And with nearly 20 years under their belts, the Bang Said The Gun crew should have some idea of what they’re talking about
Normally based in London at the Bloomsbury Theatre, they are currently undergoing their first nationwide tour, which takes in Fareham next Friday.
Martin Galton is one of the co-founders and he says: ‘I think if we have a mission, any mission at all, it’s to bring poetry to the masses and that’s why we present our nights in a totally different way to any other nights.
‘When we started, most poetry nights were very dull, boring things, real navel-gazing affairs We started our nights to be the antidote to that. It’s very loud, very raucous and energised – we have shakers, we have balloons, there’s a big party atmosphere going, and that’s the perfect show to take on the road, we think.’
Laurie Bolger hosts the night and the tour will also feature spots from Martin, fellow co-founder Dan Cockrill and, in Laurie’s words, ‘part-poet, poet-comic, part legend’ Rob Auton.
Each night also features guest acts – for Fareham it’s renowned slam poet Elvis Mcgonagall and the ‘clever, funny, quarrelsome, querulous’ Rosy Carrick.
But there is also a nightly open mic section, featuring five people who applied in advance, competing for the prized Golden Gun Award.
‘It’s worth a lot of money. At least 20p,’ deadpans Martin. ‘I think the open mic section of the show is one of our proudest aspects.
‘Last year when we were a weekly night, we had about 500 people appear on our stage. Most of them had never appeared on a stage before in their lives. To introduce at least 500 people a year to poetry is brilliant.’
Where do they think poetry sits in the public consciousness these days?
‘If you go back hundreds of years,’ says Martin, ‘poetry was in the hearts of people, and they could all recite it, but then along came the intellectuals and turned it into an impossible intellectual conundrum that turned a lot of people off – and they still are to some degree.
‘But then hip hop came along and people were starting to get back into poetry through hip hop. (Bang Said The Gun contributor and Mercury Prize nominated) Kate Tempest is a case in point, she started as a rapper but now she’s a poet.’
Laurie elaborates: ‘What I think is amazing about Bang Said The Gun, on our first night of tour, we had Jo Bell, who’s really well-respected in the Poetry Society kind of world, but then we also had Johnny Fluffypunk who is the most hilarious performance poet, and they were both brilliant. There’s no hierarchy.
‘It’s a poetry party and everyone’s invited, and it’s lovely – there’s no divide, we celebrate words and everyone listens and shakes and has a really good time.’
Martin adds: ‘We try to create a rollercoaster of emotions – from happy to sad, to funny to heartbreaking, to bloody rude sometimes.
‘We have a line that sums us up – it’s poetry for people who don’t like poetry. Once people come along and get into what we’re doing – it’s accessible stuff – it talks about everyday things.
‘One of the most common things I hear at the end end of our shows is people say they were dragged along and they loved it because they didn’t realise poetry could be fun and entertaining.’
Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham
Friday, May 5