Saturday, 21 October 2017

Polari Brighton

The Polari Literary Salon is an LGBTQ literary performance workshop that is generally London-based but makes outings to other parts of the UK. The Arts Council England has presented the organisers with a grant to fund a nationwide tour to mark their tenth anniversary, and so last night Polari came to Brighton.

I didn't know anything about Polari until my partner Suz and I met the wonderful Cerys Evans at a very Brightonian barbecue in the summer (lots of vegan sausages on offer). Cerys is a writer and performer (and has just started her own website), and is instantly a hit with everyone she meets. We made sure we were free to come see her perform at the Marlborough Pub and Theatre, a cosy little venue on the edge of Kemptown. It turned out Suz's friend John McCullough, a talented poet, was also performing that night. So naturally we absolutely had to make this.

We still managed to be late, and missed Cerys's first poem, which is frankly unforgiveable, but she still wowed us with some amazing readings of her own, very personal, very moving work. John was up during the second half reading from his latest book, Spacecraft, and giving us a sneak peak of his work in progress. John's poetry can be moving, powerful, funny - the gamut. And he likes to sneak in Doctor Who references.

It wasn't all local peeps, though. V. G. Lee, five time novelist and short story writer, read one of her stories from her collection As You Step Outside, and I loved it so much I went and bought the book straight away. Playwright Alexis Gregory performed part of his upcoming work which deals with pivotal moments and periods in the gay community throughout the twentieth century. He gave us the opening piece, a performance of a memoir from a man who was present at the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. It was an astonishingly powerful and moving piece, bringing to life an event that was long enough ago to feel historical, even mythic, to us now.

Each step of the tour includes a writing workshop, and one person is chosen from each to perform their piece at the event. A new writer read her poem #MeToo, a powerful hit of painful experience. The event finished with Sylvia Brownrigg reading from her new novel Pages for Her, which was beautiful, although I feel I ought to read the previous Pages for You from 2002 first. The evening was hosted by top-hatted raconteur Paul Burston and sign-interpreted by Natalie MacGarvie. It was a wonderful experience, and I'm glad that I'm learning to appreciate poetry at last - something I never really "got" until lately, and a lot of that is down to Suz.

We stayed out chatting with talented people and making new friends. Just a wonderful night. There's still time to see Polari on tour in London and Newcastle, and beyond.

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