

saboteur awards - regular spoken word night

All very deserved winners and nominees, plus a fantastic night. Can’t wait for next year to do it all again!


Saboteur Awards 2013: The Winners!

In All of the Above, Saboteur Awards on May 30, 2013 at 1:24 pm

A more in-depth post will come soon, with comments from voters, logos for each winner, pictures and links to videos from the night (if you have any, do email them to us!), but we thought some of you might like to know as soon as possible who won in each category. You can find links to reviews of the shortlisted works here. We’re also featured in the Guardian today here, while Dan Holloway reviewed the event here! There is also a storify here of the event.


The Results!

Best one-off 

Winner: Shake the dust
Runners up (joint-place): Penning Perfumes and Poetry Parnassus

Shake the Dust represented by Sam-La Rose, Kareem Parkins-Brown and Charlotte Higgins (photo Dan Holloway)

Shake the Dust represented by Sam-La Rose, Kareem Parkins-Brown and Charlotte Higgins (photo Dan Holloway)

From @jsamlarose's twitter after Shake The Dust's win

From @jsamlarose’s twitter after Shake The Dust’s win

Best short story collection

Winner: Tony Williams, All the bananas I’ve never eaten
Runner up: Tania Hershman, My Mother was an Upright Piano

Best magazine:

Winner: Rising.
Runner up: Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts.

Rising Editor Tim Wells

Rising Editor Tim Wells

Best poetry pamphlet:

Winner: Selected Poems by Charlotte Newman
Runner up: Lune by Sarah Hymas

Best spoken word performer:

Winner: Vanessa Kisuule
Runner Up: Dan Cockrill

Best regular spoken word night:

Winner: Bang said the Gun
Runner Up: Jibba Jabba

The Bang Said the Gun team at the awards!

The Bang Said the Gun team at the awards! Photo from @bangsaidthegun twitter feed

'They don't shake themselves' (Bang said the gun)

‘They don’t shake themselves’ (Bang said the gun)

Best spoken word show:

Winner: ‘Whistle’ by Martin Figura
Runner Up: ‘Lullabies to Make your Children Cry’ by Lucy Ayrton

Best poetry anthology:

Winner: Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot
Runner-Up: Adventures with Form

Best fiction anthology:

Overheard: Stories to be read aloud
Runner Up: Unthology volume 3.

Overheard editor and contributor Jonathan Taylor

Overheard editor and contributor Jonathan Taylor

Best mixed anthology:

Winner: Estuary: a Confluence of Art and Poetry
Runner Up: Still (Negative Press).

Best novella:

Winner: ‘Holophin’ by Luke Kennard
Runner-Up: ‘Count from Zero to One Hundred’ by Alan Cunningham

Tom Chivers, editor of Penned in the Margins

Tom Chivers, editor of Penned in the Margins

Most innovative publisher:

Winner: Penned in the Margins
Runner-up: Unthank Books

A birthday card for Sabotage from the Sidekick Book team!

A birthday card for Sabotage from the Sidekick Book team!

Runner up for best poetry show Lucy Ayrton, event organizer Thea Buen, poetry editor Claire Trévien

Runner up for best poetry show Lucy Ayrton, event organizer Thea Buen, poetry editor Claire Trévien (photo by Tim Wells)

Saboteur Awards 2013: The Shortlist

In All of the Above, Saboteur Awards on April 1, 2013 at 12:09 am

Your Pick of this Year’s Best Indie Lit!


Once a year, to mark our birthday, we at Sabotage like to give out some awards to the publications we’ve most enjoyed during the year. This year, we want YOU to vote for the winners in twelve different categories.

After over 2000 votes, voting is now closed! Winners will be announced on 29th May at the Book Club, London. It’s going to be a big celebration of indie lit in all its glory and we’d love it if you could attend. There’ll also be performances, a mini-book fair, music from LiTTLe MACHINe and our very own critique booth.

Here’s what happens next:

  1. Voting is now closed!
  2. Buy a ticket to the awards ceremony/birthday bash.

Please find the shortlist below, which consists of the top 5 nominations in each of the 12 categories, with links to their reviews in Sabotage.*

*Reviewing or featuring all of these works (through interviews for instance) is a work-in-progress which we hope to achieve by the time of the event. Obviously, it is quite a monumental task in a short time, so we appreciate any help from past, present and future reviewers in achieving this, as well as the cooperation of nominees!

Many congratulations to all those who made the shortlist!

In no particular order:

Best Novella

Synthetic Saints by Jason Rolfe (Vagabondage Press)
Holophin by Luke Kennard (Penned in the Margins)
Count from Zero to One Hundred by Alan Cunningham (Penned in the Margins)
The Middle by Django Wylie (
Controller by Sally Ashton (Dead Ink)

Best spoken word performer

Raymond Antrobus
Dan Cockrill
Emma Jones
Vanessa Kisuule
Fay Roberts

Most innovative publisher

Burning Eye
Unthank Books
Sidekick Books
Knives, Forks, and Spoons Press
Penned in the Margins

Best short story collection

 The Syllabus of Errors by Ashley Stokes (Unthank Books)
My Mother Was An Upright Piano by Tania Hershman (Tangent Books)
Fog and Other Stories by Laury A. Egan (Stone Garden)
All the Bananas I’ve Never Eaten by Tony Williams (Salt Publishing)
The Flood by Superbard (Tea Fuelled)

Best poetry pamphlet

Selected Poems by Charlotte Newman (Annexe Magazine)
Body Voices by Kevin Reid (Crisis Chronicles Press)
Lune by Sarah Hymas (self-published)
Songs of Steelyard Sue by J.S.Watts (Lapwing Publications)
Lowlifes, Fast Times & Occasionally Love by Lawrence Gladeview (Erbacce Press)

Best ‘one-off’

Penning Perfumes
Shake the Dust
Binders full of Women
Poetry Polaroid (Inky Fingers Collective)
Poetry Parnassus

Best Spoken Word show

‘Whistle’ by Martin Figura
‘Dirty Great Love Story’ by Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh
Wandering Word Stage
Emergency Poet
‘Lullabies to Make your Children Cry’ by Lucy Ayrton

Best magazine

Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts

Best regular Spoken Word night
Bang said the Gun (London)
Hammer and Tongue (Oxford)
Jibba Jabba (Newcastle)
Inky Fingers (Edinburgh)
Come Rhyme with Me (London)

Best poetry anthology

The Centrifugal Eye’s 5th Anniversary Anthology (ed. E.A. Hanninen)
Rhyming Thunder – the Alternative Book of Young Poets (Burning Eye)
Sculpted: Poetry of the North West (ed. L. Holland and A. Topping)
Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot (English PEN)
Adventures in Form (Penned in the Margins)

Best fiction anthology
Unthology, volume 3 (Unthank Books)
Post-Experimentalism (Bartleby Snopes)
Best European Fiction 2013 (Dalkey Archive)
Front lines (Valley Press)
Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud (Salt Publishing)

Best mixed anthology

Estuary: a Confluence of Art & Poetry (Moon and Mountain)
Pressed by Unseen Feet (Stairwell Books)
Still (Negative Press)
Silver Anthology (Silver Birch Press)
Second Lives (Cargo Press)

Bang Said The Gun! 23/02/2012

In Performance Poetry on May 1, 2012 at 12:24 am

– reviewed by Koel Mukherjee –

@ The Roebuck

THE HYPE – It’s hard not to turn up to Bang Said The Gun! with a heaving sack full of expectations. A hugely popular night, run by a medley of awesome London poets, Bang! regularly garners glowing reviews and has been featured on Channel  4 and Sky. So what makes it so special? And did this Thursday’s edition live up to the hype?

THE REALITY – I turned up. It was loud, and packed. The room was filled with candled tables offset by wall-displays loudly spelling out BANG! in black and white letters, and making the venue feel like some sort of clandestine punk comedy club. Milk bottles apparently filled with chickpeas sat on the tables waiting for the audience to shake them, and I can confirm that doing so is an awesome and weirdly addictive alternative to clapping.

THE AWESOME – This is an event brimming with quirky features to keep you engaged. At the start, an audience member is randomly dubbed the Hatalyst (Catalyst in the Hat), charged with wearing a preposterously large top hat emblazoned BANG! and leading the audience response / milk-bottle-shaking. On this night we got James, single, occasionally employed and not aware of having any STDs. He accepted the hat with gusto. Other fun things: to kick off the second half, Rob the barman read out some delightfully silly bar and/or pub related jokes from an enormous book titled the Bang Bar Staff’s Big Book of Beautiful Banging Banter. Plus, the excitement of competition! This was the Raw Meat Stew – in which seven poets competed for the Golden Gun award and a slot in the following week’s line-up.

THE HOST – DAN COCKRILL was a fun, charismatic host, projecting the raucous and irreverent spirit of Bang! and giving the performers a rousing welcome.

 Speaking of the performers, here are my highlights (and lowlights).

MARTIN GALTON engaged the audience’s attention by giving us a choice of two books he could read poetry from – a red book of love, or a black book of hate. We chose hate: musings on the dystopian failings of past and future policing, on the disturbing ubiquity of yoghurt in supermarkets, on personal flaws and insecurities – a nice blend of the personal, the political and the absurd, engagingly performed, made this a satisfying and enjoyable set.

NIA BARGE ~ POET-IN-RESIDENCE – This was Nia Beige’s final performance as Bang’s Poet-in-Residence.  What struck me most about her set was her wonderfully expressive delivery, which brought razor-sharp observations and reminiscences of love and living vibrantly to life. Her piece on discovering that a relationship is an affair was devastating and beautiful, with the phrase “if I knew my memories were borrowed from her happiness…” standing out for me in particular.

ROB AUTON’s surreal tribute to yellow was in keeping with the theme of his upcoming Edinburgh show, Yellow in Colour. This shambolic and odd piece charted the poet’s awakening to the wonder of the colour yellow, and conjured up whimsical vignettes involving… well, stuff related to yellow. The fact that my stomach hurt from laughing throughout this hilarious conceptual journey is testament to the fact that this really, really worked. While other poets went for their own brands of surreal humour and abstract weirdness, Rob Auton was the only one who actually made me broaden my ideas of what performance poetry can be, masterfully navigating the fine line between brilliantly absurd and pointlessly random – something which is particularly difficult to get right in performance.

CRAIG MILLER’s guitar-driven set was uninspiring, reaching a low point when he told the audience that, having been advised to write what he knows, he had written about being a stalker. Describing tiptoeing down someone’s hall, this song’s repeated refrain was “I’ve seen your face, I know your name”, and was as tedious, creepy and irritating to sit through as the concept was trite and unoriginal, written solely for the cheap laugh.

JESS GREEN ~ winner of the previous week’s Golden Gun award – was my favourite poet of the night. A contrast to the cheeky, offbeat tone of much of the night, this set was brimming with the kind of well-judged yet passionately conveyed sincerity that lights a fire in your bones and breaks your heart. The highlight was an angry, powerful poem that repeated “I’m tired of…”,  expressing the poet’s frustration with the double standards and restricting expectations young women face, as well as with sexism on the poetry slam circuit. There was an urgency in her delivery, words tumbling out as if it was impossible to keep them in, but controlled and flowing towards an achingly relatable climax.  This was beautifully written, mesmerisingly performed, soul-baring poetry that got right to the heart of the ridiculous endeavour that is being a person.

PETER HAYHOE’s exploration of the self-doubt and uncertainty a new relationship can bring, symbolised by a disappointing hole in a Pizza Express pizza, was insightful and funny, and peppered with a characteristic self-deprecating geekiness that I’ve warmed to every time I’ve seen him perform.


Comedian JULIAN DANIEL combined a straight, deadpan delivery with wry wordplay to create fun, quirky little pieces – a slice of ham, sandwiched by bread, wishing it was jam , or a parody of Kipling’s “If” (the original “then you’ll be a man my son”), that married the expected inspirational platitudes to gems like “If you can wear an ill-fitting thong…”. Occasionally I felt the humour got a bit lazy, such as the climax of a love poem ending with the obvious “…now will you sleep with me?”, or his introduction to a love poem for an ex who called him insensitive, in which he relied on banal sexist stereotype for a predictable punchline,  “…it was probably that time of the month!” Overall though, this was a fun antidote for anyone who has ever sat through godawful, overwrought love poetry.

LIZ BENTLEY – Accompanied by jaunty ukulele, her poetry was replete with eccentric black humour, steeped in the mundanities and struggles of everyday life in London, as well as in difficult personal issues such as the end of a long-term relationship. Maintaining an irreverent tone throughout, this was a highly enjoyable set that combined humour and depth to compelling effect.

RAW MEAT STEW ~ judged by Nia Barge

The performers in the Raw Meat Stew covered an interesting range of subjects – love, Star Wars, abstract personal reflections – but varied in quality and performance skills.  Cecilia Knapp’s piece on young and stupid forays into love was moving and evocative, while Chris McCormick, the eventual winner, had an engaging conversational style and some amusing things to say about Wookies.


So, how did my first Bang! (hurr) live up to reputation?  With its exciting catchphrases, “mud-wrestling with words”, “poetry for people who don’t like poetry” – and quirky features – the Golden Gun award, the Hatalyst, the milk bottles – the one thing Bang Said the Gun! promises is respite from mediocrity and pretension. While there were a few poets who failed to avoid one or both of those things, there was more than enough skill, humour, passion and sheer unadulterated awesome from the rest to make up for it. In short: I had fun, and so will you.

Word Wrestling Federation Presents: Page Match 2

In Performance Poetry on March 2, 2012 at 2:00 am

@ The Camden Roundhouse, 25/02/201

– reviewed by James Webster

The Concept: An odd mix? 

Performance poetry and professional wrestling seems like an odd mix. On the one hand there’s the machismo, violence and soap-opera of pro wrestling and on the other the more reflective, cerebral and verbal poetry.

But in organising this event Dan Cockrill drew on the similarities between the two: larger than life personalities, crafting narratives, the showmanship and performance, audience interaction, and the competition of both poetry slams and wrestling matches. Thus the pomp and aggression of wrestling is introduced to the wit and meaning of poetry: culminating in Page Match 2 (a nice pun on the pro wrestling ‘cage match’) a verbal battle royalé between seven of London’s top poetry collectives.

The Match-Ups:

Round 1: Apples and Snakes vs. Word of Mouth

Winner: Apples and Snakes

Round 2: Roundhouse vs. Rubix

Winner: Rubix

Round 3: Bang! Said the Gun vs. Chill Pill vs. Dirty Hands

Winner: Chill Pill

Round 4: Rubix vs. Chill Pill vs. Apples and Snakes

Winner: Tie between Chill Pill and Apples and Snakes

Round 5: Poets Against Page Match vs. Apples and Snakes vs. Chill Pill

Winner: Apples and Snakes

It certainly built up a lot of hype.

  • The build-up and promotion was excellent. A series of verbal battles and trash-talking on facebook drummed up tension, while a series of amusing youtube videos by the collective PAP (Poets Against Page Match) created a villainous cabal of poets set on ruining the event. This created a classic wrestling narrative, that of the ‘heel’ (short for boot-heel), the bad guys that the audience and other poets can unite against.
  • This clearly worked: it was sold out. The audience packed into the Roundhouse in Camden (an appropriate cross between an underground bomb shelter and a gladiatorial ring) waiting for Page Match 2 to begin, to see if the hype would pay off.

It did fulfil the hype! (mostly)

  • As both a pro wrestling and a poetry fan I was impressed with how the pageantry of wrestling was mixed with the wit and verbal wizardry of poetry. Hosted by Dan Cockrill‘s Rhyme Stone Cowboy persona, he introduced each collective to entrances complete with lighting effects and music, some really impressive trash talking, some great costumes, and lots of vibrant characters.
  • The best entrances: Dirty Hands, made their entrance in demurely hipster-ish glasses to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirty’, Word of Mouth were all street with masks and hoodies, Apples and Snakes used confetti and party poppers, and Bang! Said the Gun’s Rob Auton entered to White Stripes’ ‘Little Room’ wearing a giant robot costume.
  • I was wowed by the battle between Apples and Snakes and Word of Mouth with their imaginative insults and ‘street vs. classics’ theme. Especially Angry Sam/The Dalston Destroyer’s piece with poetical put-downs and clever, and had powerful points on the best poetry coming from the ‘street’.And Poet Curious’s smooth rhyme and slick, plentiful art analogies that created a classical-art-street-chic vibe.
  • Dan Simpson/The Dandelion’s response to the ‘uncultured swine’ was clever and creative in his trash-talk and consummately performed, but it lacked the focus and convincing arguments of Word of Mouth. But he did still win.
  • Other highlights were Roundhouse member Jessica Green’s firebrand, entertaining performance on societal pressure on women who choose to enjoy ‘cider, spliffs and casual sex’ rather than having kids. Brave, bold and powerful.
  • And ‘Notorious’ Mr Gee (of Chill Pill): his poems on body image, hoodies, and a battle-style poem written for the event were funny, poignant and relevant and they propelled him like a one-man rocket into the final.

But some aspects of the night had room for improvement …

  • First off: the round pairings. Roughly organised by theme, with classic vs. street, old vs. new and then the themes kind of petered out, making the third round feel a bit redundant.
  • Rubix vs. Roundhouse was a poorly planned round; their poetry styles were painfully similar (Rubix are former Roundhouse poets themselves), and as there were four members of each collective each doing a long poem it felt like it went on forever
  • And throughout both collectives I had the same problems with many performers: their poems, while in places strong (especially Jackomo Rook’s piece on his father and Talia Randal’s ‘Chicken Bones’ on London and her family history) they often lacked focus, switched randomly between themes and almost all went on too long.
  • I was slightly disappointed by the usually excellent Dirty Hands and Bang! Said the Gun collectives. Bang’s Rob Auton/The Ultimate Worrier was funny, but he relied on one pseudo-pun and had no deeper meaning; while he’s good enough to rely solely on his delivery, he’s far better when he brings some substance.
  • While Katie Bonna and Amy Acre of the Hands’ interlinked poem was immaculately performed, and was full of lovely character and moving imagery, but their linking themes diverged more and more as the poems went on.
  • The gatecrash appearance from Poets Against Page Match/PAP, while amusing and appropriate to the wrestling theme, went on far too long and wasn’t clear enough to the audience members who hadn’t seen their youtube videos.
  • Their appearance in the final Belt vs Masks match was anticlimactic as when they were unmasked to reveal Peter Hayhoe (of Bang! Said the Gun and Dirty Hands) and Paul Cree (of Rubix) absolutely nothing was made of it.

And some aspects just didn’t work for me.

Such as the scoring. Scores were assigned by the judges anonymously, which missed a huge opportunity getting the audience involved booing or cheering the judges’ decisions (a staple of both wrestling and poetry slams).

And the lack of clarity as to how rounds were scored, coupled with the scorer admitting they might be making mistakes, meant the overall results seemed less than 100% (which comments from judge Charlie Dark ‘The Invader’ would seem to support).

Martin Galton disappointed with a poem about how the world is so depressing you should ‘blow your brains out’. I found this refrain more offensive than amusing, as I don’t think suicide’s all that funny (admittedly sections of the audience disagreed).

Rachel Pantechnicon is a veteran on the performance scene who’s quick with a pun and a joke, but I just feel they could do more with their act than elaborate puns. Dan Simpson, to my mind, carried the Apples and Snakes team to victory.

And Justice Lyric (of Rubix) had some great phrasing, but the premises of her two poems (one using poetic terms as innuendo and the other using dubstep/dancing as innuendo) made some effective wordplay seem trite and, with the ‘I’d go gay for poetry’ theme of her first piece, insipid.

A strong, fun night, with some flaws.

It was an entertaining evening, the success of the premise definitely overcoming the format and some performers’ shortfalls. The most entertaining were performers like Word of Mouth, Notorious’ Mr Gee and Dan Simpson all wrote poems especially for the event that mixed trash-talk with affecting poetry. They, coupled with the superb showmanship of a wrestling event, made Page Match 2 stand out. Just not as much as it could have.

Bang Said the Gun @ The Roebuck 03/11/11

In Performance Poetry on November 21, 2011 at 10:59 pm

-Reviewed by James Webster

I had pretty high expectations for Bang Said the Gun. I’d heard nothing but good about the event and the Bang team had only just won the ‘Page Match’ championship belt and I’m happy to say it exceeded even my high expectations.

What’s so special about it?

  • Well, as host Dan Cockrill says: it’s poetry for people who don’t like poetry, an event with a focus on entertainment and a raucous party atmosphere. The audience are provided with plastic milk bottles filled with chickpeas that you rattle to show your appreciation (or just rattle in time with the music before the show starts).
  • They make it look special too; their anarchic black and white branding up all over the place on posters, signs, table cloths, and projected onto the stage in a really entertaining animated video. They also provide everyone with a glowstick, a lovely gesture making the night feel half poetry/half rave.
  • Another interesting feature is the Cata-list: the audience member who’s given the duty of starting all cheering and applause. They list their name and responsibilities and record them for the audience on the projector screen. On the night we had:
  •  Name: Bree
  • Responsibilities: A few
  • Relationship: Kind of
  • Kids: No
  • Job: No

Another catchphrase is ‘poetry without the ponce’, which is a cool maxim, making poetry accessible and unpretentious.

The Raw Meat Stew is an intriguing feature; their slam/open mic, judged by one randomly selected audience member. The winner then gets a 10 minute slot at the next event, which is an excellent way to encourage and unearth new poetic talent (the only catch is that it seems the funniest/most entertaining poet usually wins, but then that fits their mission statement).


Hosting duties were split down the middle between Bang! founder Dan Cockrill and the newest member of the Bang! team Peter Hayhoe (a regular from Sage and Time and The Tea Box).

  • Dan’s a winning host, getting the audience all riled up; he’s got a real talent for getting the most out of an audience. He ably explains what Bang!’s all about and helps the show hit the ground running.
  • Peter Hayhoe is just lovely. He’s very engaging and his first poem about a Sainsbury’s Self-Checkout machine is very funny and gets you to feel sorry for the machine.
  • His other poem was pure smut that he could only read at Bang Said the Gun! On the new Countdown girl and how he wants to ‘Clity-fuck’ her. It was ridiculous, filthy and so much fun.

The rest of the Bang! team.

  • Martin Galton gave us a mixture of puerile entertainment, amusing hate (from his black book) and touching love (from his red book).
  • From a sweet poem on his son’s hands warming his bald head, to an amusing poem all the people he considers “Rude Bastards”, the only downside for me was a poem on how tiring it is to be middle class and I was never sure if I was listening to razor sharp satire or reinforcement of class stereotypes.
  • Rob Auton starts every gig in a big booming voice with the line: “Ladies and Gentlemen … these are the names that we give to the toilets.”
  • He’s the platonic ideal of Bang!’s style of ‘stand-up poetry’: great banter, stage presence and always funny. Lines like “There’ll be a theme tonight, which is that I will be the one saying the things” and poems playing off “my room” and “maroon” sounding similar, or on naming his son “dad”, are well executed and funny, but might not scratch the itch for those of us who look to poetry for depth.
  • Of course he’s also capable of surprising beauty like his piece on David Attenborough and wanting to live a life worthy of his voiceover.
  • Emma Jones won me over with ‘Shoreditch House’, a glitteringly witty caricature of meeting the private sector pretentious “twaterrati”. A hilarious take on modern-yuppyism.
  • And her ‘Yorkshire Schoolgirls on Night Out’ was a terrifically performed character piece that meanders from amusing to transcendent encounters in this delicious slice of northern teen-hood

The Raw Meat Stew

  • Kieren King. ‘Metal’er than Thou’ was on being judged for not looking metal enough, by metalheads knowing nothing about the music. The substance over style message is basic, but well expressed and delivered.
  • Edward Unique I’ve seen ‘To My Darling IPod’ before and Edward’s delivery’s improved, but he sorely needs a redraft to better distill the humour.
  • Dave Viney ‘Prambush’ was an amusing poetic anecdote on being the only couple at a bbq ‘yet to conceive’. The line: ‘can I carve not barren jut babyless into a string of sausages’ stuck with me.
  • Benny Jo Zahl‘s ‘Something’s Missing’ had a nice way with words that enlivened the ordinariness of a character who’d never had an imaginary friend.
  • Monkey Poet. His acrostic on politicians that spelled out “fucking wankers” was well put together, felt very natural and his energised delivery and anti-establishment feel won over the crowd.
  • Rod Iame on his inner drag queen Baby Love who he never quite has the confidence to release was equally emotive, fun and adorable. Could’ve done without the singing though.
  • Lettie McKey does a good job of sexualising chefs through their food. But I found said sexualisation a little weird and think suggesting all women want to be spoiled by a chef and that they “love choccie more than men” is sadly stereotypical.

Winner: Monkey Poet.

The Feature

  • Jem Rolls (a Brit over fromCanada) started with a nice philosophical number that encapsulated his view of the divine into his interaction with the audience. As he put it: “industrial strength sycophancy, but it’s not every day you’re deified is it?”
  • ‘The New English History Syllabus’ was biting satire, English view of history summed up as “we won, we won … ‘cos we’re the best and Johnny Foreigner was rubbish!”
  • ‘’e ain’t called Porky no more’ was a found poem and breathless snapshot, bouncing around the scene ofLondon.
  • The next ‘A Bit Shattered’ was a poem entirely made out of rhyming couplets of spoonerisms. It’s a really entertaining way to tell a story of a drunken night out and incredibly skilled wordplay.
  • His last ‘The Day Died Very Old’ on British tourism/“spectator queuing”. He details days spent ticking off lists of “must-do’s”, while outside is “life, teaming and local” that the tourists never get to see. Some wonderful phraseology, and a performance where the frustration dripped off him, made this an enthralling poem from an impressive performer.

Conclusion: Superbly entertaining poetry on almost all fronts, and only occasionally at the expense of depth. A fantastic raucous party of a poetry night.