BBC Poetry Slam at the Fringe 2012

BBC Poetry Slam Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Whoop whoop! It’s almost Edinburgh Fringe time, and I am hugely excited that DorkyDad has been asked to compere the BBC Poetry Slam again.

The Slam took place for the first time last year, and it was an absolutely brilliant line-up of poets, but this year it’s EVEN BETTER! (It’s actually a bit ridiculous how good it is.) This year it will feature the 2011 BBC Slam Champion, Catherine Brogan; Scottish Makar Liz Lochhead in her first ever Slam competition; and a special guest appearance from the 2012 Paris World Champion, Harry Baker.
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Postcard from Potterrow

Dear Dorky Mum,

Greetings from the Festival.  It has been wet. A lot of rain. And this year nothing is located where it used to be.  No Speigeltent pissing off the neighbors in the middle of Old Town Univille.  And not much happening in the New Town at all, really, though the Book Festival is gallantly holding up what little is left of a Fringe on that side of the tram.

The weather has not been helpful.

The real news is the BBC.  They are here, in style, and they are working hard at doing it well. For the very first time, they have their own venue. We can only imagine what they whispered to the University of Edinburgh to gain access to a central site that was, until a few weeks ago, entirely a place where something will be built between two buildings.

The subcontractors arrived early one morning a few weeks ago and snapped together sturdy grids of basic floor, then raised upon it an elegant wee village. The Big Bubble houses a stage that any artist here would love to occupy. The three pods nearby hold a bar, a stage, and a 15-second video booth. The toilets are excellent.

Somebody thought a lot about this.

I was asked to help organise a poetry slam as part of their programming, four nights featuring six writers, with one winner each evening, then the four best on the final night. Calum Barnes – the President of Edinburgh University’s Literature Society – and I got in touch with people we know and came up with 24 warriors.

It was cool, as cool as I have ever seen the Embra spoken word thing go down in my six years talking here. Every one of those four nights was good.  Every night there were people who had never seen this thing before, and were inspired and amazed.  Every night there were joys and gasps and silence, as poets cut up the roof of that white tent with their words.

Every night it rained.

Cat Brogan won.  Go look at the Beeb site for the footage, for the winning poem. She was crisp and delicious.

This is what I think.  The BBC took a chance, which I appreciate and applaud. They built a big stage for spoken word in Edinburgh and Scotland. The poets, to a person, danced on it. The audience, to a person, liked it. Some of them even fell in love with it.

See you again, same place, same time, next year. The BBC will be welcome back.



Life with A Poet at the Edinburgh Fringe

This originally featured as a guest post on the excellent blog 12 Books in 12 Months. Thanks to lovely Ali for the opportunity to post there. As well as checking out her blog, you should become a fan on Facebook.

It was also, rather excitingly, published on Huffington Post UK.

It’s not always easy being married to a poet. Young and I use up a significant number of babysitting credits, not on romantic dinners, but on evenings in dingy pubs, where I sit and watch him reading to half a dozen people. He is always shouting ‘that’s a poem’ in the middle of our conversations, and rushing off to scribble down a phrase or idea. And we spend hours trekking around stationery shops looking for just the right notebooks, because no others will do (yellow Levenger – A4 – lined).

I have always consoled myself with the thought that maybe, one day, Young would write a lovely poem about what a wonderful and supportive wife I am.

In some moment of madness, earlier this year, Young agreed to do a solo show as part of the PBH Free Fringe. He may have still been on some crazy, slam-induced adrenaline high after his time at the Poetry World Cup in Paris, or he may have genuinely thought it was a good idea… I will never know.

All I know is that it has taken over our lives for the last couple of months. We had no idea what was involved (and I use ‘we’ intentionally – this has certainly been a joint venture). Doing a ten minutes slot at someone else’s show is one thing; doing a whole hour by yourself is quite another.

There is the constant emailing about organisation, the Fringe registration, and the flyers… there are Tweets, texts, and Facebook event pages… there are press releases to send, photos to resize, programme entries to write, and blog posts to pimp…there is deciding what to wear, and how to stand, and whether it’s okay to read off the page… there is showing up to every other spoken word show, in the hope that the favour is returned… there is flyering in the rain, a preview in London that you really don’t want to do… and then that awful feeling of performing to two people, one of whom is your mother-in-law.

Oh yeah, and then there’s that hour-long show to write.

So why does he do it? What makes it worthwhile? I can’t speak for Young, but I think it’s probably for the small moment of satisfaction you get; from that one person who comes up at the end of a show and says that one of your poems has touched their heart; from that one stranger who takes the time to write something nice on your Facebook page; and from that one short but sweet review (she says, hopefully) that you can cut out and stick in your son’s scrapbook.

I do not grudge a minute of the time that Young and I have spent working on his show. Putting all bias aside, I think it is wonderful, and I am incredibly proud of him. I don’t even mind that in order to hear the one poem that he finally wrote about me, I have to sit and listen to fifty minutes of poetry about the other women in his life. I just hope that after all that effort someone (other than my Mum) shows up.

Young Dawkins performs What I Know About Women So Far at The Royal Oak on the following dates:

8th-11th and 15th August at 2pm

22nd-25th August at 3.15pm

You can visit his website at

He is also compering the first BBC Slam Poetry Competition at the Fringe, details of which can be found here, here, and here.