You may have noticed a general slowdown in performing arts events around the country this month, and spoken word shows are no exception. August is the month for summer holidays, spending time with / trying to get rid of the kids and, of course, it’s National Goat Cheese Month. Overshadowing all these in the performing world (yes, even bigger than the annual outpouring of joy for the milk-based food product of Capra aegagrus hircus) is Edinburgh, and the myriad of Festivals that happen in that city during August. As may be expected, spoken word and poetry has a strong presence in the city during these festivities, so here’s a quick rundown of what to look for.
Let’s start, as many people do, with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Fringe programme (searchable online) now helpfully includes subcategories for shows, including ‘spoken word’ and ‘poetry’. A quick search with these filters results in over 30 shows labelled with these tags – shows like Sabrina Mahfouz’s Dry Ice, Martin Figura’s Whistle, Luke Wright’s Cynical Ballads, Byron Vincent, John Fluffypunk and Rob Auton in This Next One is About Putting Salt in Your Tea and Richard Marsh’s Skittles.
However, even this isn’t a comprehensive guide to poetry-type shows on at the Fringe, as lots of events have decided to label themselves away from these words, going for the drama, comedy, storytelling or any one of a number of other categories. Though often an artistic advantage, one of the disadvantages of working with such a nebulous medium as spoken word is that of category: it can be found in a myriad of genres, so be on the lookout for poems popping up in all sorts of places.
Then there are some shows that have opted to remove themselves entirely from the official Fringe programme and won’t turn up in searches there: the PBH Free Fringe has dozens of poetry shows happening (mostly at the Banshee Labyrinth), for example, whilst poets such as Ross Sutherland feature at the similarly non-listed Forest Fringe. There are also spontaneous poetry happenings, like the Poetry Takeaway, impromptu slams and open mic shows that you may only hear about whilst at the festival (though do check out Bang Said the Gun and Rrrants for slots!). As if all that wasn’t enough, there are also spoken word artists doing shows with a less poetry-focussed feel, such as Tim Clare’s How to Be a Leader, Hannah Jane Walker’s The Oh F**K Moment or John Osbourne’s John Peel’s Shed.
I haven’t even touched on the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which happens at the same time as the Fringe and has lots of poetry talks, readings, lectures and workshops. Even the original Edinburgh International Festival has one or two poetry events! I can’t sign off without highlighting the Apples and Snakes supported Fringe show Opposition by Hannah Silva, which is on 14th – 28th August (not 22nd) at 2.45pm at Zoo Southside.
So if you’re heading to Edinburgh this August to take in some poetry, you really are spoiled for choice. And if you’re in the city for the festivals anyway, why not give a spoken word show a go? After all, trying new things is all part of experiencing Edinburgh during festival time. As for me, I’m going up at the end of the month. I’m already excited and anticipating a fantastic festival full of poetry shows! And if you have a poetry type show up at the Fringe, do let us know!
Dan Simpson – Digital and Marketing Assistant, Apples and Snakes