Speak Up is a veritable feast of spoken word/poetry, music, and comedy. Wandering into its homestead (upstairs @ The Bull’s Head) in Moseley, Birmingham, I was greeted by an array of beanbags, assorted biscuits and candles which hastened a mood of openness and friendliness to the night’s proceedings. This was a special birthday edition of Speak Up which celebrated its rise from humble beginnings to tonight’s packed room of spoken word enthusiasts. Starting off was host Jodi Anne Bickley, a coy, coquettish yet clever poet in the ilk of fellow Brummie Mike Skinner. Her honest tales of casual sex were not only humorous but revealing of the longing for love often at the heart of such impropriety. Such is Jodi’s talent that her lyrical prowess has already seen her perform at esteemed events such as Glastonbury, proving her a definite voice to watch out for. Next up was Jim Kennedy, a wry, punchinello with a penchant for twisted satire, who revelled the audience into a delightfully frenetic chorus of ‘Free the Pig’ in poem Hog Roast.
Discovery of the evening was without doubt 13 year old singer-songwriter Mahalia, a prodigious talent whose sublime voice and intricate phrasing, akin to that of Sia and Morcheeba, truly defied her years. This may be an early prophecy but from this performance Mahalia is surely a future star in the making! Also charming was Kim Trusty, whose poem I Have a Quiet Heart read as an acute observation of the ‘assiduous process which is love’ and sexual faux pas.
Another standout of the evening was Inua Ellams, an award winning poet and playwright, whose poems such as Class Zero and Ode to South London stem from life experiences in Nigeria, Dublin and London. Ellams’ poetry is not ‘one tone of grey’ but a tumult of purring words delicately rolled together to depict colourful city sermons which seemingly aspire to the verse of T. S. Eliot and Baudelaire. Boy/girl duo Tantrums brought some musical delight with impressive vocal harmonisation texturing their stripped back piano and guitar setup. Whilst skewed comic Gregory Akkerman brought the night to an end with some dark humour which managed to prise several uncomfortable chuckles from an overall satisfied audience.
Most notable with Speak Up is the diverse range of abilities, ages and form encouraged by this most welcoming of events. It is an ‘artillery of words’, showcasing not only standard versified poetry but also rappers, slam/street poets, comedians, singer/songwriters and all manner of experimental collaborators. There is so much to enjoy that there isn’t possibly enough room available here for me to do it justice. All I can suggest is that you go and check it out this little gem of an evening yourself!! You never know you may be listening to the next Carol Anne Duffy or Benjamin Zephaniah.
Bulls Head- http://www.bullsheadmoseley.co.uk/
Inua Ellams- http://phaze05.com/