Sophia Blackwell: Hosting at Soho Theatre

My friend Ella dressed me for my first ever compering gig with Apples and Snakes, the way she always did for special occasions – black circular skirt, waist-cinching belt and big hair. I was so nervous on the way to the Soho Theatre that I stood on the back of Ella’s shoe as we were getting on the Tube and it fell down the gap!

That would have been April 2008, and I was hosting that night for Adrian Mitchell, along with Yusra Warsama and ShortMan. Adrian was a lovely man, and as I saw him standing patiently at the Box Office with his wife I got an unbidden flash of a poem of his, a funny one which I tried to suppress in order to look professional.

We shook hands very properly; he had these great big warm hands. When he read The Killing Ground, I remembered it from my own childhood- the poem, and the feelings it stirred up. I was so taken up with his incredible performance that I got mixed up with my usual poetry night and closed the evening with, ‘We’ve been Hammer and Tongue.’  They didn’t hold it against me.

There are too many gigs to recount since then, but the Soho Theatre shows really stand out. I remember writing and performing my first uninterrupted fifteen-minute piece, in the luminous company of Kayo Chingonyi, Keith Jarrett and Warsan Shire, while Russell and the dramaturge Mike Kirchner coaxed and nagged and drew the best possible performances out of us.

I also remember how thrilled I was when Russell asked me to host for Joolz Denby, but all my Soho cool went out of the window when she showed up. Thank you, Apples and Snakes, for all the memories, and Happy Birthday!

Sophia Blackwell