The Poets’ Nook: ‘Mad As Birds’ Spoken Word, Swansea

Mad As Birds

‘Mad As Birds’ Spoken Word, The Squirrel Cafe Bar and Grill, 75 Uplands Crescent, Uplands,Swansea.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to discover ‘Mad As Birds’, located in Swansea’s greatest literary sphere: the Uplands. Newly-fledged in 2015, ‘Mad As Birds’ is a regular open-mic night at The Squirrel Cafe, hosted by a local group of Swansea writers who welcome all forms of creative art.

From poetry to prose to drama, this is a non-restrictive platform for all writers to share their work, meet a bunch of friendly faces, and sample some good old Gower Gold Ale.

Too often spoken word is damned to musty old bars and forgotten pubs. The Squirrel Café, however, is bright and open, flecked with candles, warm low-lights, and a rustic atmosphere. A humble place, and I felt home.

But more importantly, here was an audience of people who genuinely listened. It is refreshing to find writers who, from the moment you enter, are alive with chatter about upcoming literary events around the city, about a poem they read last night by the fireside, about the writings of Swansea’s greatest son: Dylan Thomas.

Indeed, if you’re wondering about the ‘literary sphere’ I mentioned, Dylan’s childhood home is just around the corner. His boyhood park, inspiration for the poem ‘The Hunchback in the Park’, is just over the road. And even ‘Mad As Birds’ gets its name from Dylan’s poem ‘Love in the Asylum’.

From my short time in Wales, I have particularly noticed just how influential the creative arts are in Swansea:  the city, boasting a contemporary art scene and a thriving music life, is still as inspiring today for these modern writers as it was back then for Dylan.

Mad As Birds 2

For those new to reading to an audience, this is the perfect atmosphere to debut your work: its crowd is comprised of other writers who themselves understand just how daunting entering this sphere can be. They are enthusiastic, attentive; there are no sleepers here.

On their crumpled but passionate paper, they are rare to find. One trembled with emotion and another, in her bravery to read as the only prose-reader of the night, was testament to the atmosphere of ‘Mad as Birds’ which welcomes all forms of creative writing.

The night is usually hosted by Natalie Ann Holborow, versifier-in-residence at the Dylan Thomas Birthplace and winner of the Terry Hetherington Award, and in her absence local poet Gwion Iqbal Malik, one of the Ten Swansea Writers, takes the stage as compere, commending readers on their high standard of work.

And for all you Labour fans out there, here is the place that spoken word welcomes “good old Nye Bevan” and asks, charmingly, “what’s worse than a Tory?”

Mad As Birds takes place every third Friday of the month, 8-10.30pm. Next night: 16th September 2016.

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Laura Potts

2017 BBC New Voice & New Poet at The Poetry Business.