Lyric Lounge Lift off!

June 27, 2010

Yesterday was the first meeting of ‘Lyric Lounge Leicester’ volunteers. We met at The New Walk Museum and Art Gallery – where the festival’s set to happen from July 31st to August 1st. It was stupidly lovely.

I arrived to find 5 or 6 people (Yvette, Natasha, Tejel and Lauren, I think, plus a few more) waiting in Gallery 6 – one of the largest spaces in the venue and where all of the festival’s performances will be taking place. Considering this first session was for only a quarter of our volunteers, this struck me as a fine number. Then about 20 more people turned up!

The festival is just a weekender of poetry and spoken word. Only, I guess, it’s not. Last year when it happened for the first time at The Y Theatre, it engaged just over 2000 people. It was more than 30 new commissions, 25 workshops, 10 open mics, countless one-ones and so much love. I know it sounds trite, but excitement and energy – and love – are really the most fitting words to described what happened.

People came to The Y, often knowing no one, sometimes with limited experience of poetry. By the end of the week there were lasting friendships and reams of writing and ideas, that no one could have imagined possible.

Somehow, this is what a festival like ‘The Lyric Lounge’ can do. It can bring people together and inspire and uplift in a way that is almost surreal. And it clearly leaves people coming back for more.

So, 20 something volunteers – not even half of the 50 we’ve so far got signed up – sat in The Lord Mayor’s room of New Walk Museum and met each other for the first time.

We started off with a game of Grandma’s Breakfast; an ice breaker that involves people saying what their name is and what they had for breakfast – then saying what everyone else’s name is and what they had for breakfast. Ingenious.

The purpose of the game is to get people’s names fixed. Of course it also has the added benefit of revealing the full and hilarious variety of people’s eating habits. If I remember correctly: Tara (young poet extraordinaire/Citizen’s Eye journalist) had crumpets and lucazade – someone else (you know who you are Ms N) had ice cream. We at The Lyric Lounge do not judge.

Next we all went on a grand tour of the museum. Starting in the Durer Room, we snaked through Gallery 6, The Council Room, Shops, Cafe, Landing, Space Show, Miri Railway Show and World Gallery. With such a large group it was a proper expedition – we almost had to do announcements in two halves – one for the front, one for the back, then nearly lost a couple of people moving around! In the end though we counted back in with the same number.

Talking to the group on ‘The Landing’ (in front of the plastic dinosaur and 2 small children and their father) I described the 2 poetry films we’re commissioning – both to be projected on the wall during the festival.

The first, ‘The Kushi Film’ will be a wonderful little piece about a group of older Asian ladies – and their trip to the seaside.

The sessions to create the film will happen over July, at Belgrave Library and see the Kushi woman (Kushi means ‘happy’ in Gujarati) doing ceramic and writing poetry about the coast, then visiting Hunstanton to sit by the sea with ice creams and castles. Well done the Kushi Women 🙂

The whole thing, poetry, clay and trip will be made into a film by Keith Allott, our Lounge film maker magician and played throughout each day at the festival. Our Book Doctor (Alison Dunne of Leicester Libraries) and Fiona Meagher (sensible ceramist) will be facilitating the sessions. Hopefully, a few of our volunteers may drop into to take photos, write it up and generally speaking, get involved.

The Book Doctor and our filmmaker, Keith will also be behind our other film: ‘Little People’s Poetry’. Going back to The Landing (with the big plastic dinosaur and father of two small children) this film seemed to particularly excite.

Overheard by the eavesdropping family, we talked about how The Bookdoctor and Keith will be working with a set of 6-10 year olds and making a film of their ‘Little People’s Poetry’. Very quickly the explanation became interactive, as said father (and in particular his 7 year old daughter) started asking questions about when the festival was happening and how they could get involved!

After a quick break, for coffee, sustenance and frantic printing of more programs, we met back in The Lord Mayor’s Room for the next installment. As this was the ‘Events and Promos’ volunteer team, this mainly involved coming up with ideas to promote the festival.

Citizen’s Eye people (Tara Gatherer, John Coster and the enigmatically named, James Black!) came up with a few websites that blogs, photos, films, interviews, articles (anything!) could be posted up on. Other volunteers came up with ideas, like performing ahead of festival or reaching out to specific groups.

One volunteer, the glamorously gothic, Lauren Furze, suggested the ‘Dark Side’ cafe’s knitting group as a prime target for The Lyric Lounge’s ‘Knit and Think Poetry’ session – scheduled for the first morning of the festival. Others like the lovely Karen Ferguson (who last year came to the festival with her daughter) talked about how volunteers could get involved during the actual festival period. We touched on signposting, handing out brochures and in general leading by example. And of course, we also talked about the much sought after, Lyric Lounge T-Shirts – which should be ready to look at by our next session…

Before the end of the afternoon we also talked about the brand new WORD! Radio Show, that will launch this Wednesday, 5 weeks ahead of the festival dates.

The show, hosted by Panj Pani and run by WORD! (the longest running poetry night in the region) will for the whole of July, specifically cover ‘The Lyric Lounge’. It will be manned by our volunteers, who will learn on the job how to present, do all the technical necessaries and in general make radio happen.

The first show will feature: Lauren, Tara, Yvette, Karen, Kishan and Diviesh. The Wedneday after (July 7th) will be headed up by Shahide, Zara, Saskia, Kishan and exciting guests to be announced..

We next meet together on July 10th, when our Theatrical Happenings Group, will also be dropping into the museum. In store will be a proper in depth look at the programme, various treats (‘The Lyric Lounge’ provides) and a chance for a catch up.

But for now, from me.. there we have it. The first ‘Lyric Lounge Leicester’ training session. All very exciting. We have lift off 😉

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