FEATURE: PUG Spotlight – Stavros | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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In doing these PUG Spotlight interviews, I’ve managed to meet some of the most interesting artists and creative souls the North East cultural scene offers up; those that fall between the cracks and offer up real outsider art. So when Rosa Postlethwaite suggested a poet she’d met through a workshop as the next person featured, the effervescent passion with which she talked about his work cemented straight away just how ideal he’d be.

Going by the name Stavros, he’s a poet who has managed to achieve a lot in the short space of time since he’s made a return to writing. Indeed, between interviewing him and the time of this interview being published, he managed to squeeze in a first ever performance of some reactionary poetry to the last PUG night in September, and showed a real gift for being very much in the moment. This all came out in our conversation too, with Stavros explaining “I find the setting of where I am inspires me.”

His connection to Chilli Studios is surely a major product in this. Stavros can’t stop speaking positively of the role Chilli Studios plays, and describes it all as “a charity driven place where people go, it’s a mixture between being creative and getting support for mental health issues and physical disabilities. It’s just got this really strong ethic of it being a safe space.”

It’s his relationship here that seems to have really kicked his writing on after a long break that he seems to be very glad to be back creating. He explained his writing career rather succinctly from start to now; “the first thing I wrote was in 1985, when I was like 16 or 17. I was just bored in a warehouse, and my Dad had died and I just wrote something about that. I never wrote again until 2002, and a lot of that was political. Then there was another hiatus. Then I started writing again four years ago and now I’m not gonna stop.”

It’s his ability to be succinct that saw him win the first competition he entered, with a short story needing to be the size of a tweet. “When I won that competition, it was kind of vindication. So I went back through loads of stuff I’d wrote and thought, if I’ve won that competition, maybe I’m alright.”

The confidence from the win and what Chilli Studios offers in support helped spur him on, but, as his infectious love of just talking about writing showed me, this was just part of it. It’s a need to write that now fires him up. The writing and creating is the be all and end all for Stavros. “I’m not really bothered about getting published or making a living of it,” he humbly told me.

His  background, his experiences, everything that lead him to here have all made for a writer destined to be honest and raw. “For years and years I was just doing my own thing, I used to just go to pubs all the time, and then I packed that in, I got bored with that. I realised all these mates are just acquaintances. I think it was getting over 40, like the opposite of a midlife crisis.”

Such an interesting character, his humbleness belies something cheekier that shines through, and he’s self aware enough to balance any moments of confidence with a real grit that shows he understands how much work will go into getting better and better. It was a sort of fresh naivety with which he approached it all that seems to have really helped him. “I’m a bit of a cocky git anyway. I’ve met so many people who are scared to write. I’d never really read any poetry, which I’m glad of, cos I have no influences. I’ve met so many people who just wanna write like their hero.”

Stavros wants to follow his own path, but he understands you need to learn the rules to break them. “I’ve started reading poetry a lot now. I think I’ve got a bit of originality….I’ve got some pretty weird stuff.” He makes the most of the glorious places offered up by the North East to be studious too, “I like going to the Lit and Phil and writing down there. I’ll get a contemporary book of poetry and a really ancient, dusty one and just study it.”

We chatted so much of what creativity can lead to, but ultimately, it’s always comes back to telling a story, and an ethos that, “you can tell a story in a few lines.” His obsession with language he feels is “basically the only thing I’m any good at, if I am any good,” and it’s a steely focus that has him churning out poem after poem.

“Why poetry?” was a question I wanted to find out an answer to most. Why was this his outlet of choice? “One of the main reasons I write is I’m a frustrated painter,” he answered, clarifying further that, “I wrote this really short story, just a page long, and a guy said, ‘it’s like a moment in time you’ve just written about. It’s like a portrait.’ That was like a light bulb moment.” He’s a writer that really does paint a picture too, with an earnest, raw approach that embodies something very straightforward and accessible but reveals a real hidden depth.

An openness to writing is what sets him apart; a willingness to throw himself in and an absolute desire just to create reminds you what the creative process should be about. It’s infectious, with the shining examples being the moments where he can’t stop talking about his friend Katie Stewart, who has also started writing at Chilli Studios. He was beaming as he told me, “I’ve got a friend there, she’s started writing now. For me, so far, the best thing that’s ever came of writing is to inspire someone else to start writing. You can’t get better than that.”

Stavros gives advice worth listening too, and is hand-on-heart inspiring to talk to, so it’s with him that I’ll leave the final words of this interview, as living in a world that throws up new reasons to be furious every day, we should perhaps all live by the ethos; “don’t smash your room up, write about smashing your room up.”

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