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"A wonderful sample of spoken word talent"- RTB & Milk 'Spotlight' Poetry

By Pascal van Liempt, second year English

By Pascal van Liempt, second year English

Pascal van Liempt dives into the Bristol spoken word scene for an evening of open-mic and Birdspeed.

I had only heard vaguely of Raise the Bar before volunteering to review this event, so for those of you who are in a similar position: they are a spoken word initiative based in Bristol, and run events featuring spoken word poets from all over the UK. This event was part of their 4th birthday celebrations and in collaboration with Milk Poetry, another Bristol initiative that runs monthly spoken word events featuring mostly local performers. The evening’s headliner was Birdspeed, who - to name a few of her accomplishments - is a dancer and a published academic as well as a spoken word poet.

After an introduction by the hosts, including a short piece of poetry from both, the evening consisted of an open mic and Birdspeed’s 20-minute set. The open mic performers made for a wonderful start to the night - several of them made such an impression on me that I kept thinking about certain lines long after they had gone off stage. Their content was incredibly diverse, from a moving, political piece about feminism to a vulnerable, confessional love poem written by the artist about his girlfriend. The hosts made sure to introduce every one of them personally, which made for an informal, relaxed atmosphere. The combination of these things made an hour of open mic performers feel like minutes.

"their content was incredibly diverse, from a moving, political piece about feminism to a vulnerable, confessional love poem"

But the real highlight of the evening was Birdspeed. My expectations had been set high prior to the night by people who had seen her perform before, and while I was slightly worried she would not live up to them, the opposite ended up happening. Birdspeed's energy and stage presence captivated me from the start. The content of her set, which was refreshingly weird one moment and incredibly poignant and direct the next, only added to the magnetism of her personal charisma. I loved the ways in which she explored the possibilities of the medium, and the dancing fascinated me. I particularly liked the use of a recording of Birdspeed's own voice to create a dialogue between the live performer and her voice-over self – it felt innovative and fit into the content of the set incredibly well.

Birdspeed’s set made for an amazing experience that I would have gladly paid the entry fee of £3 for alone, but its brilliance was enhanced by the performers that came before and the warm, intimate atmosphere the hosts created. The evening was a wonderful sample of upcoming and established spoken word talent, and I would highly recommend giving RTB’s or Milk Poetry’s future events a go – I know I'll definitely be there next time.

(Featured image credits: Unsplash / Trust "Tru" Katsande)

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