This week the surprisingly Tardis-proportioned Fred’s Ale House on Stockport Road in Levenshulme hosted three of the UK’s most valued poets for The Climate Poetry Lab – hosted by Kieren King of Evidently Salford in collaboration with Dr Sam Illingworth of MMU. The night was supported by Manchester A Certain Future and Eastland Homes.
The first thing the night did differently was it didn’t ask generic, wide questions that our feeble, human minds would be unable to answer – it said simply: what can you do? What can we in Manchester do? These are the exact kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves. It encouraged us to talk to each other, which feels like an important step one to combating climate change.
Joy France graced the stage first and indulged us in tales and experiences of standing up and doing the right thing, and about giving yourselves permission to have a voice. This was the best bedrock to begin with as we often feel disengaged or unvaluable in the higher conversations about climate change. Joy reminded us to make ourselves heard because it directly and inevitably affects us. Joy runs a Creative Space on the 3rd floor of Affleck’s Arcade and I implore you to check it out – even if it’s only to see and perhaps decorate one of her many Trump masks.
Next was Dominic Berry fresh off the plane from India where he toured his hugely successful poetry for kids. Dominic is astounding, I believe every word of his authentic, meaningful and relevant work. He reminded us that the relationship with the land and the environment is very real outside our commodified, convenient lives. He spoke of potential tigers on the streets and dating in India: “mosquitoes, homophobes, and flies are everywhere”. It was no coincidence that this was also International Day Against Homophobia.
International sensation Sophia Walker took to the stage next and both spoke informally as well as reading her UN-commissioned and Saboteur-shortlisted poem on Climate change – one of her three shortlisting achievements in Saboteur this year alone. She talked about how, for anyone who wishes to dismantle our overbearing power structures, climate change is probably the best way to go about it. We need our environment; it’s quite literally everything. If the system needs changing in order to save it, then why not just raze it to the ground and start again, learning what we’ve learned?
Sophia made a distant and intimidating concept real, relatable and manageable. She mentioned how white American senators were given name badges and an hours platform, whereas non-white politicians or politicians from less privileged countries had to make their own name badges and were offered a pithy 5 minutes. That was a fact which astonished me, proving the deeply rooted corruption extending to the highest levels of authority, deeply connected to and affecting each of us.
Therefore, I believe it’s up to us on the ‘surface level’ to not only inform ourselves but to demand a change. We may be individual, but as Sophia performed “We’re 7 billion individuals”. That’s a number with considerable sway if we’re all resounding the same message.
Ella Gainsborough, the brains behind Evidently’s seminal Youtube channel, was recording and I very much look forward to revisiting these works again. As it happens, they’re also nominated for Best Spoken Word night in the Saboteur Awards alongside Manchester’s Bad Language, Liars League London, Loud Poets Scotlandand Stanzas (the first Irish entry).