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

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Image by Bohdan Piasecki

Anyone who’s been lucky enough to catch Scott Tyrrell at one of the North’s many spoken word events will be able to tell you he’s a great writer and performer. He can in turns be scathing and poignant, clever and surprising. More importantly, Scott is funny. Lots of poets are, mind you, wry-humorous-witty-type funny, but Scott is hold-your-belly-catch-your-breath-my-face-hurts-type funny. He’s a rare talent, and the nation is catching on.

He started out several years ago writing his first three poems “for no good reason other than I was bored”. His flatmate encouraged him to go to an open mic in Byker, where he met a like-minded bunch and helped form The Poetry Vandals, a kind of northern poetry supergroup, which began gigging around the region and eventually toured and performed internationally. After many successes “it got a bit samey”, as Scott puts it, so The Vandals went their separate ways.

He moved into comedy clubs, originally keeping stand-up and poetry as separate disciplines, eventually bringing the skills he’d learned on the legendarily unforgiving Manchester comedy circuit into his poetry. It’s perhaps this that’s made him the consummate slam poet. For the uninitiated, slams are performance poetry competitions. Each performer is granted three minutes to impress a panel of judges and an audience, as Scott explains. “It’s brutal, and hugely stressful, but what it teaches you is priceless: get on, do your stuff in the best way you can, and get off.” His razor-sharp writing and understanding of the format led him to win slams in Bristol in 2002, Belfast a year later and many others since. Festivals followed and he’s graced the stage at WOMAD, Kendal Calling, The Big Chill and Glastonbury.

“It’s brutal, and hugely stressful, but what it teaches you is priceless: get on, do your stuff in the best way you can, and get off

This year, Scott won the Great Northern Slam, and the AntiSlam, in which the performer who can come up with the worst material wins. This odd format brought him much national recognition, leading to him being entered into the BBC slam in Edinburgh, which represented a huge opportunity for many of the best performers in the country. “The BBC stage at Edinburgh is iconic, and even if I didn’t win, I wanted to try to own that stage, to just look as if I’m supposed to be there”. Of course, he was supposed to be there, and won against some very high-profile competition.

This prestigious victory led to an appearance in the BBC4 history of performance poetry Rock, Rhymes And Revolution and an invitation to the Scottish poetry festival Stanza, an honour usually reserved for page-only poets. He’ll be representing the UK in the World Slam Final in Boston, also in 2016.

You can catch Scott in the North East at the bare knuckle poetry slam on Thursday 5th November at Northern Stage in Newcastle, where he’ll be performing the headline slot. He’ll also be at the Free As A Bard event with more of the region’s best writers at JamJar Cinema, Whitley Bay on Sunday 29th November.

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