On Monday the 28th of October, as part of Southampton’s Festival of Words, Nuffield Theatre was host to a number of professional and amateur poets who demonstrated that there is much more to poetry than one might think.

The café had been set out to look like a comedy club with its dim lighting and makeshift stage, which automatically gave a relaxed and fun atmosphere to the event.

The night started with an open mic where five people from across the country read out some of their work. With shaky voices and hands the nerves were obvious but this did not take away from the raw talent that each individual possessed.

First to take to the stage was Bob Hill who read out two poems. The most poignant was I am Albion, a beautiful piece on what it is to be human with important themes running through it about diversity and acceptance.

Next to perform was Stephen Holton who read out three poems, two of which again had important messages to convey. The first was about the migrant crisis and media-scare mongering called Problems. The second was on youth and old age. The last poem in contrast, with a title of An Englishman goes to the Superbowl and references to hot dogs and beer, had a much lighter and comedic feel.

When Dae Fletcher, who previously won the Wessex School Poetry Slam and is described as ‘the voice of the next generation’, stepped up onto the stage she was clearly quite nervous. Upon introducing herself she stumbled slightly on her words, but then as she started to recite her first poem, Origin Story, a dramatic change took place. Never had I seen anyone so naturally passionate. There was an emphasis behind every word that gave me shivers. This for me was without a doubt the stand-out performance of the night.

Dave Allen was the next poet to be called onto the stage. His opening line, “I forget how strong these lights are, if I stand here too long I might get a tan…or skin cancer,” sounded like jokey banter but after a few moments the audience realised it was in fact the start of a poem. The improvised feel brought something different to the performance, along with brilliant comedic timing that got a few good laughs.

The final amateur performer of the night was Damien Ovich whose poem about South London had a slightly more theatrical edge than the previous artists, with dramatic hand gestures and even a line which demanded audience participation of “Can I get me an amen brother?”

The brief intermission where audience and performers alike rushed to the bar to get their ale and cider added to the comedy club atmosphere. The room was buzzing with praise for the performers and excitement for the next acts.

The Public Address Soap Box Tour presented by Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation for spoken word and performance poetry, consisted of five professional artists who throughout October and November are touring Newcastle, Plymouth, London, Southampton and Birmingham.

Helen Seymour, a poet from the South East, was introduced first. The lights went even dimmer and gruesome images of skulls and death were projected onto the black back curtain of the stage. On tiptoed a woman. Wide-eyed and unsure looking, she sat down on a chair on the stage and in a childlike voice asked, “Are they going to open the coffin?” What followed was a conversation piece between mother and daughter about death. Throughout her performance Seymour kept the audience engaged by wandering through the seats and staring at people until they let her sit down in their place. Seymour’s performance was morbid and yet, at the same time, comedic with a childlike innocence.

Helen Sermour
Helen Seymour

Justin Coe, a poet from the East of England performed Village Jesus, another excitingly theatrical performance, which involved screaming, shouting and throwing chairs, whilst covering the important themes of politics, coming of age and homosexuality.

Shagufta K recited three of her poems which although they had a strong folklore influence, were translated into the modern day and examined themes of gender, race and culture. Shagufta stood static under a spotlight in the centre of the stage and yet still managed to excite and engage the audience with her pacing and tone of voice.

Shagufta K
Shagufta K

Tick Tock Tick Tock, the audience heard over the speakers and onto the stage walked Midlands Slam Champion, Jasmine Gardosi. Gardosi used timing to create tension and panic, sometimes speaking faster than you would have thought humanly possible and other times slowing right down as a metaphor for time stopping. Her poem was an inner narrative which was gritty, raw and real.

Jasmine Gardosi
Jasmine Gardosi

The last act to perform was entirely different. A J McKenna took to the stage and read out answers to questions that had been gathered from previous audience members. Depending on the answers the audience were required to either shower McKenna with confetti or spray water guns. Anarchy and laughter were a great way to end the evening.

Enchanting from beginning to end, the event was a fun and engaging way to open people’s eyes and hearts to poetry.

If you fancy a great night out or even to participate in an open mic event yourself, check out.

451, Southampton – open mic plus guest poets
When: 3rd Monday of the month, (Oct, Dec, Feb, April)  every other month
Where: Nuffield Theatre, Southampton
Main contact:

Archimedes Screw, Southampton – open mic with a twist plus feature guest
When: 2nd Friday of the month, every other month (Nov, Jan, Mar, May, July)
Where: The Art House, 178 Above Bar St, Southampton
Main contact:

The Art House Cafe is just across from the SM building. If you’ve not checked it out before, this independent and quirky venue relies on local patronage to keep going. Support your local community arts space!