Whilst you’ve probably heard of, or been to, regular nights like Jawdance
and Bang Said The Gun
, all of which have built up a dedicated audience and a name for themselves, there are a great many distinctive lesser-known events off the beaten track. Here are three of my favourite hybrids, what makes them different and who might enjoy them.
1. Bingo Master’s Breakout
What be this?
One of the most joyfully anarchic and welcoming poetry nights in the capital, this merry stew of poetry, karaoke and bingo (yes, you heard right) is run by Kevin Reinhardt of the Vintage Poison collective. This evening has been running for years, but its existence is still a surprise to many people.What makes it special?
Sheer variety, for starters. A typical night consists mainly of floor spots in which each performer goes up to read a poem of their own or one from a pile brought by the organisers, followed by a karaoke song of their choice. In between these spots, BMB presents a featured poet doing a longer set, who then goes on to call the numbers for a cash prize bingo game which everyone is free to play, and a band performing a karaoke set of their own songs, complete with inflatable guitars. Plus, the one-poem-one-song cap means you’re never stuck listening to an interminable mic-limpet.Who might enjoy this?
Anyone who likes their readings a little less formal, a little less on the slam side and a lot more participatory. And of course anyone who enjoys karaoke.Cost?
Free.Where can I find out more?
Follow BMB on Twitter
or check out their Facebook page
2. Open Arts Cafe
What be this?
Run by the charismatic singer-songwriter Maya Levy, Open Arts Cafe
is a variety extravaganza, showcasing new work from upcoming artists. Each show is themed (past themes have included Smoke & Mirrors, Seafaring and I Gave My Love A Cherry) and submissions to perform take their cue from this.What makes it special?
Well for starters, it’s in a synagogue. For my fellow gentiles, it’s not often the opportunity really arises to go explore a synagogue, and practically, it makes for outstanding acoustics. But aside from the brilliant venue, the quality of acts is always outstanding. I guarantee that even grizzled veterans of London entertainment will discover something new here. Past performances have included poetry, acrobatics, stand-up, film screenings, live theatre and an improvised jazz board game with full audience participation. There’s also an art exhibition to look round during the interval, as well as snacks and drinks.Who might enjoy this?
Anyone who likes their poetry set like a gorgeous stone in a big old crown of other artforms; anyone who wants to discover new acts; anyone who wants to be thoroughly entertained.Cost?
Pay what you can (£6 suggested donation, which goes to the artists). Snacks are free, wine’s £3.Where can I find out more?Open Arts Cafe websiteTwitterFacebook page
What be this?
As the name suggests, Scaledown is a night of micro-sets, hosted by Mark Braby, Shaun Hendry and poet Jude Cowan Montague.What makes it special?
A jamboree of poetry, monologue, music and performance art, the last Scaledown I played, I was performing alongside a sound artist collaging a soundscape from language learning tapes, an incredible experimental violinist, gorgeous folk music, a costumed band straight out of a Frank Zappa daydream and the hosts kicking off with an acapella song. Special enough?Who might enjoy this?
Anyone who (not unreasonably) dreads a poetry set going over 15 minutes. With its quickfire lineup, Scaledown flat-out refuses to let you get bored.Cost?
Free, but do, as they say, check out the Table of Wares and support the artists if the fancy takes you.Where can I find out more?Scaledown website