The first time I walked into the Labour Cub in Northampton I thought I’d been taken to the wrong place. I thought it was derelict. It turns out it wasn’t. It was tatty, it was unloved, but it brimmed with insanity, creativity and warmth. This was my first open mic night. I had spoken in front of hundreds of people from large stages, but tonight it was me and my writing, performing for a polite and giving audience. Somehow I got something right because I made one of the hosts, Justin Thyme, laugh so much he knocked over his beer. This was not going to be a one night stand.
I came back month after month. The second, or third time, I attended we went to Delapre Abbey and spoke poetry around afire and then under the stars. I had had a really tough day, but that warmth, appreciation and friendship moved me. I had found another way to express myself and to learn.
Tonight (Wednesday 2nd December 2015) ‘Raising the Awen’ looks like it is coming to an end. So many people have shared their words from the stage, bathed in psychedelic lights, swamped in applause, drowned in alcohol fuelled anarchy and in those moments found clarity, found purpose, shared pain, love, laughter and confusion and in the past 18 months or so it is a place that I have always felt at home. I am not a bohemian, a tree hugger, a socialist or a schizophrenic. My politics differ from many. My ambitions don’t gel with some, but here is where we all find our family.
The love of words. The expressions of love. Of hate. Of frustration. Of hope. Of wonder. Where the shy become the confident and where the confident question their logic. We write and we spout, we swear and we curse. We have eaten together, drank together, smoked together. Hugged together and we have found the most intense comradeship together.
Tonight we will stand on the stage and express as we always have done. From our hearts. From the depth of our soul and we will celebrate the most intense form of love for each other in the sharing of our words. Ernest Hemingway said it best when he said “Writing is easy. You sit at a typewriter and bleed.”
The technology may have changed, but that desire to spill words from our hearts into others minds remains powerful and necessary. We conquer our fears by climbing the stage and speaking into a microphone. We risk rejection and yet always climb back down the steps with applause in our ears and passion in our hearts.
Wherever you may be, speaking at open mics across the country, think of us tonight (or when you read this) as the final curtain comes down and we evolve into something more powerful, but with less love. We become the wandering minstrels, the chosen ones of the word, the givers of poetry and spoken word. The lovers of free speech, of liberty, of laughter, of love. The Awen may not be raised again, but we were raised within it.