INTERVIEW: JibbaJabba | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The spoken word scene in the North East is thriving. You only have to look at the success of the folk at JibbaJabba, who are gearing up to celebrate their fifth birthday this month, with a special gig at Newcastle’s Cumberland Arms on Thursday 28th May, showcasing the great and good of the region’s spoken word and poetry scene.

Jenni Pascoe, JibbaJabba’s founder, confirms that the spoken word scene in the region is in rude health. “The Stanza at The Chillingham and Newcastle Literary Salon at The Scrumpy Willow & Singing Kettle have quickly established themselves as unmissable fixtures in the poetry calendar. Beyond Tyne & Wear, Durham’s Poetry Jam and Middlesbrough’s Black Light Engine Room continue to attract the best of the region’s literary talent.”

Having stumbled across performance poetry only recently herself, she’s leapt into writing and performing, starting JibbaJabba in partnership with national performance poetry organisation Apples And Snakes as an open call to the region’s performers and those who hadn’t yet found their way into the world of spoken word. The JibbaJabba nights feature slots from renowned stars of the scene as well as up and comers, with an open mic element drawing in newcomers. “I always wanted to create an accessible, friendly environment, where complete beginners could share a platform with seasoned professionals and feel equally welcome and appreciated.”

Everyone gets three minutes to take to the stage and showcase their talent. “Keeping the open mic snappy is crucial to maintaining the high energy atmosphere, showcasing an eclectic variation of voices and styles, and ensuring as many performers as possible have the opportunity to take to the stage. I also wanted to incorporate all forms of spoken word, so it’s really more of a cabaret than a poetry night,” Jenni added, “the open mic has also seen theatre pieces, stand-up, rap, improv, storytelling and the occasional impromptu duet! I have to give a nod to the brilliant Ian McGregor-Hart, who has become a legend of the night with his hilarious comedy songs, and truly epitomises the spirit of the open mic.”

“I always wanted to create an accessible, friendly environment, where complete beginners could share a platform with seasoned professionals and feel equally welcome and appreciated.”

If you needed any more convincing that spoken word has become an inherent part of North East culture you only have to look to JibbaJabba’s recent expansion. Jenni’s proud to have added more events to the Jibba canon, including a smaller night – Jibba(ish) at Mr Darcy’s in Whitley Bay – and a new regular night in Sunderland at Independent. “Ever since I started Jibba, I’ve wanted to take it to Sunderland. After all, that’s where I’m from! Last year I ran a couple of pop-up nights there to test the other side of the water, and spent a long time considering the best venue, so it’s been a bit of a slow burner.”

Now with a fully established trio of nights there is a lot to celebrate at JibbaJabba’s upcoming birthday shindig. “There will be all the usual open mic shenanigans,” Jenni confirms, also mentioning performances including live music from therunningchelsea, comedy from John Scott, the man behind political stand-up show Sod The Tories, plus Apples And Snakes headliner Joelle Taylor, a spoken word artist, poet and playwright. As well as couple of surprises that JibbaJabba is keeping tightly under wraps!

JibbaJabba celebrate their fifth birthday at The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on Thursday 28th May.

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