Imagine a world where a top West End theatre was expected, not only (a) to stage productions featuring internationally renowned big-name stars which set world-beating standards of professional excellence, but simultaneously (b) to include large numbers of local amateurs in its casts, in significant enough roles to stroke their egos and make them feel special, alongside Hollywood stars, so some of their magic would rub off, but in a safe, non-judgemental space, where they would not be undermined by a hostile or lukewarm reaction from the audience (c) to spot new talent and provide it with professional actor training, (d) to provide ongoing professional development and decently paid work to actors in the early stages of their career, (e) to provide dramatherapy for traumatised audience members to use the art to work out their demons (f) to provide a warm, social club atmosphere, where shy, lonely members of the public who walked through the doors for the first time could expect to be welcomed and chatted to by actors, theatre staff and regular audience members and immediately become their friend. And all of this free of charge (or, at least for a low, low ticket price – maybe less than a fiver?). That would be ridiculous, right? No one theatre or arts organisation could do all that at the same time, at such a low cost?
Well, that’s what we seem to expect of our spoken word nights.
I’d hate to run a night, because the heroes who do it make no money, often end up paying the shortfall out of their own pocket, and in return seem to take unending crap from overdemanding audience members and aspirant performers (yes, probably including me – I’m no angel) who want a spoken word night to do EVERYTHING for EVERYBODY, all at the same time.
Bristol has an array of wonderful spoken word events – I have honestly never been to a bad night in the city – but I don’t think it is reasonable to expect any one night to provide all we require of them. It’s OK for a night to say to people, “I appreciate that that’s what you need, but that’s not what we’re for. Our main focus is X. If you want Y, you’re still welcome to come here, but there’s another night down the road that focuses more on Y and may meet your needs better.”