Verse Matters at the Mugen Teahouse, The Hide
November 19, 2015
Entering the Mugen Teahouse from a wild and windy night felt like finding a warm safe haven. Beautifully scented, well stocked with blends of tea and offering a choice of good cake, this relatively new cafe on Scotland Street is a good find-everything’s nicely priced, it’s friendly and full of creative things.
Verse Matters is an inclusive feminist arts event in Sheffield which has an ethos of being open to all and providing a supportive space for poetry, spoken word, storytelling, music and comedy, showcasing the work of talented people in a friendly, safe environment. Each event has a mix of experienced and new performers.
The poetry began, with open mic performances from Louise Clines, Keira James, Kev Titterton, Fran Critchlow and Gina Elbow. After a short break (more cake and tea!) there were two more open mic performers, Jude Calvert-Toulmin and myself, and the featured artists: poet and editor Kate Garrett and Sufi Soul singer Sarah Yaseen.
Lousie Clines’s heartfelt but down to earth words about death and life were very touching, and Fran Critchlow’s graceful magical reality followed. Keira James shared an anti-war poem, and Kevin Titterton performed with his usual wit, humanity and high quality, covering topics such as Christmas on the Streets and commemorating Florence Ada Shaw-his great grandmother who had lost a husband, then a son, in the two wars. Featured artist Gina Elby, visiting from Scunthorpe, gave her righteous and honest poems on: the right to choose, refugees, and her hometown. Jude Calvert-Toulin explored a lively and good-humoured take on feminism with her piece Matriarchal Society, and Kate Garrett enchanted us all with her tales of spirits and pirates. Sufi singer Sarah Yaseen was a star performer, switching from djembe drum to guitar to accompany her stunning voice. Singing in Arabic, English, Punjabi and Urdu, and covering centuries of history, she gave a truly awesome show and shared her culture through music.
Organiser Rachel Bower set up Verse Matters to create a supportive space in which people could experience stories, poems and music together. She also set up Verse Matters to attest to the structural inequalities in society and the arts and to address the continuing under-representation of women and Black and Asian artists.
Verse Matters is an active way of bringing people together in solidarity and that really is how it feels – people coming together to share the arts and support each other.
Rachel is a poet, critic and mother of two small (fierce) children. Rachel performs her poetry across the region and has just begun a Residency at Bank Street Arts. The Residency will enable her to develop her poetry in collaboration with other artists towards creating a performance and installation piece. Rachel is also a Cheney Early Career Research Fellow at the Leeds Humanities Research Institute at the University of Leeds, where she is researching the relationship between poets in Leeds and Nigeria between 1950 and the present.
It was a joy to be part of this event and I would absolutely recommend it. See below for 2016 dates at the Mugen Teahouse.
Contact Rachel Bower on firstname.lastname@example.org
Mugen Tea House at The Hide, 4 Scotland Street, Sheffield, S3 7AA
Thursday 7 January 2016
Featured artists: Gav Roberts (Paper Boat Poets/ ROMP), Chella Quint (Comedy/ Poetry) and musician TBC
Thursday 4 February 2016