On April’s third Thursday, I took a trip to the Chilli Pub in Heaton (on Chillingham Road) to check out one of Newcastle’s newest spoken word nights. The Stanza, arranged by the wonderful duo Harry Gallagher and Mandy Maxwell, began in January 2015 and is already proving to be a massive hit. Despite a spoken word symposium going on at the same time in Newcastle, the venue was packed out.Every month, The Stanza books three poets to perform and in between sets, members of the audience are encouraged to participate in the open mic sections of the evening. The open mic is so popular that the event rarely finishes on time – but, hey, who’s gonna argue with staying late to listen to some poetry?! The audience are warm and supportive; it’s easy to see why so many people want to read in this inclusive environment. Oh, and in with your admission, you get to pick a free book (provided by the awesome Borderline Books) which contains a unique poem written by Harry or Mandy.
April’s performers were Zack Lewis, Alix Bromwich-Alexandra and Rose Condo, the musical interludes were provided by seventeen year old ‘blues prodigy’ Alex Kirtley. When starting the proceedings, Mandy and Harry were a great double act, bouncing off each other with a natural camaraderie – they were funny and humble.The open mic was fast-paced, almost like a relay race between performers, with a large variety of topics and forms. Here’s just a sample of the subjects covered in the open mic in April: spring, mental illness, love, curries, books, alzheimer’s, sausages, Northumberlandia, social and political consciousness and tea.
As for the performers, I felt like I’d picked a brilliant month to attend. Zack Lewis packed all sorts into his set. He was funny and encouraged audience participation but the two poems I appreciated most were ‘Dear Love’ – a beautiful, thoughtful and thought-provoking poem – and ‘Keep a’had’. The latter is a phrase used mainly in Northumberland that means ‘keep going’. Zack’s poem, full of advice and inspiration, brought me to tears.Alix Bromwich-Alexandra, a multi-talented poet and musician, rapped her way through her rhythmic poems, my favourite being ‘The Beauty of Books’. Alix’s poetry is introspective and deep but shows a real humour and humanity, too. Alix’s musical talent shines through even when she’s reading poetry, it’s lyrical and pulses with tempo. The final act of the evening came from Rose Condo, a Canadian poet who had travelled all the way from Huddersfield to perform at The Stanza – yet another ringing endorsement for this brilliant event. Rose Condo’s poetry was a masterclass in perfection. Her cliché poem was intelligent and beautiful. In fact, everything about her set was intelligent and beautiful. I cannot praise The Stanza enough. Everything about this event is fun but supportive. Get yourself along!