DIY Poets always provide a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere and this special event to mark International Women’s Day 2019 was no exception. Organised by a subcommittee of female DIY members “Women Say Stuff” is now in its fourth year, and goes from strength to strength showcasing fantastic, inspirational female voices performing to a mixed audience. In line with DIY Poets tradition, it was a night of three halves featuring poets Cathy Grindrod, Ioney Smallhorne and DIY’s own Hazel Warren providing music and poetry in the final act. There was, as always a surprising array of fearless, female, open micers, including first timers, seasoned performers and returning voices with prose, spoken word and poetry on a variety of themes.
The event was a celebration of women and a reminder of the reasons why International Women’s Day is still relevant. In addition to celebration and awareness, the event raised vital funds for two chosen charities, working towards equality for all. Kairos support LGBT Refugees in Nottingham and Home Start work with families of young children to provide the best start in life.
DIY Poet and host Lytisha Tunbridge opened the first of three halves with a piece on the theme of family, a tribute to “three generations, four women” a list poem and call to be inspired, a reminder of the broad range of roles women can play in life. Laura stepped up to the open mic next, with a poem about a –shock/horror -single, thirty year old woman who buys a dream in a dress – what could be weird about that? Milla followed with an ode to the Super Moon and a tender memory of a final day spent with a loving pet. Next up was Kitty, a first timer and our youngest performer at just 14 with an excellent piece on gender identity and “forced femininity” through social reactions to a haircut, an insightful piece and a young voice we hope to hear more from. Hazel followed, returning to the stage after a six year reprieve with two pieces from opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, opening with a poem which hinted at dark forces of self-destruction before shifting to a more positive, optimistic piece, which conveyed a sense of feeling grounded and connected. We hope to hear more from her soon. Closing the opening act, award winning poet, and former Derbyshire poet Laurette Cathy Grindrod, took to the stage, opening with the excitement, freedom and fear of swings, before introducing us to her Aunt Margaret, reflections on the love of close family members who get away somehow with those things parents can’t. Cathy’s work has a real skill in noticing individuals and the next piece she shared demonstrated the strength of noticing, when working in a children’s home, writing with and for looked after children, building rapport through listening, noticing and, when required, burping. We were delighted to be the first to hear her mirror poem marking 100 years of votes for (some) women, a cleverly devised piece which noticed the thousands, the details of one woman in the thousands before returning to the thousands, through history who have marched side by side in the fight for equality, green white and purple, in purpose. Cathy closed her set with “Learning the Language” describing the journey to self-discovery, finding one’s own path and becoming a writer, feeling grateful, after the fact, for the gift of poetry, hidden in el-o-cu-shon instruction.
Part two opened with DIY stalwart, Clare Stewart and Oil Rig Woman, the irritation and disdain for that New Year’s resolution swimmer getting in your way. Josephine, from supported charity Kairos then spoke to us briefly about their work with LGBT Refugees reminding that in 75 countries love is still illegal for some. Jill then opened up the second open mic set, with “A glorious year” a great and hopeful poem embracing change and transformative power of the menopause. Fay, an optimist, with a shadow, described the ever present threat of darkness lurking with a sense of not ever being able to fully let that guard down and bask in the light. Her second poem again cleverly danced the line between one feeling being undercut by another –well you know I don’t care what other people think, matched with that need to have another drink. Vron came next, with three pieces, including her homework for Cathy’s writing group (I hope Cathy gives extra credit), opening with a poem for International Women’s Day and for being heard. The next poem remembered a reconnection with a friend and remembering the “why” of these connections. Finally introducing us to her grandmother, a working class war widow who had figured out how to do things best, whether it be kissing loudly, writing illegibly or taking exercise tips from Vet TV, always giving them what for. A strong woman we can see the traits shining through in Vron. Lauren followed up, a newcomer to the scene welcomed through workshops at the Women’s Centre, also following the theme of strong inspirational female figures. Jesse came next, a big voice and an unstoppable force, Jesse has been on the scene in Nottingham for about a year she tells us, although we all think she’s been part of it forever. Broken Window invited us to look onto a hopeful view from a broken place and described the feeling of affinity with beauty of pain in the sharpness of shards and the power of potential in breaking free. The fabulous Ioney Smalhorne closed the second act, always a force of nature Ioney can be counted on for a strong and confident voice with thought provoking images and themes. Opening with her mum’s advice, love with an undercurrent, for what that “just in case” might mean. Next introducing the women of Xaymaca, the Taino-Arawak indigenous population of Jamaica, threading from second generation, British Jamaican women, and reaching tenderly back through history to connect with those roots. Staying with themes of family the next poem explained why the heaviest teapot in the shop should be chosen, in memory of Grandma Lyn’s ordeal and self-protection in mind as well as tea, before and returning to history, reaching back through time to send a message of warning on the lunar eclipse Columbus used to his advantage. The Spinerette weaves a knotted web and the Bride reflects on the experience of a young Ghanaian bride and the symbolism of wedding ceremonies. Finally bringing us to a more personal piece “Shelf Life” described a full life of an independent mid-thirties woman, still constantly reminded of lack in one area by familial, biological and societal expectations. We think you’re great, as Clare said listening to Ioney, is like honey in the ears.
Lytisha returned to the stage to introduce the third and final half of the evening, opening with Lolly reading from the “Sheroes” anthology (a recent publication from the Women’s Centre Work shop), about her own heroic Nana, I love this poem honouring the traditions of superstitions passed down advice, I don’t stand on three grates either. This was followed with a humorous piece on the irresistibility of cookie dough ice cream. Seeing Lolly grow as a performer over the past year has been a delight and seemed to encapsulate the whole event in this expression of confidence developed. Next up was Hattie another first time performer, who shared a tender list poem, “Love is…” filled with nostalgia and family, school years and reminiscences of losses and pain through to new life, a touching poem, we’d love to hear more from Hattie soon. Nicky was next up, sharing a wonderful rhythmic ode to her womb, rising and falling with monthly recurrence of possibilities only to be emptied away each time, followed by a woman’s rant, we all love a good rant and this was no exception. Sarah closed the open mic section with “Fuzzy Felt” clever use of alliteration and imagery of being ready to piece together a new picture when coming out the other side of heart ache, also providing a brief Haiku before closing with “Othering Me” inspired by Kitty’s earlier poem, this was an angry poem about being on the receiving end of labelling, boxing up and othering. Finally Hazel Warren closed the third half with a lovely mix of her own poems matched with distinctive covers of songs on Ukulele, following a pattern of song then poem Pompeii – Bang Bang (Nancy Sinatra) That Room – I Drink (Mary Gaultier) The list –Only You (Yazoo) and Spiders Silk – Come on Sister (Belle and Sebastian) The poems had great lines such as “sharing secrets in the darkness, equal parts confidence and desire.” There was a sad poem which noted that “he drew the sunlight from me.” It was an entertaining and powerful mix of words and melody.
Thanks to everyone who helped make the event a success, including all those who came along to share poems and those who came to listen. Thanks to Stephanie Webb photography for photos and to Sobar for the delicious cakes and drinks, thanks to Emma who helped with technical support on mic and pa issues, to Frank who helped review the bits I couldn’t and to Lolly, who womanned the door and took charge of bucket collections and open mic sign ups, thanks to everyone who gave to the buckets, we raised around £100 for each of our chosen charities. Same time next year? I wouldn’t be anywhere else.