Wednesday, 17 September 2014


Below is a copy of a preview I wrote for YorkMix for their website:

28th October, City Screen Basement, 7.30, £5

S.O.S. is the brainchild of Henry Raby (@HenryRabyPoetry) and Stu Freestone (@StuFreestone).  We both consider ourselves ‘performance poets’ which essentially boils down to the fact we gig a lot.  Together, we’re proud to present SAY OWT POETRY SLAM.

The rules of a poetry slam vary from place-to-place, but our version will give 15 poets 3 minutes each to perform a piece.  There will be 5 audience members tasked as judges who will give each poet a score out of 10.  This means that poets are in competition, albeit a friendly one.  The top 5 poets will then perform once more and the highest score from those will be named Say Owt Slam Champ!

The stakes are raised, the energy is upped, the performance is sharper and the poems are stronger.  It also hands agency to the audience, even if they’re not judging.  A well-timed whoop or extra loud clap can affect the judges’ decision.  It also means afterwards strangers will debate who was the best poet (“no, you’re wrong, that metaphor was ace”).

York is very rich in poets and writers, with regular nights like Speaking In Tongues, Spokes, The Spoken Word and Speaker’s Corner, plus York Literature Festival and the yearly night I run at York Theatre Royal, Words & Whippets.  Hopefully, Say Owt Slam will be a melting pot for these poets, with the raw heat of a competitive night.

The response has been incredible.  Within 12 hours all our slots were filled.  It will be a bit nerve-wracking, but mostly very fun. Most slammers are from York, but some are travelling from Harrogate, Newcastle, Leeds and Hull!

Mark Grist, Girls Who Read:

We also hope to bring a headliner each slam well-versed in performance poetry.  For the first one, we’re incredibly excited to have Mark Grist.  Mark was a teacher who became part of the Peterborough rap scene.  Mark brought his gentlemanly, nerdy and traditional poetry style to the rap battle circuit, and proved a cult favourite.  One recording of a battle went viral on youtube, attracting 3 million views.  He’s also done Bestival, Latitude, Glastonbury, Reading/Leeds and a host of other UK festivals.

This is the first York slam for at least 3 years (as far as I’m aware), and we’re already looking at a date for the 2nd slam in January.  If you fancy having a go at the second slam, or want more info, email us  Also, this looks like selling out so make sure you grab a ticket asap here:

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Farewell Cockpit, Leeds

Thanks to the medium of Facebook, I found out that The Cockpit in Leeds is closing down.  An integral part of the Leeds music scene, though the venue was far from a perfect space, it did host bands of all genres and sizes and no student in Leeds (07-10 for myself) could exist within the city without encountering the underground venue at some point.

I got to DJ thanks to the Non-Stop boys a couple of times, and danced merrily to the odd punk/ska tune they would occasionally play at Slam Dunk nights.  I was a member of Punk Soc, and we often dragged poor freshers along.

So here’s a list of cool bands I caught with memories:

Slam Dunk all-dayer saw farewell to The Hydropaths (though they’ve reformed for a few shows in November) and hosted the Creepshow, The Skinks and Random Hand, pretty much a perfect line-up.  It was also one of the first dates I went on with my girlfriend, even though I abandoned her to go dance…

First time I saw Frank Turner was at the Cockpit, which was a very exciting time just as he was riding on the waves of Love, ire & Song, supported by Chris T-T  I’ve lost count how many times I saw Sonic Boom Six & Random Hand, and grateful the Skints played a fair few shows before seeming to mainly stick to festival circuits.  King Blues were another favourite.  Saw The Beat and had some punx shout the wrong Exploited lyrics at me.  The Undertones with my mate John was a fun 1st year highlight.  The amount of times I dashed there/back for gigs, both while still living in Leeds or back in York. 

It cemented itself as a venue you knew bands would play, and a hub for a scene.  Even if it didn’t actively promote scenes or a DIY ethic like smaller venues, it was a hub for familiar faces.  I’ve not been for a long time, but was keen to see Against Me!.  The show’s been moved, so now I’ll never squash into that small space and sticky floor, but thanks for the memories Cockpit!