It’s hard to know exactly what to say about the HappenStance reading in London’s Troubadour Café on Monday evening. It's an atmospheric, intimate venue with good acoustics. I imagine it must get hot if it's warm outside, but on Monday the weather was awful - cold, windy and near constant rain, and I'd left Edinburgh without a cloud in the sky (that's all changed now!). There was a very good audience, who seemed happy with what they heard and bought plenty of pamphlets.
There’s no definite ‘house style’ about HappenStance. That could either be a strength or a weakness depending on how you look at it. I’d like to think of it as a strength. I suspect that most people would have preferred some poets over others on Monday, but different people would have preferred different poets, according to taste. There were 9 readings each of 8-10 minutes (with a break halfway through), so there wasn’t time for anyone to bore the crowd senseless! I really enjoyed the evening. I met plenty of people, had a good time and my own reading was fine. For those who (like me) like reading setlists, my set was:
1. While the Moonies are Taking Over Uruguay
3. A Night in the Circus
Only five poems, less than anyone else I think, but my poems tend to go on a bit and I chat between poems too.
Helena Nelson introduced each of us by comparing us to a wine. I can't remember what I was but, at the end, Anne-Marie Fyfe (organiser of these events) said that Helena was obviously 14 percent proof. That's certainly true!
Earlier in the day I met up with Ms Baroque and sampled cappuccino and biscuits in her local coffee house (very nice place). We then made out way to the Troubadour where we met up with the HappenStance crew and I had a veggie burger with various folk from Magma magazine.
The gig itself flew past, so I must have been enjoying myself. Andy Philip (who read very well from his *new* HappenStance ‘sampler’) had to leave a little early to catch his train home. I saw Helena Nelson and Eleanor Livingstone rushing off for a coach at the end of the evening. Tom Duddy, Greg and Karen Leadbetter, Ms Baroque, myself, and RCL all found a pub nearby. I finally got to sleep on the Baroque fold-down sofa at around 2.30am and was woken up by a tuneful dawn chorus. Luckily the coffee shop was open for business that morning again as there is no coffee in the Baroque Mansion. They do a great almond croissant too – highly recommended.
On the train down I was reading Birgit Pegeen Kelly’s Poems: Song and The Orchard, recently published by Carcanet, and on the way home I read about half of Michael Hofmann’s Selected Poems (Faber). Both, in very different ways, are extraordinary books. At least, I think so, so far.
I was knackered yesterday and still haven’t really recovered today, but it was a great trip. Lots of fun. Anne-Marie Fyfe – when can we come back?!