Oh, hi there! Good to see you. How’ve you been? Yeah, not bad thanks. Getting along.
Oh, sorry. WHERE have we been for the last year? It’s a good question. Thanks to the pandemic, Jon and K have been in London, Durham, Derbyshire, Buckinghamshire – all over the shop really.
This has meant an unofficial Sidekick Books hiatus throughout 2020 and halfway through 2021. Like a lot of small presses we’ve looked at the pandemic situation with a furrowed brow, and held off making concrete plans for future projects until now.
This last year has been testing for everyone, but it’s also been a time of discovery. During the pandemic, both Jon and K got assessed for ADHD, and both had the diagnosis confirmed. 2020 was apparently a record year for ADHD diagnosis, and this makes sense – once you’ve had a lot of social engines switched off and you’re left with your thoughts, you often spot things that have been masked by the hectic day-to-day. If you’re curious about late-diagnosis ADHD, K writes about her experience on her personal blog.
What this means is, now we know a little bit more about why we find certain aspects of publishing and, y’know, general moving through the world, especially difficult. That’s information we can work with to make Sidekick Books even better.
In the grand Sidekick tradition, we’re planning several gorgeous, playful themed collaborative books for release in 2022. Some will be pocket rockets and some will be big old beasts. There will be hidden messages, miniature games, love, hate and inventions aplenty.
Finally, huge thanks to our amazing sales and marketing agents Inpress, who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep promoting and selling our books, testing out new technologies to help indie publishers, negotiating with various stakeholders and keeping our spirits high. They’ve also shown the patience of saints when dealing with our pre-diagnosis communications. We’re incredibly grateful for their tenacity, skills and support, and excited to work more closely with them from now on.
That’s us up to date for now. Thanks, as ever, for your support in these strange times. Onward to new adventures!
We’re swooping into the dark for our festive Battalion launch! Join us for a magical interactive reading on 12th December 2018, as part of Walthamstow Wetlands Lates!
We’ll be starting at 7pm sharp, and the hour will include readings and short talks from Battalion contributors L. Kiew, Mike Weston, SJ Fowler, Julia Lewis, James Coghill and Cliff Hammett. Your hosts will be your devoted editors, Kirsten and Jon.
Expect party bags, micro-games and exercises themed around bats and poetry about these enchanting flying mammals.
Tickets are £5, which includes a glass of mulled wine and access to all of the other events going on that evening at the reserve. You can explore the space and take a peaceful moonlight turn around the centre. You’ll also be supporting a wonderful project to protect wildlife in the heart of London.
National Poetry Day has been and gone and delighted us all once again. We were thrilled that Bad Kid Catullus (thus far the only Sidekick title to receive a Parental Advisory sticker) was featured in the Guardian as one of their top 10 anthologies!
Here’s what they said:
Stone and Irving, the two poets responsible for Sidekick Books – a tiny publisher specialising in irresistible anthologies that double as compendia of jokes, puzzles, teases, weird lists and doodle pages – outdid themselves last year with this anthology of new and old poems inspired by ancient Rome’s filthiest wordsmith, Catullus. Certain concrete poems are X-rated, but if acrobatic acrostics and saucy experiments with form tickle your fancy, this is just the book for a weekend of Latin love.
To celebrate, we’ve extended our National Poetry Day sale until the end of the day on 5th October 2018. Get in quick and get four Headbooks for the price of three! Just £30 for four fizzing, bubbling interactive treasures!
Lastly, Sidekick’s own Kirsten Irving was chosen to represent her home county of Lincolnshire in the BBC’s Local Poets celebration. The project, organised by the Forward Arts Foundation in collaboration with the BBC, saw 12 poets from across England writing on the theme of Poetry for a Change.
Here’s the video for K’s poem, ‘The Lincoln Imp’s Birthday’.
AND FINALLY! The fun doesn’t end just because NPD is over. Stay tuned to our Twitter @SidekickBooks and our Instagram @sidekickbooks over the next few days for a robotastic competition. We can say no more for now…
Salve Citizens! We are thrilled to announce that National Poetry Day, the biggest annual event in the UK poetry calendar, organised by the Forward Arts Foundation, has selected Bad Kid Catullus as one of its recommended poetry books!
Here’s what they have to say about Our Kid:
“The scabrous, self-contradictory poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus (84BC-54BC) have been revisited many times before, and it’s always been a messy affair. But this collection throws the concept of the faithful translation to the wind, allowing poets to create their own weird, wild and shaggy versions. Readers too are challenged to write in this book, until “it’s full of vice and voluptuousness”. There’s no better way to summon and entertain the spirit of Catullus. Rude and beautiful!”
Saboteur Awards 2018 – Sidekick Books nominated in two categories!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone hates to be hassled for online votes. Which is why we’re only going to mention this once, and then we’ll get back onto making you more weird and wonderful books about robots, bats and soforth.
Sidekick Books have been nominated for the Saboteur Awards in the following categories:
Now, a) we believe we’re pretty innovative as a press, and we are very proud of the beautiful underwater odyssey that is Aquanauts. And b) The Saboteurs are the only awards that recognise the strange literary concoctions we make.
So if you like what we do, please vote for us. We would truly appreciate it. If someone else takes your fancy on the shortlist, vote with your heart. In the case of octopus fans, vote with all three of your hearts.
Voting closes on 9th May 2018.
That’s it. That’s as much as we’ll hassle, harangue and badger you. Thanks for reading, and thank you, as ever, for all of your support!
In the Logan’s Run world of spoken-word poetry it can feel like most of the opportunities are targeted at young poets, with 25 being the cutoff point or time of “Carousel”. If you’re over the age of 25 – a “Runner” – you’ll probably need to attend open mic nights if you want to develop your performance skills.
Luckily, London’s open mic scene is flourishing, with events in all quarters. Entry prices vary: plenty are free or pay-what-you-like, while cover charges are usually in the range of £3-£8. Vibes are also variable, some nights running as fluently as a bicycle, others more like a brainstorm in the mind of the Incredible Hulk.
The first open mic I ever attended was Poetry Unplugged, which runs weekly at the Poetry Café (Covent Garden). One advantage of this night is that no matter how many poets sign up, you’re assured of a slot. How Poetry Unplugged’s host Niall O’Sullivan finds time for sometimes 50+ poets to perform in the space of a couple of hours is a mystery to me. One tactic he employs is to shorten the five-minute length of performance slots to four minutes per reader once more than 25 poets have signed up.
Slots at poetry open mic nights are usually five minutes long. At some events you can read as many poems as you like within this time frame. At others, such as Word Up (Mason’s Arms, Kensal Green), you’re asked to keep it to just one piece. (Word Up is currently on hiatus, but expects to make a triumphant return later this year. Sibling writing group Words Down is active, though, and runs weekly sessions at Rubio London, Harlesden).
Some nights are more serious about time-keeping than others. At Spoken Word London (Vogue Fabrics, Dalston), host Hannah Gordon will ring the “Princess Diana bell” at four minutes 45 seconds to let you know you’re coming to the end of your slot, before turning on the sound system and blasting you off with loud music at five minutes. The three hosts at Boxed In(Box Park, Shoreditch) will converge on a performer, sometimes creeping forward on hands and knees, and staring at them until they stop. Boxed In currently offers the shortest slots I’m aware of: 1min 30s. Even so, slot demand often exceeds availability, so it’s worth arriving a bit early and getting ready for 7pm, when host Sean Mahoney opens the sign-up list.
Regular attendees at open mic nights often cite as a minor annoyance poets who overrun their slot; it’s a good idea to time your poems in advance so you know how long it takes to deliver them. Another well-documented peeve is “poet voice” – delivering your poem in an artificial tone. A personal bugbear is the poet who announces at the start of their piece, ‘I just wrote this on my phone on the bus here,’ thus acknowledging that it hasn’t been edited (which is fundamental to good writing), or rehearsed (which is fundamental to good performance).
Popular open mic nights often select readers by lottery, with would-be performers queuing up to put their names in a hat. Boomerang Club (Rutland Arms, Hammersmith) operates a double lottery system, with an online draw for those who sign up on the event’s Facebook page, and a second draw for those who sign up on the night. Worth noting that Boomerang Club founder Jake Wild Hall has recently teamed up with Amy Acre to launch Bad Betty Press.
Spoken Word London operates a first-come-first-served policy, with 20 slots up for grabs, as well as a lottery-based reserve list. Unusually, at this event you (rather than the host) get to choose your performance slot from those available. Sign-up is at 7.30pm but the queue often starts an hour in advance. Come Rhyme with Me (Ovalhouse, Vauxhall), Spoken, not Stirred(The Broadway, Barking), and Word on the Street(Boondocks, Shoreditch) also operate on a first-come-first-served basis. At Come Rhyme with Me, you can order French-Caribbean food to go with your poetry. Spoken, not Stirred has a welcome relationship with the Poetry Translation Centre: in 2017, I saw both Sarah Howe and Daljit Nagra performing translations of Turkish and Somali work as part of the evening’s entertainment.
The Chocolate Poetry Club(Brockwell Blend, Brixton) is another popular first-come-first-served event. In addition to its regular night in Brixton, it has recently introduced a new night at The Camden Eye (Camden Town).
It’s always encouraging to see open mic nights expanding, and this doesn’t just apply to London events. In 2017, Danny Pandolfi (recently listed by Rife Magazine as one of the 24 most influential Bristolians under 24) brought his successful Bristol-based night Raise the Bar to London for a limited run of monthly events at Brick Lane’s Café 1001. On top of this, both Raise the Bar and Boomerang Club took open mic shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Listen Softly London(The Royal George, Soho),Speak Easy (Phoenix Artist Club, Covent Garden) andHeartspoken Word(Ziferblat, Shoreditch) encourage would-be performers to sign up on Facebook/by email in advance. This obviously requires you to know about the night in advance, and for this purpose I have found the Facebook group Poetry in London very helpful for alerts about upcoming nights.
Events are usually monthly, and last for two or three hours. Of course you’re free to leave once you’ve read, but if you stay and listen to those who have listened to you, it’s greatly appreciated. There’s nothing more dispiriting than spending several hours waiting to perform, going onstage, looking round the room, and finding the audience is now composed solely of the host and the bar staff.
Spoken word nights are often photographed and filmed, which is, in my view, very necessary if the scene is to expand and attract a wider audience. You can find Tyrone Lewis photographing at Boomerang Club and Word Up, and Anthony Adams taking snaps at Spoken Word London. Tyrone Lewis’ Process Productions also films at Boomerang Club, while Abu B. Yillah’s BlaSpheMe (Black Supahero Media) films at Boxed In, and Thomas Owoo’s GhettogeekTV is at Word Up. The night I attended Come Rhyme with Me, Muddy Feet Poetry were on hand to capture the action.
More information about the London open mic scene can be found by watching Tyrone Lewis’ film NEW SHIT! – The Open Mic Documentary, or by listening to some of the open-mic-related programmes on Lunar Poetry podcasts. It’s also worth checking out the Young Poets Guidebook, which includes a list of London open mic nights. You’ll notice this site contains a link entitled “Old Poets Guidebook” which is inactive; in the Logan’s Run world of spoken word poetry, “Runners” technically don’t exist.
Ian McLachlan is a “Runner” on London’s poetry open mic scene. His pamphlet, Confronting the Danger of Art, co-created with Phil Cooper, is available from Sidekick Books. He tweets @ianjmclachlan and Instagrams at /ianjmclachlan
Happy New Year everyone! 2017 was fantastic for us at Sidekick Books, and we’d like to say thank you to everyone who has supported, hosted and read our work this year.
Huge thanks in particular to Arts Council England (ACE) for funding our next run of alchemical misadventures – thank you for supporting us!
Here’s a whistlestop rundown of our 2017 highlights, and some things to look forward to in 2018, including calls for new poetry:
Aquanauts was the first in our Headbooks series: a set of interactive, highly visual complete-me-yourself books aimed at taking poetry out of one corner and inviting readers to become collaborators.
To launch Aquanauts, we joined forces with live artist and poet Abi Palmer to host Aquanautica, a deep dive into a post-flood world. Participants followed the signal of the mysterious Captain Nautilla to find a cavern of merbartenders, scientists, sirens, signs, sceptics and sculptures.
Enjoy more of poet John Canfield’s photos on our Instagram channel.
And you can find Aquanautsright here!
Bad Kid Catullus
Bad Kid Catullus, aka Headbook #2, takes Rome’s filthiest bard as its starting point, but this is no ordinary series of translations. In BKC, an orgy of poets transports Catullus through genre, time and form: sashay from noir to high fantasy to western, spy some pointed graffiti or study a sex position calligram of those famous carmina…
Get down and dirty with Bad Kid Catullusright here.
The Headbooks launch took place at the Poetry Café, Covent Garden, included wine, grape, figs and honey cake, as well as fauns, fornication and a forum of toga-clad poets.
Visit Ian McLachlan’s Instagram for more decadent photos (Ian was the faun in question!).
The Headbooks exhibition features art from Kid Catullus and Aquanauts, and is on for free at the beautifully refurbished Poetry Café until 31 January 2018.BUT ALSO! Got some poems hanging around that need a good Frankensteining? Come and join us for Sidekick Remixathon, a workshop to go along with the exhibition, in which Jon and K will show you how to make gold from “gah!”
More information here!
Finally for 2017, we invited poets to send us aperture poems for our Advent Calendar. The aperture poem was invented by James Midgley, and involves taking an existing text (or inventing one), and placing an imaginary window frame over part of it, leaving only a portion visible to create a new micro-poem.
View all 26 (yes, we got carried away) aperture poems here!
That was all dandy, but this is the exciting bit. What comes next?
Do your resolutions include writing more? Then get yourself in a mechanical or echolocatory frame of mind! We’ll be issuing calls for two new Sidekick Headbooks! Follow us on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our mailing list at the bottom of the page to get the first alerts!
1. No, Robot, No! will be a celebration of real and fictional robots. Philosophy, ethics, mechanics, automation – choose your mode!
2. Battalion will explore the dark and delightful world of bats. We’re after biology, ecology, myth and movement – keep your ears open!
Have a Happy New Year, one and all – look forward to playing with you all in 2018!
Jon and Kirsty
OK, we know most advent calendars only have 24 days, but we couldn’t resist joining the party. For our Christmas Day 25th window, Jon and K have opened two enchanted bonus windows! Magic and mystery are part of our history, after all…
Thank you for following this aperture poetry advent calendar, and thank you to all of our supporters and friends for a wonderful year. We hope you are ensconced in warmth, companionship and fine reading. Have a lovely holiday and a mischievous new year!