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

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Image: Louise Fazackerley by Citizen Mace

Spoken word and performance poetry is perhaps a lesser talked about, but still hard-hit casualty, of the post-lockdown live circuit. Nights such as Born Lippy – who celebrate their third birthday this month – provide a valuable space for wordsmiths of all disciplines to show off their skills.

Co-founded by poets Donald Jenkins and Tom C, Born Lippy was created to join what they saw as the obvious dots between performance poetry, rap and comedy. “We wanted to create a space which would convert the uninitiated, challenge the misconception that poetry is dull, boring and not for them.” Donald explains. “We wanted to put on a varied and interactive show that blurred genres and was exciting, engaging and speaks to a diverse audience. Also, we were concerned that the local spoken word scene lacked a diversity of representation, so Born Lippy routinely stages working class and artists of colour to appeal to a broader audience base.”

Born Lippy events also often feature poetry slams, a friendly yet competitive space for new poets to test material and develop performance skills. “By combining these elements, we aim to expand access to artists from interconnected disciplines, creating a one-stop shop for ‘all things wordy’. We provide a platform for new and established artists from across the UK to explore place, identity and hope in a joyful way that connects people.”

We wanted to create a space which would convert the uninitiated, challenge the misconception that poetry is dull, boring and not for them

While some poetry events took place virtually during lockdown, Donald admits that many find the likes of Zoom or streamed events a barrier to expression, and he’s emphatic that the community element of Born Lippy is what makes it special. “It has been difficult as poetry is a cathartic exercise, people write to get things off their chest, vent their truth, share their experiences and use it to cope with issues life throws at them. Spoken word nights create communities where people can share these stories, be heard. [The pandemic] has made it difficult for people to get that experience.”

While online events can enable those who can’t come out into real-life spaces to attend, Donald says there are further struggles to come for the industry. “I think as we move back towards in-room events, there will be a need for people who can watch via streaming. One of the impacts on the spoken word scene has been the death of venues and the lack of work for poets, we are dependent on venues which may disappear altogether without a significant support package. Some people are professional poets and need work – I am part time professional poet. There is less work at the minute and artists from all disciplines are competing for what funding there is.”

Born Lippy will celebrate their third birthday with a livestreamed show filmed at The Globe in Newcastle on Wednesday 9th December. Performers will include darkly humorous poet Louise Fazackerley, winner of BBC Radio 3 New Voice award, European slam finalist and support artist for Dr. John Cooper Clarke; Louise’s unique approach to word-witchery makes the ugly beautiful and the mundane fantastical. She’s supported by political comic and surreal storyteller Raul Kohli, engaging rapper Reali-T and poet and painter (and recent Born Lippy slam winner) JM.

Born Lippy’s third birthday takes place at The Globe, Newcastle via livestream on Wednesday 9th December

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