Giving Voice – Wordly Wisdom for All

Apr 14 2014 | By More

Giving the quiet folk a voice

 Photo: Thanks to Kevin Cadwallendar.For his round-up of spoken word events during the last weeks of April, resident poet J. A. Sutherland looks at events drowned out by the louder voices – in particular, those that don’t claim to be ‘spoken word’ but in which words are spoken and/or read aloud.

Over the last month or so there have been several book launches which, naturally, include readings. Two well-established publications – Magma, and The Istanbul Review – held their Edinburgh launches, in The Blind Poet and Looking Glass Books respectively.

Later in March, a capacity audience squashed into the Saltire Society for the launch of two new poetry books. The first was Alasdair Paterson, who read from his book Elsewhere or Thereabouts with wit and wisdom. Next, J. L. Williams read from her book Locust and Marlin.

Perhaps because she was on home-turf, minutes away from her place of work, the Scottish Poetry Library, Jennifer’s performance was emotionally-charged. Paying homage to a former writing tutor, Jennifer spoke of the importance of removing the ‘I’ from poetry. Her poems are, indeed, universal and personal; stripped of ego, yet open and vulnerable. Not proclaimed in a sempre crescendo but, recited bel canto, her words are lyrical and heart-felt.

Back in February, another launch where writers opened themselves up extremely movingly was at the launch of Naked Among Thistles, published by Stewed Rhubarb.This was the culmination of a writing project, titled Speak Out, exploring LGBT+ identities and mental well-being. Of the writers who performed their work in the Storytelling Centre Café that evening, many had not dabbled in poetry/prose before, let alone ‘performed’ their own work. I’ve been keen to promote the spoken word scene as a warm and encouraging bunch of folk, and while this façade has taken a kicking lately, this project, the launch, and the book flagged up all the colours of the rainbow.

On a smaller scale, but part of the regular spoken-word/open-mic listings is the weekly Antihoot, which has produced an in-house zine for the past months, called the Owl Nighter. The latest edition has moved from home-produced sheet to a glossy printed brochure, with music reviews, comedy, poetry and off-beat illustrations – the sort of fare that you get at Henry’s Cellar on a Monday night. It was launched at the Songwriter’s Cellar last week, with music, readings, badges, and owl-masks!

Portobello Poetry Circus

Another collective that seeks to promote and encourage new voices is Inky Fingers. Several members of this group were involved in Speak Out, and with offshoots in various community projects it was thrilling to see a packed-out room in the Dalraida pub last Friday for the Portobello Poetry Circus. Introduced by Kevin Cadwallender (who needs no introduction) and organised by Max Scratchman (familiar to the poetry-scene) and Josie Pizer (a relative new-comer) this was a poetry marathon, mixing established, emerging and brand new poets to an enthusiastic audience.

This week sees another selection of open mic readers at Blind Poetics – another forum for emerging writers and performers – and the Red Room poets who, likewise, encourage an intimate and relaxed opportunity for people to share their work. At the other end of the scale (and the week) comes Rally & Broad, the hugely popular ‘Lyrical Cabaret.’ And in between is the annual treat hosted by Scottish National Galleries: the awards ceremony of their Inspired? Get Writing!competition. On Thursday, audiences can hear poems and stories by all ages, based on artwork from the national collections.

If you are a new, fledgling or emerging writer, I urge you to get out there, see what’s on offer and, if you’re feeling brave, offer something of yourself: your words, spoken.

Listings: Mon 14 – Sun 27 April 2014

Rally and BroadMonday 14
Antihoot Weekly! Henry’s Cellar Bar, 8pm, free.
Weekly open-mic of words and music in Henry’s Cellar Bar. Sign up at 7.30pm. Cash prizes to be won!
Henry’s Cellar Bar, 16 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ Facebook page:
Blind Poetics The Blind Poet, 8pm. Free.
Open Mic and featuring Slam Africa winner, Anne Moraa. Hosted by Alec Beattie and Roddy Shippin.
The Blind Poet, 32 W Nicolson St, EH8 9DD Event facebook page:

Wednesday 16
Red Room Poets Constitution Bar, 7pm. Free.
Part of the Poets Intercommunity Group – For the Love of Poetry and You! It is a wee red room but all are welcome. 7pm -10pm, free, bar open ’til midnight.
The Red Room at The Constitution Bar 48 Constitution Street Edinburgh EH6 6RS Event facebook page:

Thursday 17
Inspired? Get writing! Awards and Public Readings Scottish National Gallery. Free.
Winning entries from the ninth year of this popular competition, read aloud in front of the artworks that inspired them.
10.30-11.30am (under 12s winners); 1.30-3pm (12-14 & 15-18-year-old winners); 5.30-7pm (adult winners).
Hawthornden Lecture Theatre, Scottish National Gallery, Weston Link, The Mound, EH2 2EL Event website:
Crispin Bonham-Carter Event National Library, 6pm. £7.
The SPL & NLS present actor and director Crispin Bonham-Carter in conversation with SPL director Robyn Marsack. Well-known for his role as Mr Bingley in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and now a teacher of English in a secondary modern school, Crispin will share a selection of his favourite poems.
National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, EH1 1EW Eventbrite ticketing page:

Friday 18
Rally & Broad The Counting House, 7.30pm. £5.
Words, Music & Lyrical Delights, R&B’s April edition is all about YOU. Ft. Caroline Bird, Kite & The Crane, Jack Webb, McGuire and Sarah Stewart. And YOU. YOOOOOOU. In your apricot scarf…
The Counting House, 36 West Nicolson Street, EH8 9DD. Event facebook page:

Tuesday 22
Talking Heids Sofi’s Bar, 7.30pm. Free.
McGuire hosts an extravaganza of poetry exuberance and musical delights – featuring Claire Askew.
Sofi’s Bar, 65 Henderson Street, EH6 6ED. Event facebook page:

Friday 25
Neu! Reekie! 46 Summerhall, 7pm. £8.50.
A “delicious feast of spoken word, animation and music fusions”. Hosted by Michael Pedersen and Kevin Williamson. Featuring Bird, The Merrylees, Salena Godden, Tom Mcgrath (as read by Ron Butlin, Cora Bissett and Calum Rodger) – and more.
Summerhall, 1 Summerhall Place, EH9 1QH. Event website:

Sunday 27
Shore Poets St John’s, 7.15pm. £4/£3.
April’s offering gives non-Shore Poets a voice, with an Open Mic Evening (advance sign-up), with the usual music and Lemon Cake raffle.
Henderson’s at St John’s, 3 Lothian Road, EH2 2EJ. Event website:

For three years running, J. A. Sutherland has received a special merit award in the Inspired? Get Writing! competition. He will publish his own entry for this year’s competion on his own blog on Thursday: Regular readers might be interested to read reviews of two events in which he featured: Blind Poetics in, and inky fingers in Sabotage Reviews.

If you would like a spoken word event listed on All Edinburgh Theatre, please use the contact page to get in touch:


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