About This Collection
A Word From The Hosts
And of course, this page can hardly be complete without hearing from the man himself - although I have no idea just what it is that he will say...
As much as I see S4YS as Carl's brainchild - it is the support and involvement of others, and most especially Sarah-Jane, that helped it to blossom - here's Sarah-Jane's recollections of taking turns to steer the ship:
The Bread And Roses
I was quite excited about the bread and Roses at first - being a union pub it felt like I could drink AND support the popular front; it seemed to make drinking worthy.
And there was a lot to be excited about - the front room had an actual stage with PA and quite an interesting background for the photography. They painted over the backdrop eventually, but that was fine as it meant the photos wouldn't end up being too samey.
Some nights we would be relugated to the back room - which I don't think Carl ever really liked but I felt it gave the nights a much more intimate feel; so either option worked well for me.
Our days shall not be sweated from birth until life closes—
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses.James Oppenheim, 1911
It was weird though how it was always a much quieter night than other S4YS ventures. There were almost always just enough people for it to be worth running a list - and it did get busy at times; but nothing like The Magic Garden (say) with its 30+ often on the list. I never understood why it wasn't more popular. But at least it meant one could always get a decent turn and it was a fine opportunity to catch up with friends.There was usually even time to chat with Carl - who on other nights was super busy every moment.
We hosted my 20th Anniversary of being a performance poet there - which was a busy night; an excellent night - with the other acts all including a cover version of one of my poems. Soon (honest) I'll create a page about that night...
Our contribution to We Shall Overcome happened at The Bread as well - this one was driven through by Sarah-Jane who did an absolutley top-notch job of it; despite some difficulties the venue visited up on us...
...and in fact venue difficulties were a constant factor. I thought it was great that this was a union pub. But actually at the end of the day that meant that it was run by employees who were essentially disinterested in the cultural life that a pub represents. From my perspective, the management had no care for the community; it didn't matter to them that people were travelling from far and wide for S4YS and they thought nothing of disrupting or cancelling the night at the drop of a hat.
But STILL, great and important things happened there and I have nothing but fond memories of attending.
Elephant & Castle
I think Carl may have ran nights here before I knew him (we met late 2009, according to the photographic evidence) - but I only found myself here on a couple of occassions. S4YS's 4th birthday was one of them, at least.
Situated on Tanner Street in Bermondsey, apparently. The very first S4YS night I performed at. Carl did a live web-cast and I believe Christine was able to watch it from home. Which was all terribly exciting back then!
I don't think I went to this one more than just the once.
It had an emptiness about it the day I visited - the kind of emptiness that could be filled with ghosts if ghosts were real and they had nothing better to do. I think I presumed it was due for demolition and we were the last few souls to grace its floors.
I think there were more tables than chairs - like the last legs for venues are always the table legs. The chairs being easy prey are picked off at the first smell of decay in a joint.
I have no idea who else performed - clearly some did for you can see the photographic evidence here. It was a summer's evening in 2010 - I can barely believe I found the joint; we didn't have your google maps and iPhones back then you know. I used to print a map off at work before setting out to find a gig - but those maps were rubbish! They always seemed to miss out just the most strategically important street names. My tactic was to go to the nearest tube station and then walk in an ever increasing spiral until I found the venue or else gave up and travelled home. Whether I made it to a planned gig or not was pure fortune. Or misfortune, depending on your point of view.
In this case I'ms sticking with fortune.
It was a good gig, even though I can't remember the set list. All I do clearly remember was smoking cigarettes with Carl, whom I decided would be my buddy. It was still a pretty new city to me, and I decided a man needs buddies - they tell you that. So I declared Carl would be my buddy and I did my best to support him, and S4YS, thereafter.
The Old Nun's Head
Since memory is imperfect
Why is it so cruel?
Can I not invent a life
Lived with perfect rules?
A place where no one hits their kids
And vets do more than kill
Where every day everyone
Had more than scraps of food
Even raga muffins had
Brightly polished shoes
No one's feet were ever bare
And no one hated school
The lights stayed on
The beds were warm
And the mother sang of dad's romance
In a green and pleasant
Since memory is imperfect
Let me take regret
And imagine that I'd never
Lived but to forget
And the mother sang
Of a fine romance
In the days before she died
But memory is too cruel
For me to be so fooled
Yes, the mother sang
Of a fine romance
And the mother lived
A life of lies
And memory is too cruel
For me to be so fooled
The Old Nun's Head was one of the more awkward S4YS venues for me to get to. It was a classic Type II venue. Yes that's right, there are two types of venue. Those with a performance area in and amidst the main hullabaloo (The Type I's) - and those with a segregation of the poets and poet lovers from the, let's call them 'others'; you know, a basement, or an attic.
The Old Nun's Head gave us an attic.
It was lovely. And intimate. Intimate enough that those in the audience waiting for a turn would get suckered into actually listening to whoever was currently on stage. There are various open-mic crimes, such as signing up then buggering off elsewhere but for your own 10 minute slot. The busier (and on the face of it more successful) nights suffered such way more than the 'intimate' gigs. And there was never much of that at the Olde Nun's Head...
I remember turning up here to perform on the day my mother died. I suppose I had always hoped for such a day, but I was grown up now. I was supposed to understand things better and to have them in perspective. Her passing was supposed to be a gentle sigh ; an 'ah well then' moment. It wasn't supposed to mean anything to me.
But I guess it must have done, for I did make some reference to it. And I was a little, distracted in my mind.
I think I gave good poetry. Stage me of course isn't me. Yet it is. I am The GameCat (say my name) - but The GameCat is much more honest than I can ever be. Particularly in these quiet, intimate spaces.
I also remember that night when Dan performed atop of the tables.
The Queen's Head
Is possibly too kind a word.
I think my first experience of this joint was attending Dennis Just Dennis's Queen's Speach open-mic, and I thought "Wow, a pub with an inside smoking room".
It seemed a little illicit to climb the backstairs to the attic in order to smoke and perform.
But really, smoking indoors was the least of it.
To this day I have no idea how that place kept its licence.
Or how I never died.
But I didn't. It was a most chaotic oasis in a sea of calm. Except there was no sea of calm. We were all slightly insane then.
I remember being a little concerned that the very elegant and sartorial black man sat reading stage right with his crucifix gleaming in the bar lights, would not take too kindly to the nature of my words. I didn't know then just what The Queen's Head was, nor that he and I would continue a long and fine friendship... I'm glad he survived those days.
I'm glad we all did.
Although I just don't know how.